Are you frustrated with the relationship with your boss? Is it holding you back from realising your true potential? This is a common theme that comes up with my clients. I’ve highlighted below a few tools that have helped them reshape relationships and get their careers back on track.

Mismatched communication style

Most of us have a preference for one particular communication style. This makes a lot of sense as it’s served us well in the past and has contributed to our success. However, the further you advance in your career, the more important it is to flex your style.

Stakeholder management in matrix organisations is dependent on good communication and adapting your style to match your audience. Raising your awareness of your own and others style preferences will provide the solutions. Observe how your boss responds to other people. What works best? High level ideas or ones which are more detailed oriented? Data driven presentations or those with visual, story-telling formats? Face to face or email contact? To communicate well, you need to first make sure you’re speaking the same language.


Never underestimate the power of rapport – without this relationships are merely transactional and will crumble on the faintest fault line. Positive appreciation can work well here. If you liked how your boss managed a particularly difficult negotiation, why not let them know. One of my clients who had an historically tense relationship with their MD found that highlighting aspects of the MD that they admired, helped shape the tone of the conversation and over time lead to more openness and trust.

Understanding their worldview

Most communication gets distorted by our assumptions, it colours the lens through which we view a situation and diminishes our listening skills. To see your situation with a few pair of eyes, put yourself in the shoes of your boss. What does life look like from their perspective? What are their key challenges? What does success look like to them? This can help you get your head out of the detail and better understand the broader context. This can also be the pathway for you to have an open conversation with them to explore what their vision is, how you can help them achieve this and present some of your thoughts as to how best proceed.

Contract for candour

Having an open conversation with your boss about how to deal with differences of opinion can avoid many pitfalls. The time to do this is when things are running smoothly and emotions are stable. Doing this at an early stage of the relationship will make it much easier to navigate road bumps and will make it easier to broach differences in a professional, respectful manner.


Having a good relationship with your boss is ultimately your responsibility. Healthy and open communication lines will lead to trust, a happier work environment and greater career satisfaction.

About the author

Laura McGrath is an Executive Coach with a background in executive search and career coaching. She has a post graduate qualification in Executive Coaching from the IMI and has been a guest lecturer with Trinity College Dublin and TU Dublin. For more information call 087 669 1192.

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