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Workplace Pimps: How to get the boss to like you

by Celine on October 15th, 2007

The hardest person to please is always your boss.  Befriending bosses is an art - finding ways to get close to them is hard, but at the same time you don’t want to look like you’re sucking up.  After all, when someone is higher up by a few notches on the career ladder, they tend to dismiss niceness as “brown nosing”.  Here are some ways you can get the boss to like you without messing things up in the workplace:

Find similarities.  If you haven’t talked to your boss, you need to figure out the stuff she likes.  You can do this by paying attention to what she says, asking coworkers that already know her, and (gasp) stalking her online.  Okay, maybe stalking isn’t the right word.  I just meant that you should look at her LinkedIn, MySpace, or other social networking profiles.  If she has a blog, read it. Just figure out what she likes and what her hobbies are.  Odds are, you’ll have a couple of things in common.  You’ll be able to use this information to your advantage.  For example, if you discover that both you and your boss like to play tennis:

  •  If she has the habit of asking you how you are or how your weekend went, you can reply “I was working on my backhand all weekend, and all I got was a painful arm.  I guess I should try harder.”
  • You can talk about tennis with a coworker with the boss within earshot.
  • Place tennis paraphernalia on your desk.  Make sure they’re noticeable and can encourage conversation.

Talk about things other than work.  If your boss asks you about anything work related, give her the gist of your answer, but include something personal.  If she asks when you’ll be done with a report, you can say “I’ll have it done by Friday morning. I don’t want to think about anything else this weekend, since I’ll be mountain climbing.  I’ve been planning that for months!”  This way, you’ll get to talk to your boss like you would your friend.  She’ll get to know more personal things about you and you won’t just be some other robot in a cubicle.

 Ask your boss about more personal stuff.  Of course, don’t go too personal.  You don’t need to know if she’s ovulating, and you don’t want to pry into her personal life.  Here’s an example, if she attended Wharton, you can say “I heard you went to Wharton.  My younger cousin is looking up business schools for college, and I’d like to tell her what it’s like.”  Other potential subjects may include her favorite sport, pets, advice about kids, financial advice, stocks, etc.  Stay away from anything touchy feely that may require you to be a shoulder to cry on.  Too much emotional intimacy with your boss will only be detrimental.

Be nice to your boss’ significant other or spouse.  This is especially important if your boss’ significant other is the same gender as you.  After all, a spouse or significant other is usually an important advisor.  You want to get on this person’s good side.  Chat him/her up when he/she’s waiting for your boss.  Always say “Hi” and ask them how they’re doing.

What to avoid.  Now, while there are some things you should do, there are some things you should also avoid when walking that fine line between employee and friend.

  • Don’t gossip about anyone.  Not even when your boss asks. Not only will your colleagues hate you, your boss won’t trust you either.
  • Don’t give gifts for no reason.  This just makes it seem like you’re sucking up.  Well, not just “seem”, you ARE sucking up.
  • If you’re gonna give gifts, don’t make it a very expensive gift from yourself.  Instead, opt for a big group gift where everyone chips in.  Your boss will just find out it was your idea anyway, and you get plus points if you’re the one who’s going to hand the gift to the boss .
  • Don’t tell your boss everything, especially your weaknesses.  If he knows you party hard on Sunday nights, you won’t have a believable excuse when you’re late on Monday morning.
  • Don’t get too close.  You don’t want your boss calling you in the middle of the night in the middle of a nervous breakdown.  It’s inconvenient, weird, and truly blurs the line between professionalism and friendship.

POSTED IN: Workplace pimps, Workplace hacks, Office politics, Survival Skills

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