How to tell when you should leave your job is actually very simple: If your boss loves you, stay. If your boss does not love you, assess where you went wrong, and decide if you can fix it. If not, it’s quitting time.

The problem is that most people take very little responsibility for making their boss love them. Which, in turn complicates the decision about staying or leaving. Your number one task in a job is to get your boss to love you.

This means that you find out what your boss cares about, how your boss likes to communicate, what scares your boss, and how you can help. Of course, your career goal is not to help your boss. But if you boss loves you then he or she will help you to meet your career goals.

Here are common problems people have at work: Boring assignments, inflexible schedules, no recognition, too much red tape, no upward mobility. But these are all problems that disappear when your boss loves you. When your boss loves you she helps you figure out how to get around this stuff. When your boss loves you she’s like a teammate, trying to help you get what you want for your career.

But this should come as no surprise because the way to get your boss to love you is to worry about your boss’ career. See your boss’ roadblocks and get them out of the way. Understand your boss’ dreams and make it your job to facilitate them. Put aside your idea of your job description and just focus on what will help your boss.

How do you do this? Here are six steps:

1. Attend to detail. The details of your boss. You should be sure to learn something about your boss from every exchange you have. If you do not learn from the exchanges then there is probably little depth to your conversations, and that is the first step to a vacuous relationship.

2. Make each conversation meaningful. You can infuse meaning into your conversations with your boss by probing a little bit each time about what your boss cares about. Why is he or she rushed today? Or, by the way, what is the big deadline that consumed all of last week? Even something as basic as “How was your weekend?” is a fine way to learn something about the boss.

3. Listen to gossip. You can learn about your boss from watching him deal with other employees. Listen carefully to what co-workers say about your boss. Whether it’s true or not is secondary to how your boss is perceived in the ranks. The more you know about your boss the more you can cater to her.

4. Express gratitude. If you let your boss know what you appreciate about her, she’ll open up to you more because you will feel safe. For example, you can thank her for steering you away from a mine field in the marketing department. Or you can tell her you appreciate how well she did during a difficult moment in a meeting. Be specific and she will be flattered and touched. That will create a connection you need to understand your boss better.

5. Get over your shyness. Because if you are too timid to initiate conversation then you will not get to know your boss enough to make your boss love you. To get yourself talking, remind yourself that everyone wants to feel cared about. It’s hard to manage people because it means caring a lot about other people and it’s pretty one-sided. A manager will be thrilled to hear that a direct report cares about him.

6. Identify the culprit. Take a look at your track record. Have most of your bosses loved you but one doesn’t? Then it’s probably not all your fault. But most people who are not loved by their bosses were never loved by their bosses. And most people who are a pain are a pain in similar ways in all of their jobs.

So instead of focusing on why your boss is difficult, focus on what is keeping you from being loveable. It’ll be worth it. But you will find that the rewards of being loved by a boss are almost endless. Most importantly, you will like yourself better and you will love your job.

16 replies
  1. Barbara Saunders
    Barbara Saunders says:

    I have to dissent from this one. The boss is often powerless to help if the organizational culture is rigid. I have had the experience of a culture whose underlying reward system was based on seniority and popularity. No demonstration of skill or value could lead to either a promotion, assignment of tasks desired by the popular folks, or a change in title. (Everyone was an assistant — which had the effect of impairing searches for better jobs elsewhere.)

  2. Mo alsayyed
    Mo alsayyed says:

    I agree with Barbra above. Problems with some corporates is their reserved cultures. (OIL is the hero in this)that the supervisor is not the guy who can take decision. So you may be in good terms with him, but at the same time, he is more of whimp to stand by you, espically if you are not so poular , i.e not a suck up.

  3. Brenda Renner
    Brenda Renner says:

    I had a circumstance, where I was basically forced into quitting a job I loved. I was there for six months, and two months prior to my departure I was given a boss (in the legal field), who was at that time just wonderful. We got along fabulously, she told me over and over again that I was the best she had ever had. My review from her was Excellent across the board. Over Labor Day Weekend, I went into work and upon our return on that Tuesday, she stopped talking to me. When I approached her to discuss the situation, she basically told me that I wasn’t a teamplayer, she could not work with me, and she basically berated me verbally. (We also had been to a concert with her son, whom she used to bring into the office and then refused to let him talk to me). I approached management and they said that there was nothing they could do for me and they were ‘sorry. I put in my notice, because she stopped talking to me and refused to even acknowledge my good mornings. Now I am unemployed and still wondering: what happened? I believe it was bad management and just really bad luck at a job I truly loved and wanted to stay with the company. I wish there could have been a way to sue.

  4. Brenda Renner
    Brenda Renner says:

    No, my job,Raven, was not to to suck up to the boss…my job was to do my job, which I did! The question was: How in this world to people, like me, us, get wonderful reviews? and then someone decides that they “don’t like you” and you basically get “fired”? without references? I came into this office with Excellent references and I leave with nothing? How, now do I get a job?

  5. Erin
    Erin says:

    Brenda
    I meant I had a problem with the article not with your comment. Your comment proves to me that one of the reasons I think an employee’s focus should be on the work and not on sucking up to the boss is because some bosses will not back you up or just don’t like you because they are narcissistic people. I’ve had similar troubles in the past. what angered me most about this article is I came here hoping for good advice from this author and was basically told I wasn’t a good enough employee.
    I’m so sorry you thought I was referring to you. I hope you’ve found other work where you are appreciated. You know, its funny how some people say its hard to find good employees. I’ve had trouble finding good employers!

  6. Taha
    Taha says:

    I kind of agree with this. I think the big thing is that despite trying to get your boss to like you… there will always be those inherent personality conflicts that creep into the boss’s mind.

    My biggest problem is that my boss once told me that my personality mirrors once of her kids (this isn’t bad- it just makes me more transparent than I would like to be)… hence she can read my moods like an open book! If I’m crabby she knows, if I’m happy she knows. It’s easier if you can put up “emotional walls” so to speak, but at the same time, you don;t want to be a robot at work.

  7. Sara
    Sara says:

    I recently discovered this blog and am reading the entire blog from day one because it offers me such a different perspective. I work in the HR realm. Contrary to popular belief, HR doesn’t hold the power. We give advice. If the manager believes in something strong enough… it will happen. We have had a “raise freeze” and have given people raises in the disguise of “equity adjustments” or “misclassification in salary grades”. If there is an employee so great that a boss will go to bat for them and jump through hoops… the sky is the limit.

    So in my opinion, the article is dead on but is missing one key element: the boss has to believe in his or her on authority and power. If the boss does not believe in his or her own authority or power, they will not go to bat for anyone… so when you are choosing a boss, make sure that they believe in themselves and their team. The interview is a two way street. Ask questions.

    • Scrollwork
      Scrollwork says:

      Sara, I stopped dead in my tracks when I read your comment. I hope you come back and respond to my question: How do we get around the b.s. that’s usually mouthed during interviews, enough to detect whether the boss really does own his/her power and really does have the support of the team? (i.e., that he’s not going to be forced out after all that time we invested in making ourselves lovable to him) I agree that the interview can be a two-way street. Could you perhaps suggest questions to ask, and what to watch for?

  8. Unstoppable Family
    Unstoppable Family says:

    "Never waste a minute of your precious life by squandering it thinking about people you don’t like"
    Amazing blog you have thanks for sharing. I will be sure to visit again soon. Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to write this. Take care me and my family are currently on a 3 year trip around the world com check us out.

    Unstoppable Family
    Brian and Rhonda Swan

  9. Ali
    Ali says:

    I had to quit a job i was really reluctant to quit, only because of the terrible attitude of my immediate superiors. I got the job with effort and on my own merit, and had joined the organization with high hopes and plenty of dreams, and the intention of staying long term, because it was a highly reputed medical institute where i had gotten into. Let’s face it, it was a dream to have gotten in.
    But in two months i realized, that a name and reputation are one thing, and the work culture and dealing with the people once you get in, is another thing. An overbearing attitude, constantly being berated in wide view of colleagues and patients, deliberately being made the target targeted of attempts to mar.. when i realized there was repeated negative feedback being given to the higher people in command, and a deliberate attempt was being made to give me a permanent bad name.. i made up my mind and got out. There are certain things not worth putting up in life, not matter what the cost, so i made the move, gave my resignation in and cut loose of the B.S that was being doled out.

    In retrospect, i think its pathetic that highly reputed institutions have such poor management, are breeding grounds for dirty internal politics, refuse to pull up self-worshipping scoundrels thinking they run the place, and an abysmal work culture with zero emphasis on mutual respect among colleagues, and between superiors and subordinates.

    It has been a big lesson. And the biggest thing i have learnt is no matter what, one must treat people right. Whether they are at the bottom of the rung or wherever on the rung. To treat people right and with due respect is the only humane way of working, without that even the most hi-fi and “cracking” job title means a dime.

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      I have to disagree with the article as well. It is a shame what some people have to deal with on some of these jobs because of these managers egotistical attitudes!

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