How To Build a Relationship With Your Manager

Manager employee

When you start a new job, there are so many things to think about that building a relationship with your manager can often be put on the backburner. Settling into the team, understanding the company culture, working out how things are structured, knowing your main duties – the list can get very long. One thing that can often be an afterthought is building relationships from the very beginning. The most important relationship you can build and nurture whilst employed is the one with your manager. You could just treat your manager as someone to update on the work you are doing from time to time. Or, you could treat them as someone to invest time with, in order to maximise a mutually beneficial relationship.

You might now be wondering how to do this when you are brand new to a company or role. This is actually the stage where you can get things off to a good start. You can build the foundational relationships with people that will form part of your network moving forward. This is key for your career development and also for your enjoyment at work. The stronger your relationships, the more you can draw on your network to move forward in your role.

Here are some tips on how to build a relationship with your manager as a new employee:

  1. Initial meetings

During the early stages of meeting with your new manager, get to know them and find out their expectations. Find out about their career history, leadership style and preferences on how work gets done. They will be asking you questions to make sure you are prepared for the role, but make sure you take an interest in them too. If you are transitioning to a new manager within a company, you can also ask others who have worked with them for feedback before stepping into the role. This will give you an insight into what they are like to work with before you join their team.

  1. Schedule regular check-ins

Having regular 1:1 meetings might be a regular practise at your company. If so, your manager is likely to schedule these in. If they don’t, suggest having these and schedule them in yourself. These are important because it gives you a chance to have your manager’s full attention without other team dynamics at play. It is also an opportunity for your manager to share feedback confidentially on your progress. Getting these in the diary early on is important, and you may want to do these more regularly when you are new to the role, reducing them as you settle in.

  1. Talk to other team members

If you are part of a team, talk to other team members about your manager’s leadership style and working preferences. Ask them questions about how your manager likes to be updated and how approachable they are. This will not only give you an insight into your new manager, but it will also give you talking points with other team members to help you build relationships with them. Just be careful not to go into any negative territory – you don’t want to be talking badly about your manager from the start!

  1. Be proactive

Come to your 1:1 meetings prepared. Don’t expect your manager to necessarily drive these meetings. Show your proactivity by having an idea of your goals, even if you are not 100% clear about what’s expected of you. In the early stages, come prepared with questions about the team, department or company. Form a structure to your regular meetings by asking how they want you to update them about your work. Do they want a visual representation of you meeting your goals? Or would they prefer an informal discussion? State your preferences too so they can take this into consideration.

  1. Share your goals

Be clear about your development goals as an individual. These could be to do with specific skills or your career overall. Again, if it’s too early for you to know these, have a general idea or just come armed with questions about how the company usually supports developmental objectives. Also consider that when you are new, you don’t necessarily want to be talking about your plans to get your next promotion. Some companies are really supportive of career development and may ask you upfront where you see yourself in the next 5-10 years, so it’s important to think about this beforehand. With others, they may want you to focus more on short-term goals. Focus on how you can grow in the role, and later down the line you can get a sense of when it’s appropriate to talk about your future. Having an understanding of your personal brand can help you with this area.

  1. Get to know them

Lastly, remember that your manager is a real person! Although they are assessing your performance, it’s important to have an informal element to your relationship if you can. This does depend on the manager and the wider company culture, but taking an interest in their personal life and hobbies can ease the initial stages of getting to know someone. You could find something you have in common and this will give you something to talk about at your desk, in between meetings or over lunch!  

Remember that the manager-employee relationship is one of the most valuable connections you can have in the workplace. Your manager can act as your mentor, sponsor, advocate and even friend. Building trust here form the start means you will have someone you can approach for advice, confide in if you face obstacles and share your goals with for further support in your career.

If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, book a Beyond the Lab Breakthrough Session here.


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