So, you want to shine that bit brighter at work? Or feel the heady glow of well-deserved recognition? Perhaps you love your work and want to progress?


Being a boss is hard work, if your staff make it so. Being a worker can be just as tough, if your boss makes it so. In the spirit of moving the doldrums from the daily grind, consider some tips on keeping it ‘all good’ with your boss.


  1. Smile – Yes, we’ve heard the anecdotes about muscles used for frowning being more laborious than those for smiley faces, but it really does make a difference if you smile. Even in the face of adversity. Smiling invokes a human response, but make sure you do it appropriately! Make sure your open, welcoming beam doesn’t come across as sniggering sarcasm.

  3. Body language – Smiling is one warming feature. Being congruent (that is, matching your facial expressions, hand gestures and voice) ensure you come across as sincere and trustworthy. Body language is complex, but keep an open stance and steady gaze when interacting with your boss. Nod and echo their body language; this creates a subtle sense of being ‘on the same wave length’ and subconsciously puts people at ease.

  5. Be friendly – Don’t try to be friends with your boss but reflect and consider what makes others’ seem friendly and mimic that behaviour to an extent – don’t try to be something or someone you are not; but be aware of your interactions with peers and bosses. Are you a good listener, attentive, confident without being arrogant? Be self-aware…it may well make you stand out from the rest.

  7. Be inclusive – Being a boss can be lonely and thankless – middle management is akin to being the meat in the sandwich, so if possible, invite your boss out to work social occasions. If you attend company functions, lead the conversation and introduce your boss to others.

  9. Be sincere and honest – If you are pleased with an aspect of your work make sure you express it. No need for blatant self promotion, no one is turned on by smug self appreciation, but ensure you inform your boss of things which you are happy with or have learnt something from.

  11. Really be honest – If you are struggling with something, best to communicate this as soon as possible. In doing so, don’t forget you may be part of a team who can all help too, but if deadlines are not realistic, or if a mistake is made, your boss will appreciate warning. Problem-solve together; if you make a mistake, help to find the solution.

  13. Behave – Step up to challenges, have a sound record of timekeeping, establish a positive reputation amongst colleagues in your team and in other departments. If your boss doesn’t notice your efforts, they might take notice when the copier department comment on your manners, or the cleaners comment upon how tidy and respectful you are.

  15. Be pro active – In your team, you might be aware of storms brewing. Never fall into the trap of ‘tittle tattle’; don’t be used by your boss as a spy on the workforce, but do become a conduit of calm action. Try to head-off minor team issues as they arise.

  17. Be an inspiration – Leadership is better targeted when coming from a team member; often people see the ‘boss’ role as a managerial one. Managers and Leaders are seldom the same thing at the same time, so support your colleagues and in doing so, support your boss. Aim to succeed in what you do, commit to work and helping others’ achieve too.

  19. Be part of the solution, not a problem – Offer to help your boss in their role. Offer to pick up any tasks, ask openly “Is there anything I can do to help?” and don’t make an issue out of this. Be mindful of your bosses coping strategies and workload, and do what you can to help. In the meantime, keep juggling your tasks and cope efficiently by not taking on too much in a short time. You may well find this shift in dynamic works both ways.

  21. It’s not them and us – A divisive attitude does little to help anyone in a team. Demarcation, petty squabbles over roles and job descriptions can become consuming. Often such attitudes quickly become entrenched, making everyone’s time at work a chore. Be assertive and not a doormat, but your job is what your boss defines it as, and what you want it to become. You and your boss can be a team!

  23. Stand in and stand up – Do not be afraid to hint at formalising your role when the boss is away – perhaps they are on leave, off sick, or at external conferences and not around for a while. Offer to take the reigns for a week or two, without baying for glory. Quietly and efficiently manage whilst they are elsewhere. A smooth return to a well run ship will prove to your boss you are trustworthy, capable and an asset.

  25. Be loyal – A dog may be a man’s best friend, but a loyal worker comes close. Loyalty means not only being honest, but also knowing what to share with others. Don’t tell tales to your colleagues behind your bosses back, and don’t take tales to your boss’s boss – ever! It may seem like a short cut to victory, but may well end up being a painful short circuit to destruction.

  27. Caring gestures – You don’t ever need to be extravagant to show kind gestures to your boss, or colleagues for that matter. Nor do you need to come across as a sycophant. A happy workplace means knowing just enough about each other to be recognisable, individual and a distinct person rather than a cog in a wheel. Make a coffee for yourself, and your boss. Order lunch and ask your boss if they want some. If their car is in the garage, do they need a lift home?

  29. Sit in their chair – Not necessarily physically (that may come later) but metaphorically. How might your boss be feeling today? What might be going on in their life? What is their priority? By understanding the person, you can be better positioned to ‘tune into’ what they want and expect intuitively – and that is a powerful skill.


In your work, in your team, your hub, your hierarchy; relationships are key. You spend a significant amount of time in the workplace and it can affect every other aspect of your life. Staying out of anyone’s ‘bad books’, least of all the bosses, can only enrich your daily work and teach you something about where you may, one day, be.

Written by Cathy B.

Cathy is mother to 2 young children and lives and works next to the sea in Scotland.