Mindi* describes her former boss as a “chronic bully” and “liar”.
“I told my boss in confidence about my history with … post-natal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and he misused that information,” she says.
“He used it in a case against me for a ‘disciplinary’ meeting.
“On another occasion, he completely disregarded my situation in being pregnant and had no understanding of the fatigue and illness it can bring in the first trimester. He was not supportive at all, borderline discriminatory.”
Having an unhealthy relationship with anyone is hard work but when it’s with a superior it can be even more toxic.
Both parties, other workers and the business suffer, not to mention the loved ones of those involved.
Mindi has since resigned from her job and describes the relationship she has with her boss as “cordial”.
Clearly the merits of a positive boss-employee relationship can’t be overstated.
“The average worker spends about 1353 hours a year on the job,” says US-based Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job.
“When that time is spent in a positive relationship with your boss, you're producing optimal results and advancing in your career,” she says.
“A solid rapport built on trust will provide unlimited opportunities for your personal growth, but also for unlimited opportunities for corporate innovation.”
Ms Taylor adds it’s “a win-win for you and your employer”.
So, why aren’t all boss-employee relationships like this?
Brash boss versus loveable leader
“Employees spend a whopping 19 hours a week worrying about what a boss says or does,” according to research cited by Ms Taylor.
“Oftentimes managers are unaware that their words and actions can be magnified, especially in this day of limited interpersonal contact and heavy reliance on brief texts and emails.”
She says that weak lines of communication and a lack of respect – “the ‘me versus us’ approach to management” – are typical of an unhealthy boss-employee relationship.
These managers “have difficulty seeing outside perspectives [and] … trouble modulating their power when they lack control over difficult situations”.
Turn the corner and “where there is strong emotional intelligence, there is a happy workplace and healthy bottom line”, says Ms Taylor.
This means having managers who are approachable and encouraging, she explains.
“Being supportive and giving an employee the ongoing tools and training to succeed make for the most promising results.”
How to build a better relationship
There are certainly ways to strengthen the relationship we have with our bosses, or at least try to.
One method is to manage up, which Ms Taylor calls an “an invaluable, transferable career skill”.
“Managing up is taking proactive steps to build a more productive relationship with your boss.
“It's easy for any mortal to fall prey to tension in the office. Your rational approach will be prized as a leadership skill, helping to strengthen your relationships in the office as you become more indispensable. It will also tamp down stress levels in the workplace.”
And while the boss-employee relationship is undoubtedly a two-way street, Ms Taylor says “the onus may unfortunately be on you to be proactive”. She therefore recommends an employee:
Ms Taylor says that “by leading the way with rational thinking, common sense, positive and negative reinforcement, humor and diplomacy, you can diffuse tension with most any office colleague – bosses and coworkers alike”.
What methods have you used to strengthen your relationship with your manager/s? Share your story here.
*Further details withheld for privacy reasons.