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  • Published Oct 13, 2023

10 Ways to Hack Your Boss

Cracking the Code: Enhance Your Working Relationship with your Manager by Building Bridges, Fostering Trust, and Elevating Productivity

Dr. Cassidy Jenkins, Ph.D.
Dr. Cassidy Jenkins, Ph.D.

Psychologist, Professor

Two colleagues talking at a coffee table


Have you ever felt like your boss speaks a foreign language? Like there's an invisible wall separating you from a productive and gratifying work relationship? You're not alone. A recent study by Gallup found that only 13% of employees strongly agree that their leaders communicate effectively, and the relationship between employee and manager is often fraught with misunderstandings. Welcome to the club!

But what if we told you that this isn't a wall, but a door waiting to be unlocked? What if you could hack the code, or decode the complex language of your boss's behavior, and unleash a whole new level of collaboration and trust? The 'hack' you need isn't some esoteric secret; it's knowledge, understanding, and practical application.

That's where this guide comes in. With 10 ways, including tools and techniques, you can discover not only what makes your manager tick but also align your working style with theirs to create a more harmonious working relationship.

Two men holding cans with a cord attached to their ears

With this guide's insights, you'll find yourself moving beyond mere survival in your workplace and thriving in a setting where empathy, trust, and transparency reign supreme. Let's dive in and unlock the secrets to a more fruitful relationship with your manager.

Why It Matters: Building a Robust Relationship with Your Manager

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Knowing your manager's behaviors, values, preferences, and even the nuances of their communication style is not just a mere formality. It is, in fact, the cornerstone for a healthy, effective, and satisfying work relationship. It's about building a bridge that connects two people, each with their unique working styles, to foster a cooperative and synergistic environment.

According to research, employees who invested time in understanding their managers reported a 35% increase in job satisfaction. Why is this figure significant? Because job satisfaction isn't just about feeling good about your work. It's directly linked to increased productivity, reduced turnover, and a more positive work environment.

Ignoring It - A Perilous Path

On the flip side, when this understanding is neglected or taken for granted, the potential consequences are grave. Miscommunications may become commonplace, leading to friction, misunderstandings, and a lack of coordination.

Here's what can happen when understanding your manager is overlooked:

  1. A Breakdown in Communication: Without understanding your manager's communication style and preferences, you might find yourself talking past each other. What seems clear to you might be unclear to them, and vice versa.
  2. Hindered Growth and Productivity: When there's friction and misunderstanding, work processes can become cumbersome and inefficient. Misaligned goals and expectations can lead to wasted effort and reduced motivation.
  3. Strained Relationships: Lack of understanding can turn small differences into major conflicts. This strain on the relationship can affect not just the two of you but the entire team or even the organizational culture.
  4. Impacting Personal Well-being: Working under constant miscommunication and strain can take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being. It can lead to stress, dissatisfaction, and burnout. And, who wants that!?

By considering these aspects and implementing the strategies and tools we will cover in this guide, you’ll not just be decoding your boss's behavior; you’ll be building a pathway to a more fulfilling and productive working relationship. And who doesn’t want that!?

Let's dive into the 10 tips that will empower you and elevate your collaboration to new heights!

10 Tips to ‘Hack’ Your Boss

A group of hands holding a piece of puzzle

1. Know the Persona: Every manager is unique, and understanding their quirks, workplace behaviors, and ways of doing things is key to working well together. Are they all about the details, or do they like to keep an eye on the big picture? Do they love trying new things, or are they more about sticking with what works?

Here's how you can get to know your boss better:

  • Observation: Pay attention to how your boss reacts in meetings, their communication style, and their preferred way of working. Do they jump into conversations with enthusiasm, or are they more reflective? Watching them interact with others can reveal a lot about their personality and work preferences.
  • Assessments: If your manager has taken a workplace assessment, ask them if you could review it to get to know their workplace preferences and behaviors better. Let them know that you’re trying to optimize your relationship with them. The most popular ones are assessments like DISC, Myers-Briggs, or Ennegram. If your company has a subscription to Happy, you can access their NxtGen Workstyle inside your account, which can also provide you valuable insights on how to work with them.
Quote that reads "if your manager has taken a workplace assessment, ask them if you could review it to get to know their workplace preferences and behaviors better"
  • Spending Quality 1:1 Time: If possible, spend some one-on-one time with your boss. This could be during regular check-ins or by initiating a casual coffee or lunch outing. These interactions provide an opportunity to see a more personal side of your boss and ask insightful questions that can uncover their values, goals, and preferences.
  • Feedback and Open Dialogue: Don't hesitate to ask your boss about their expectations and preferences. A simple conversation about their work style or a discussion about a specific project can provide valuable insights. Show genuine interest in their perspective, and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on how you can align with their approach.

If your manager's a big fan of creativity, show them your innovative side. If they're all about getting things done efficiently, make sure you're clear and to the point. By employing these strategies and really getting to know their personality and work style, you can build a strong connection and make collaboration a breeze. Understanding your manager’s persona isn't just about adaptation; it's about fostering a genuine connection that makes the working relationship more satisfying and productive.

2. Introverted or Extroverted: Think your boss is a hard nut to crack? Well, as author and speaker Susan Cain, wrote in her book "Quiet" might have something to say about that. Recognizing whether your manager is introverted or extroverted can make a world of difference in how you communicate with them.

How to Tell if Someone is an Extrovert or Introvert:

  • Extroverts are often seen engaging with others, enjoying group interactions, and expressing themselves openly. They usually prefer verbal communication and often feel energized by social interactions. Here are a few things that might be helpful to tip you off:
    • Loud or energetic speech
    • Expressive body language, such as talking with their hands
    • Physical touch or standing/sitting close to others.
    • Magnetic or outgoing personality
    • Demanding with a sense of urgency
    • Love meeting new people and new situations
  • Introverts, on the other hand, often prefer individual work or small-group interactions. They may take more time to think before speaking and might feel some anxiety in large social gatherings of people they don’t know. Introverts might prefer written communication, where they can craft their thoughts. Here are a few things that might be helpful to tip you off:
    • Tendency to be more measured or quiet
    • Prefer to work individually or in small groups
    • Less expressive body language at work
    • Maintaining more physical distance from others
    • Reluctance to enter large social settings with new people

Specific Approaches Based on Preferences:

  • If your manager is an Extrovert:
    1. Engage in Open Dialogue: Extroverts often thrive in face-to-face meetings or lively group discussions. Don't hesitate to share your ideas openly.
    2. Collaborate Actively: Encourage collaboration on projects and brainstorming sessions, where their energy can be harnessed.
    3. Foster Social Connections: Invite them to social events or informal coffee breaks where you can connect more personally.
  • If your manager is an Introvert:
    1. Provide Thoughtful Communication: Consider sending well-crafted emails or reports that allow them time to digest the information.
    2. Respect Their Space: Give them time and space to think, especially when facing complex issues. Don't pressure for immediate responses.
    3. Create a Comfortable Environment: Encourage a calm working environment and consider one-on-one meetings or small-group interactions when appropriate.

If they're the life of the party, providing ideas in a brainstorming session might be the way to go. If they lean more toward the quiet side, a well-thought-out email or report could be the key. It's like knowing if your friend prefers a text or a call – it just makes conversations smoother. This insight isn’t just cool to know; it helps you talk and work with them in a way that feels natural and comfortable.

3. Stress Handling: We've all been there, those days when the pressure's mounting and it seems like the walls are closing in. Your boss is no different. Being aware of how your manager handles stress is like having a secret playbook. Notice those signs of stress - a furrowed brow, a quicker pace, or clipped speech?

That's your cue.

Stepping in with an offer to help on a particular task or even just lending a sympathetic ear can be a game-changer. It's like being a teammate in a high-stakes match, knowing when to pass the ball. Doing this not only eases the strain but builds a sense of camaraderie and trust. So next time you see those signs, don't shy away. Dive in and show that you're there. It might just turn a stressful day into an opportunity to strengthen your working relationship.

4. Analyze Past Successes and Failures: Ever heard the saying, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it?" Well, it's not just for history buffs. Business consultant Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, drives this point home in the business world. Think about those past projects with your manager. What soared? What flopped? Taking a stroll down memory lane isn't just nostalgia; it's detective work. You're on the hunt for what makes your boss tick. Was it the well-timed launch that won the day? Or did a last-minute change lead to a fumble?

Pinpointing these moments and understanding what went right or wrong is like getting a sneak peek into your manager's playbook. It equips you with the wisdom to plan your next move and avoid those well-trodden pitfalls, leading to smoother collaborations and a happier workplace.

5. Identify Communication Channels: Imagine trying to reach someone through snail mail when they're glued to their email. It's like speaking two different languages, right? Understanding the communication channel that your manager prefers is like tuning into their favorite radio station - it's where they're most likely to hear you. Maybe your boss loves a good face-to-face chat, or perhaps they're all about the convenience of emails and texts.

By tailoring your approach and picking up on their preferred channels, you're showing that you're not just hearing them; you're listening. And that attentiveness? It's like a secret handshake in the professional world. It builds respect, understanding, and a collaborative spirit that can only lead to good things. So next time, don't just talk; speak their language!

6. Learn Their Values: Think of values as the glue that holds people together. When you share values with someone, or at least understand what they value most, you're speaking the same moral language. Now, apply this idea to the workplace, specifically to your relationship with your management. What are the core principles that guide them? Are they sticklers for punctuality? Do they value creativity above all else? Or is it all about integrity and trust?

These aren't just words; they're the key to unlocking a stronger, more positive relationship with your boss. Author and leadership expert Stephen R. Covey taught that trust is the most essential element in a cooperative relationship. If you know what your manager values and can align your actions with those values, you're laying the groundwork for trust.

7. Understand Their Goals and Challenges: Ever started a puzzle without knowing what the finished picture looks like? It can be a confusing and frustrating process. Now, think of your relationship with your manager in the same way. Without a clear understanding of their goals and challenges, you're trying to put pieces together without seeing the big picture.

Stephen Covey's principle of "Begin with the End in Mind" from his renowned book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" beautifully illustrates this point. Knowing what your manager is aiming for, what keeps them up at night, and what success looks like to them - all of these insights shape how you can best support them.

But beyond understanding the goals, it's crucial to identify the pain points that might be hindering progress. This requires keen observation, open communication, and sometimes even a little empathy. Asking probing questions, offering to help where they seem overwhelmed, or suggesting solutions to apparent problems can not only alleviate their stress but also strengthen your working relationship.

It's not about blindly following orders; it's about getting on the same page and working towards a common goal. Whether it's a quarterly target or a five-year vision, understanding these key components, and taking proactive steps to address any obstacles, enables you to be a more effective team player and contribute in ways that truly matter. This approach aligns you as an ally, not just an employee, forging a collaborative bond that can drive success.

8. Observe Behavior Patterns: Ever watched a detective show and noticed how the smallest details make the biggest difference in solving the case? Well, turning your observation skills toward understanding your manager's behavior patterns might not solve a criminal mystery, but it can help you hack the code to a better working relationship!

Regularly watching how they react to different situations, the words they choose, or even their body language can give you critical insights into what motivates or frustrates them. These observations might seem minor, but they can reveal their likes and dislikes, triggers, and comfort zones.

The leadership expert John C. Maxwell once said, "People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude." By picking up on these subtle cues, you're not just hearing what your manager says; you're understanding what they mean. Whether it's recognizing their appreciation for punctuality or identifying a pet peeve, these insights allow you to adapt your behavior, creating a smoother, more intuitive collaboration.

9. Adapt to Their Leadership Style: John Maxwell also has a book, "5 Levels of Leadership," which can help you understand and adapt to your manager's leadership style. Think of your manager's leadership style as a dance rhythm. If they prefer the tango and you're dancing the waltz, things could get awkward fast! Does your manager take a hands-on approach, guiding every step? Or do they prefer to give you more autonomy, allowing you to take the lead?

Understanding this rhythm helps you dance in step with them, creating a more harmonious collaboration. If they appreciate regular updates, make sure to keep them in the loop. If they value creativity and independence, show them that you can take the initiative. It's all about finding that shared rhythm that makes working together feel natural and satisfying.

10. Build Trust Through Consistency: Imagine trust as a bridge between you and your manager. Now, what holds that bridge together? According to Brené Brown, a renowned researcher, and author who's studied the dynamics of trust, one of the essential building blocks is consistency. If you're flip-flopping in your actions and communications, the bridge becomes wobbly. But when you're reliable and steady, that bridge strengthens.

Quote that reads "if you promise to meet a deadline, meet it. If you say you'll follow up on something, do it".

Think of it this way: if you promise to meet a deadline, meet it. If you say you'll follow up on something, do it. These consistent actions, though seemingly small, are like the sturdy bricks and mortar holding that bridge together. The more you practice consistency, the stronger and more resilient that bridge becomes. Building this trust isn't just about impressing your boss; it's about creating a foundation for a collaborative, fulfilling, and long-term professional relationship. It's about opening doors to more meaningful connections, all by simply being someone your manager can rely on, time and time again.

In hacking your manager's behavior, these 10 insightful tips build a comprehensive tool-kit to foster a collaborative and satisfying working relationship. From recognizing personality traits and communication preferences to aligning values and building trust, each step is a piece of the puzzle. The real magic happens when these pieces come together to create a harmonious picture, tailored to both you and your manager's unique styles.

Now, let’s turn the magnifying glass inward. By understanding ourselves, we further enhance our ability to connect with others, paving the way for success in not only our professional relationships but also in our personal growth and development.

Putting Knowledge into Practice: Applying Self-discovery and Other Tools

A man gazing at his reflection in the mirror, contemplating his appearance and perhaps seeking self-reflection.

True collaboration and satisfaction in the workplace don't only stem from understanding your manager or following a set of guidelines. While these are important aspects, the key to a harmonious working relationship also lies in the mirror. It requires an inward journey, a path of self-discovery and alignment, to truly bridge the gap between you and your manager.

Here's where self-discovery tools come into play. These tools enable individuals to explore their workstyle, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and align these with the working behaviors of their manager. Such alignment leads to a profound impact on collaboration and satisfaction.

1. Understanding Yourself with Happy’s NxtGen: Happy’s People Engagement Platform is a personalized pathway to a better work environment. It all begins with crafting your personal user manual, where Happy guides you in sharing your values and preferences to improve collaboration. Through Happy's NxtGen assessment, you'll learn your unique work style and discover the NxtGen personas that align with you, such as the Influencer, Calculator, or Strategist, drawing on insights from 80 years of EQ research.

Your Happy profile, combined with NxtGen, unlocks the Happy Coach, offering personalized guidance to enhance relationships with coworkers and managers. The collaborative blend of Profiles, Workstyles, and Coach, including the insights from NxtGen personas, not only transform working relationships but also sparks culture improvement and unlocks your potential, all in one platform.

If you are interested in Happy, click here and we can give your team a demo, or you can sign up to get on the waitlist.

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2. Other Assessment Options: If Happy's NxtGen is not accessible to you, fret not! There are alternative evidence-based assessments, such as many free DISC Personality Assessments (DISC), StrengthsFinder-type (SF), and the Big Five Personality Test (Big Five), that provide valuable insights into your work personality.

If you're interested in exploring a broader range of tools, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or Enneagram can be used for exploration and understanding. These tools aid in self-discovery and facilitate understanding others with whom you aim to foster healthy relationships.

Whichever tool you decide to use, alignment between your work style and your manager's preferences can lead to tangible benefits. Studies validate the importance of this alignment, showcasing significant increases in collaboration and satisfaction. Simple steps towards self-awareness and alignment with Happy's NxtGen Workstyle Assessment or other recognized tools can lead to profound impacts on your career journey.

By taking the journey of self-discovery and alignment, you're not only grasping your manager's expectations but genuinely understanding yourself. This process bridges the gap between your unique work style and organizational expectations.

Conclusion: The Pathway to a Harmonious Workspace

Navigating the complex dynamics of the workplace requires more than just skill and determination; it demands an understanding of oneself and others. The pathway to a harmonious workspace begins with recognizing your unique work style, aligning it with your manager's expectations, and embracing tools like Happy's NxtGen to facilitate collaboration and satisfaction.

By harnessing the power of evidence-based assessments and being mindful of their appropriate applications, you can create a transformative space that enhances engagement and connection. The journey towards a harmonious workspace is within reach, and it starts with you.

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