How to Build a Relationship with an Introverted Boss


How to build relationship with an introverted bossI was trying to clear my backlog of emails last Sunday and stumbled across one that had the question, “How to Build a Relationship with an Introverted Boss?“.

I found it to be quite interesting. I remember having just one boss in my career that was an introvert – my very first one. It was so long back that I don’t remember having had any experiences of dealing differently with him.

May be I thought that’s how a boss is supposed to be.

However, being a bit of an introvert myself, it got me thinking, “how does my team thinks about dealing with me?”

Now, if you have had an introvert superior, take a moment and think how differently you dealt with her as compared to others?

Introverted bosses usually interact less with subordinates (with anybody for that matter), and when they do it is usually strictly about work. They may not ask many questions, and may not also entertain many questions. Here are my thoughts of building a relationship with an introverted boss, with core assumption that this is not much different from building relationship with an introverted team member.

1. Get you know your boss better

By nature introverts do not open up and talk about themselves easily. Try to strike small conversations about non-work related issues. “How was your weekend?”, and see if this brings about any response.

If your boss is a bit personal and shy to talk about herself, you can start a bit. Tell about the contest your son won at school, and ask what his kids do. Talking about their family might help some of shy bosses, who find it hard to talk about themselves.

Suggest a weekly one-on-one meetings.

Make sure it’s not a quick 10min discussion around lunch/coffee, you need at least 30-45min, if not an hour. During these meetings update your boss about what you have done in the previous week, plan for subsequent week, and ask for feedback. In the end or sometime during this meeting make small conversation about a topic apart from work – her hobbies, favorite vacation place, or something social.

2. Understand your boss

The best way to start is to look for things that are common between two of you.

Do you share some hobby, do you come from same school/college, do you worked earlier at a common company? May be both your kids like to play guitar. That’s a good place to strike a chord.

Make sure avoid ‘competitive’ side of the conversation, though.

3. Win her trust

Winning boss’s trust is very important, for your own growth.

One way to do this is to always keep her informed.

She has to deal with lot of unknowns in the organizational environment, and when you keep her in the know about progress on the project, what you are doing about the issue customer has raised, and so on – you empower her to answer her boss. And that makes her look good with her boss. Lack of information can spring surprise to your boss.

Superiors do not like surprises.

If they get one from you, they mistrust you. Come across as someone to depend on, someone who can get things done.

But don’t try to be boss’s friend.

“Don’t get buddy-buddy with your superiors”, says Jeffrey Fox in his book How To Become CEO, “You and your superiors are business associates. You are not friends. There is a necessary line between you. Don’t cross it and get buddy-buddy. Don’t let your superiors cross it either”.

“You can become friends later when both of you are in different companies.”

🙂 So. True.

4. Look for ways to help

It is important to understand your boss’s problems, shortcomings, strengths and plans – so that you can help when there is a need.

Everyone needs help at some point in time. Some people may not be comfortable asking for it. Especially if they are an introvert. Make it easy on your boss. Look for ways to help her.

But do not make it look obvious.

There is another advantage for you to make sure your boss looks good. The more she is able to do her job well, better are her chances of getting promoted.

And when both of you know you helped her get there, guess who gets a chance to fill in her vacant position?

5. Seek feedback about yourself

This is a good way to get your boss to communicate. A good boss likes to give out advice, mentor and help you grow. During these interactions you can understand what can possibly bother them and what you can do about it in your own capacity.

May be there are other ways of building relationship with your introvert superior, but these five ways can get the boll rolling.

What if nothing works?

Be patient, smile often and help often. Do not push too much on non-work related topics.

To do your job well and to have a good working relationship with your boss you don’t need to know much of personal details such as family and hobbies.

Some people want to keep their official and personal lives separate. That is okay. As long as you both are able to communicate on work related issues openly, you should be good.

Keep in mind that eventually you will get a different boss. 🙂

Lastly, I thought you might enjoy this one –

Which type of a person are you – Extrovert, or Introvert, or a healthy mix of both?

Take this quiz to find out!

Let me know your thoughts on dealing with introverted people at work. Leave a comment below.

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