Getting along with the boss

Nashville Business Journal

November 23, 2018


The relationship you have with your boss is one of the most important in your daily life. To be honest, it probably ranks right behind the one you have with a spouse or significant other. In part that’s due to the sheer amount of time you spend on the job. But it’s also the meaning behind the relationship: your earning potential depends on it. 

Getting along with your boss is big business. And it rests squarely on your shoulders. I know. Early in my career I was given lots of responsibility, leading more than 50 employees and proving to my boss that I could deliver.  

I learned very quickly that having a solid rapport with my boss was good for peace of mind and great for my career. Here are a few thoughts on making this relationship work:

Build a sturdy communications bridge. Figure out the best communication style for your professional relationship. Work it out together. Find the answers to questions like: How frequently should we meet? Better to have one longer weekly meeting or short daily ones? Want just the headlines or details? Get real clarification as early as you can in the relationship.

Help your boss achieve. Every leader wants to win in business. We all want to succeed. Learn the key measures of success in your work group and help the team (and subsequently your boss) shine. When your group meets or exceeds goals, life is good for everyone. 

Limit important communications. When you are talking or writing to your boss keep communication focused no more than two or three key points. It’s hard to get real attention on more than a few topics at once, so you’ll help the relationship by keeping things focused

Define standards of written materials. Does the boss want detailed reports or bulleted memos? How much research or backup material is necessary? A friend once put it this way: “Does the boss want to know what time it is or does he/she want to learn to build a clock?”

Agree to disagree. Your thoughts and ideas are valuable, and bosses need to hear all sides of the important issues. Be careful, be respectful, be calm. When you want to present a different point of view, chose the time and venue carefully. And don’t get into these discussions at times of high stress.

Always support your boss. Get behind the boss in every way you can. Negative remarks always boomerang and will give you one big black eye. Be positive—it always pays off! If you do encounter issues, approach your boss proactively, rather than stewing and saying something you shouldn’t to the wrong person. 

What motivates your boss? Maybe he/she is big on punctuality. If so, be on time—all the time. Maybe he/she dotes on grandchildren or values family above all. If so, don’t forget to comment on life outside work. Maybe your boss reads a lot. So recommend a book. Figure out what motivates your boss and make it work to your benefit.

Be a coach and teacher. Leaders respect those who do the most to develop the team. Take every opportunity you can to help others build their job skills. Initiatives like this sit well with the boss and encourage respect among your peers.

Toot your own horn occasionally. It’s just fine to let your boss or others know about your accomplishments—tastefully. Stay humble, stay accurate and don’t sound like a braggadocio. 

Every boss is different, which means we must learn how best to adapt. Remember, as you grow in your career your boss is also growing. Think of every interaction as an opportunity to learn and evolve. In the process, you might even help your boss in become a better leader. 


Joe Scarlett is the retired CEO of Tractor Supply Company
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Comments and Discussion:


Posted Nov 29, 2018 at 11:31 AM by Carl Schneider
Joe, Thanks for your excellent advice for leaders and team members. As a former senior Air Force leader,and then a company CEO I,too had to learn many of these lessons the hard way. I am now coaching and mentoring military members transitioning to the civilian sector and I share your valuable insights with them. Please keep up the good work---your "lesson learned" are important. Warm regards-Carl Schneider,Maj Gen USAF (Ret) 602-980-2871

Good insight

Posted Nov 28, 2018 at 11:01 PM by Peter Pankiewicz
Hi Joe, Thanks as always for good insight, I am the "boss" - owner of a company with 15 employees, but articles such as this remind me that we are all on career journey of listening, learning and becoming better in whatever our role. Even though I do not officially have a "boss" I have plenty of similar valuable relationships with stakeholders, key employees, consultants, customers and suppliers, where I definitely can use the insights in this article! Thank you, Peter


Posted Nov 28, 2018 at 10:47 AM by Douglas Steckbeck
Always good advice as always. I enjoy your advice column and it's wisdom has helped me in my professional life! Thanks again! Doug

Hard lesson to learn sometimes!

Posted Nov 28, 2018 at 9:59 AM by Bill Turner
Joe, I always enjoy reading your advice column. I'm afraid I learned this lesson the hardway, sometimes thinking the Boss should adjust to me, instead of the other way around. Hopefully in my next position I will make this priority and learn from my mistakes. Thank you, Bill

Thank you

Posted Nov 28, 2018 at 9:05 AM by LINDSEY HUFFHINES
Joe, Thank you. I needed this today!

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