The Boss-Employee Relationship

The right mix of personal and professional approach should set you on the path to success at work

With bossFirst, the employee. The relationship you share with your superiors is directly linked to your success and growth, as well as a promising future. In order to survive, you’ll need to observe your workplace with shrewd perception and infinite patience.

Know thy boss

Try and understand what makes the top man/woman tick. Realising his/her vision for the company will help define your own goals and immediate targets. Always ensure that your relationship is very professional and cordial, but don’t be afraid to add that personal touch. Remember birthdays and important anniversaries with a card, or bouquet, and arrange for all your colleagues to sign it as well, so that you are not accused of the old fashioned apple-polishing!

Communicate with tact

Communication with one’s boss is truly an art that requires a great degree of discretion and diplomacy. You’ll have to exercise your judgement in order to determine when it would be necessary to express a contradictory opinion in the best interests of the company, and when you would need to follow instructions blindly without question. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated in such a situation. If you have a grievance that needs to be redressed, avoid whining accusations. Stick to presenting bare facts without embellishment.

Be a team player

In today’s cut-throat corporate scenario, it is important to be a team player and pull your own weight. Bury the hatchet over any kind of rivalry with colleagues and keep the personal equation out of the work arena. Your professionalism will always be a valuable asset to any employer.

Never feel that you’re indispensable

While you may certainly be an important part of the company, never create a situation in your mind in which you over-rate your own importance. This attitude can skewer workplace relationships and bring you to the brink of professional disaster!

Don’t toot your own horn

No matter how tempted you may be to hint to your boss about how perfect you are for that upcoming promotion, or a big project at hand, let your actions speak louder than your words. Allowing him/her to make their own independent decisions about you will certainly give you more credibility.

And, remember—as an employee, it’s not what you know, but what you do with what you know that makes all the difference!

When you’re the boss

As the head of your company, you may constantly endeavour to strike the right note with your employees. The challenges and dilemmas that you face in this situation are manifold. You can’t afford to be too familiar, or you’ll find that your authority may be undermined at the first instance. All too-frequent requests for promotion and leave of absence will invariably reach your door. However, in today’s era of egalitarian relationships at the workplace, a boss who has an air of superiority can be terribly unpopular. Don’t despair; it doesn’t have to be lonely at the top!

Be human, but not too accessible

In order to get the best out of your employees, you’ll find that you’ll need to strike a fine balance between familiarity and authority. According to career counsellor Sabitha Kishore: “You need to ensure loyalty and still maintain healthy discipline, be warm and considerate, but constantly aware of that invisible line that you can’t cross.” For instance, you should enquire about the health of a sick employee and have a basic understanding of his/her social and economic situation, but you can’t invite him/her out for dinner. This basic protocol stems from the fact that an employer can’t afford to be too personal, but, at the same time, the human element should be apparent in the dynamics of all your relationships. By genuinely caring about the wellbeing of your employees, without relinquishing a formal working relationship, you can easily manage to strike the right note.

Explore the psyche of your employee

Understanding the background and frame of mind of the people you’ll be hiring is a good idea. This can give you valuable insights into their psyche. “You’ll have to be aware of what they’re looking for after they’ve accepted a position in your company,” says Emma Watson, a clinical psychologist. “For instance, is your employee a family man, searching for a stable career and the security that it can give his life, or is s/he the kind who loves the adrenaline rush of a high-powered job and is constantly seeking new challenges?” Fitting the personality of the candidate to the right job profile will ensure a smooth working relationship for all concerned. As an employer, your biggest asset would be excellent judgement. Being aware of the strengths and shortcomings of your employees will also allow you to reap the benefits of their talents.

Define responsibilities

Ensure that your team has clearly defined goals and that everyone knows what their core responsibilities are. If these boundaries are well-established at the outset, there can be no room for conflict later. Delegate tasks with care and allow your team to function independently when you do. It may be difficult for you to adopt this approach, but if you interfere too often into delegated responsibilities, your office will never function as an independent unit. It is also not particularly healthy for employees to use you as an emergency crutch.

Keep Motivation Alive

As a leader, you need to keep your people motivated and raring to go. Pep talk can get monotonous after a while and even frequent salary hikes don’t convey the right message. If someone’s done an excellent job, or gone that extra mile, don’t hesitate to pat them on the back.

In order to show your employees how much you value their time and expertise, you’ll not only need to be sincere with compliments, but also find other subtle ways to let them know they’re appreciated. You could take a health insurance policy for their families, or let the company bear expenses for their children’s educational needs. “Gestures such as these deepen the ties between the employer and employee. It create an atmosphere of mutual respect and admiration, and lead to improved motivation,” notes Kishore. “It also conveys to the employee a sense of belonging and oneness with the company.”

Remember, employee or employer, we’re all human. It’s only when we nurture meaningful working relationships can we chisel an effective preamble for success.

Kamala Thiagarajan
Kamala Thiagarajan is a Madurai-based journalist. Her writing interests encompass a host of genres including travel, health, entertainment and lifestyle. She is a full-time freelance journalist who works from her home in Madurai, South India. With 20 years of experience in journalism, she has over four hundred articles in print in leading magazines across the globe.


  1. My boss is not good person. he is very selfish and shouting for small mistake. what should I do ? should I change or not?

  2. My boss and I are friends and still have the employer/employee relationship. It’s not working very well. Is there any way to “unring” that bell?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here