The Art of Bonding With Your Boss

Building a connection takes an authentic effort to be open and connect

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Bonding is the result of establishing an emotional connection. You feel that you’re in touch with someone who cares about you and vice versa. Yet work relationships are vulnerable to emotional disconnections that require an extra effort to prevent.

The only time your boss should be a stranger to you is when you first meet. If they remain a stranger and not a trustworthy ally and mentor, neither of you is doing your job in getting to know each other. Some level of bonding is essential.

The strength of any bond you attempt to create will be determined by your thoughts and the emotions they arouse. The idea is to think in a non-negative manner so as to arouse positive emotions that will motivate the desire to connect and stay connected.

To improve the bond with your boss, the communication between you must occur on a level that’s deeper than words, which means you both must be motivated to open up and make yourselves emotionally available to the other.

You do and say things that will cause your boss to think favorably about you as a person and the work you do as an employee. Hopefully, your boss’s thoughts will arouse these positive emotions that in turn will motivate the desire to improve the bond between you: interest, admiration, affection, awe, joy, gratitude, confidence, pride, enthusiasm, optimism, and contentment.

Otherwise, if either you or your boss provide half-truths, holds back, or masks your emotions, the other may become frustrated because their emotional needs weren’t fulfilled. As a result, the urge to avoid can become aroused, rather than the urge to bond. You then experience an emotional disconnect.

If a recent Harvard Business Review survey is correct, the potential exists for many people to experience an emotional disconnect with their boss. In the survey, 58 percent of the respondents said they would trust a stranger before trusting their boss. That’s not the ideal foundation for bonding to begin.

The willingness to bond is enhanced when you both feel safe to share personal or other important information. This could be difficult if either of you seems cold or guarded. If your boss doesn’t know how to establish trust or make you feel comfortable, you have to decide whether bonding is worth the risk.

Here are some suggestions on how to make yourself emotionally available:

  • Relax so that you feel comfortable and others feel comfortable around you.
  • Be social, caring, and accepting.
  • Smile and laugh when it’s appropriate to do so.
  • Ask questions and actively listen.
  • Express your interest, enthusiasm, and gratitude.

Except for being honest, you can’t do much better than this. If the bonding is meant to be, it will happen.

I was fortunate that a major portion of my career was with a brewing company whose history and culture was oriented to bonding celebrations. Bosses were willing to belly up to the bar and bond with any of their employees. But we had to accept invitations to participate in activities that didn’t exclude any of us for discriminatory reasons.

I chose to bond with my boss during weekly golf outings, poker nights, and by attending our nationally sponsored sporting events. These activities enabled us to see each other outside of work and without the badge of our rank. We became familiar friends without compromising the work roles we were expected to perform.

But you can’t authentically bond with just anyone, and the same holds true for your boss. The unwillingness to bond is an indication that you’re attempting to connect with the wrong person or for the wrong reasons, and that may be perceived as self-serving.

For example, befriending your boss with the intention of tricking them into giving you something you want is the opposite of genuine bonding. You see this as a way to get an unscheduled vacation day, an early departure from work, a pay raise, or promotion. Then after getting what you want, you revert to your old self. That’s not good.

If you sense that an emotional connection isn’t being made, there’s a greater than 50 percent chance your boss feels the same way. One or both of you lack the urge to communicate or take your bonding to the next level. This occurs when positive emotions fail to be aroused or when negative emotions are aroused.

The consequence of an emotional disconnect with your boss can be distress associated with a lack of communication, support, and mentoring. You may also experience blaming, disagreements, heated arguments, and other defensive behaviors.

To prevent this distress and achieve a fulfilling bond with your boss, each of you must attend to the following suggestions:

  •   Be available to one another when required or requested.
  •   Open and honest communication helps to develop trust.
  •   Nix any unfavorable thoughts to avoid triggering negative emotions.
  •   Demonstrate genuine enthusiasm toward one another.
  •   Insist on reciprocal information sharing.
  •   Never forget to try to fulfill each other’s emotional needs.
  •   Go for transparency in regard to motives and intentions.

Jeff Garton is a Milwaukee-based author, certified career coach, and former HR executive and training provider. He holds a master’s degree in organizational communication and public personnel administration. He is the originator of the concept and instruction of career contentment. Twitter: @ccgarton

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