Five Tips for Building a Productive Relationship with Your Manager

By Malcolm Fleschner

People give all sorts of reasons for leaving their jobs – going back to school, relocating, caught doing some unauthorized copying during the office Christmas party and so on. Among these myriad reasons, however, two tend to be the most common. The first is that the job has lost its challenge or excitement; the second is difficulty dealing with an immediate supervisor. In pharmaceutical sales, representatives often start casting around for new opportunities because they feel undervalued by inattentive managers.

Faced with this type of management, most reps are likely to place the blame squarely on the boss’s shoulders. Yet as pharmaceutical sales expert and management coach Allan Mackintosh points out, frontline salespeople need to understand that they share some of the responsibility for creating a healthy relationship with their managers. The breakdown comes, Mackintosh says, when neither the rep nor the manager takes the initiative to discuss expectations openly.

To avoid this predicament, Mackintosh suggests the following five tips for building a productive working relationship with your manager.

1. Work the body.
As a part of their job top sales professionals typically study different personality types and learn to read customers’ body language. The same tactics work in the office as well. Is your personality compatible with your manager’s? If not, can you work to match your body language and tone of voice to that of your boss? Doing so can magically help smooth out potential conflicts, build rapport and establish subconscious trust.

2. Get a contract.
Mutually agreed-up expectations provide a primary building block of trust and respect. The following key questions will help you develop a contract on how you plan to work together:

  • What are your specific expectations of me as your representative?
  • What are my specific objectives and how am I going to be measured?
  • What behaviors annoy you?
  • What motivates and de-motivates you?
  • What reports do you want? When do you want them? What content?
  • How often do you want to visit me in the field?

3. Ask what your manager thinks.
Be assertive about soliciting feedback and mentoring. Don’t wait for your manager to come to you, because it might never happen. At the same time, don’t become a pest. Consider developing a regular timetable for discussing your progress.

4. Show your support.
The manager’s job can be extremely stressful and lonely, particularly when results aren’t measuring up to expectations. You can help by being supportive and offering to help by taking on additional responsibilities or tasks. Besides taking some of the burden off your manager, this approach also will help you develop additional capabilities you might soon get the chance to put to work as a manager yourself.

5. Trust your gut.
If you feel instinctively that the relationship with your manager is heading south, seize the moment and sit down to discuss it. This will be easier if you’ve made a stipulation in your contract for this contingency. Possible wording might be: If I feel our relationship is not what it should be, can I address it immediately instead of letting it linger?