Rather Than Avoiding Your Boss, Chat Him Up

Why you should bite the bullet and talk to your supervisor whenever you have the chance.

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You see him out of the corner of your eye; your boss is 30 feet ahead of you in the hallway. You screech on your heels and make an immediate U-turn. This restroom trip can wait. After all, the last thing you want is to get caught up in awkward small talk with your superior.

If you find yourself doing this, you’re not alone—employees often make this mistake. In reality, talking with your boss, no matter how socially painful it might be, can work to your career advantage.

Here are several reasons you should bite the bullet and chat with your supervisor at every opportunity:

Increase Your Likability. The employee handbook talks about fairness in the workplace, but if we’re going to be honest, being liked certainly helps your case when it comes to promotions, raises, and other work perks. If your boss likes you, he will be more likely to go to bat for you when it’s needed. The majority of the time, good things at work will not happen without the support of your boss. It sounds overly simplistic, but ask yourself, who would you rather help, someone who is likable and approachable—or someone who steers clear of you?

[See 22 Ways to Be a Better Boss.]

Increase Your Comfort Level. Remember how nervous you were during your first work presentation? After two or three presentations, it became easier. Such is life; the more frequently we do something, the simpler it becomes. Communicating with your boss frequently will help eliminate anxiety when you need to ask for something. Whether it’s a raise, a day off, or a grievance, your boss shouldn’t think something is wrong if you ask to speak with her.

Make Your Career Path Clear. To avoid hearing statements such as, "I had no idea you were interested" or "You should have come to me sooner," speak with your boss on a regular basis. There’s no shame in telling your boss that you’re thinking about the future and need his help to achieve your goals. (Just never say that you’re gunning for their chair; that’s career suicide). Exchange these thoughts verbally and via email. This will help you keep a job journal, a valuable career tool that helps your perception of your career standing and what you are doing wrong or right.

Learn the Language. Whether you love or hate the boss, learning how he rose through the ranks and how he handles himself in a myriad of work situations is of great benefit to you. Speaking with him regularly will deliver insights that you can apply to your own career.

Keep Your Enemies Closer. Even if you dislike everything about the person in charge, the information you can potentially glean during conversations is priceless. The better you understand the company’s culture and corporate politics, the better the odds you can work your magic to advance up the ladder. Let your boss think she “gets you,” and that will put you in a better position to get what you want.

[See How to Deal With Annoying Co-Workers.]

Run in Higher Circles. Another important reason to speak with your boss regularly is because you want him to sing your praises. Your boss will be talking with his bosses and other folks that you simply do not get regular access to. This can help put you on the company radar. Conversations with your boss are also noticed by other workers. Regardless of how these employees view you and your motives, having a communication line with the boss raises your street cred.

Would you feel good if someone you worked with went out of their way to avoid you? Of course not! The boss is human too, and you should do everything you can to interact with her.

Andrew G. Rosen is the founder and editor of Jobacle.com, a career advice blog. He is also the author of How to Quit Your Job and an established freelance blogger who is available for hire. Follow him on Twitter (@jobacle) or connect on LinkedIn.

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