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Submitted by Helen C on


Can anyone give me some practical suggestions on how to develop better relationships with my supervisor and her manager without toadying?

After listening to the Politics 101 series of podcasts, I am endeavouring to develop better relationships with them.

My high quality of work and strong range of soft skills are not enough to get the better projects and concessions in my workplace.  I am a High S and well liked in general but seem to always miss out on the ‘tap on the shoulder’, which often goes to someone in the manager’s network of people she appears to favour.

One action I have tried is to think of a decision made by her that has made a positive impact on me and thank or comment on it when the opportunity arises.  I have done this once and will keep trying.

It is a start but any other techniques the forum can provide would be greatly appreciated.



Chris Zeller's picture
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Hi Helen,

Thanks for coming to the forums and sharing a bit about yourself. I'm a High I (with some very definite D tendencies) if that helps frame things. Only in the last couple of years have I developed an appreciation for the Ss of the world. On behalf of my people, thank you for un-ruffling the feathers, soothing the stepped-on toes, and piecing back together the eggs that we break in course of our natural existence.

Sticking with DiSC, what do you know (or suspect) about the profiles of your supervisor and and her manager? How does your High S profile compare with the profiles of the people who do get "tapped" for the high profile projects?

Come back to us with your theories; we can brainstorm things to do and say and how to do and say them in a way that makes sense to your boss and will hopefully be more effective.


Helen C's picture
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Thanks Chris,

My immediate supervisor is a High D.   She is just over thirty and almost a carbon copy of the Manager (only 5 years younger).  

Although I am not sure about the Centre Manager’s DISC profile, I suspect it is a High D with High I tendencies.

I have considered the profiles of the others who have a mixture of mainly S and I.  The common denominator is that they are all under 35 with probably 75% being between 25-30.  I am just over 50. I am pretty sure it is an age thing although no one says these words out aloud.

I work in a government call centre and am a permanent employee. I have worked in higher level roles in other areas of my department in the past.  

I have asked for feedback which is never detailed unless it is negative (this does happen to me on occasion but rarely and I try to take it on board.  Negative feedback to other team members is more often and more brutal from what I can ascertain).  When I asked my immediate supervisor to provide positive feedback as well, she said that she never gives it as she did not ‘want to play favourites’ with team members.  I was flabbergasted at this comment but am sharing it so that you can understand my situation better. I work hard at managing this relationship by continually pausing, thinking, then responding.  Something I have rarely had to do in the past.

 With the Manager for the Centre I receive no feedback and have very little to do with her on a daily basis, but as she is the one that makes the decisions, this is the relationship I feel I need to improve upon.

I can’t do anything about my age, but if I can manage these relationships better I will know I have done all I can.  



Chris Zeller's picture
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Thanks for sharing the details. You're right about not being able to control age. Too often, newer and younger managers let role power get in the way and fail to fully appreciate the insights and experience that older and more tenured people bring to the team. Yes, it's a shame, and no it's not fair. In your case it may be reality and you may not be able to change it.

With that in mind I'll share my initial thoughts/suggestions, and invite others to weigh in as well. If we're lucky, we'll get a handful of ideas, behaviors to put into practice, and a rough timeline to see if we can make things better. Here goes:

1. "Embrace Reality" and focus on what you can control and influence.

2. Don't drop the ball -- continue to deliver results.

3. Practice the Peer Feedback Model. If other folks on the team are on the receiving end of "brutal" negative feedback, some appreciation and positive feedback from you could go a long way with them.

4. Familiarize yourself with your boss's priorities and look for ways to help her achieve her goals.

5. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. Ss and Ds are going to approach things in very different ways. Challenge yourself to modify your own behaviors and communications to engage with your manager in a D style that she'll be receptive to. "Pause, think, and respond" is classic, posterboard S behavior. Bravo! Recognize that it may not be the most effecitve approach here. Consider being more assertive and taking action a litte bit earlier.

It'll probably feel strange and unnatural. Maybe even uncaring and insensitive. If you're uncomfortable, you're growing and learning. Stick with it and practice relating to her in the style that she's most comfortable with.

6. Check out the Readers vs. Listeners cast and couple that with the DISC communication styles. Find reasons to interact with key people and don't wait for them to come to you.

7. Keep your expectations reasonable. Remember, you're here on the forums and she's not. Though, wouldn't it be fun if she were here and reading this post? Hello, Ms. Manager!

8. Manage the overall risk profile. It's probably not a great idea to change everything all at once (the way a high I like me would likely do it). Keep things in perspective and don't push so hard that you risk your stability.

9. Look for the small wins and celebrate them. This is a long game and progress is likely to be slow in the beginning. If you can't celebrate them at work, come celebrate them here with us.


That's all for first blush. Hopefully, others will also weigh in and keep the discussion moving.



Helen C's picture
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Hi Chris,

Thanks for the comprehensive feedback and advice.

I think I am managing points 1-3 but am encouraged by point 4 and will start to take greater notice of what my manager’s priorities are.

I know that she is ‘numbers driven’ so I will take the opportunity to highlight my contribution to my organisation in this way.  I have always tried to be seen as a team player but this may be to my own detriment (I will still be a team player of course because that is my nature) but will make the effort to stand out more when it comes to my individual contribution and results.

Thanks for the Readers vs Listeners advice.  My supervisor is a reader & the manager is a listener. As most things, I know the theory but I need to practice it so much more.  

Starting today I will engage more fully with the manager.  In the past I would not ‘stop to chat’ because I saw her as a busy manager with busy priorities and respected that, but from now I will (while still keeping it short) engage in a short conversation if possible.  She does have High I tendencies and probably values the interaction, something I had never considered until now. 

So, I will keep you and the forum posted on my small wins and my journey into the uncomfortable.

Again, your encouragement and advice is greatly appreciated.



Helen C's picture
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Hi Chris and other forum contributors,

After posting my response yesterday morning, I went to work and was pulled aside to be advised that a manager from another area of the business had requested me as a back-fill alternative for his coordinator who was successful in another position.

I had worked with this manager in the past and he was part of my casual network.  He was not aware of my current concerns but knew my skill set and even more importantly the culture of my current workplace and the percieved restrictions.

I will move up one rung of the ladder and supervise a small 5 person support team in service delivery.  So, my first job is to listen to 'The First Rule for New Managers' again.

According to my new boss, the team I take over is well oiled and running very smoothly now that behaviour issues have been addressed.  He also said, and I quote, 'so if it starts to slip, we will know who is responsible' (no pressure there!).  Fortunately he also said, 'but I have the confidence that you will be able to manage the team well.'

Thank you for your input and even though the job has changed, the advice received is still relevant and I will still work on it.

Also, this is a great example of how your network looks out for you.  Perhaps I should have reached out earlier - I don't know but I think this is a very good example of how it works.

As word got out of my impending move, two of my current team members pulled me aside and asked that if any other opportunities arose in my new area, to keep them in mind ... and I will.

Thanks Chris ... Thanks MT Community ... I will keep in touch


Chris Zeller's picture
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That's great news, Helen. Congratulations on what seems to be a better situation all around. 

Keep us posted on how things go and let us know how we can help.