How New Workers Can Build a Partnership With Their Boss

New hires only have one chance to make a first impression. Here’s how they can navigate some early wins with their new bosses.

From new learning new colleagues’ names to new company processes, the learning curve that inevitably accompanies a new job can feel overwhelming. And while it’s certainly important for new hires to get to know their new colleagues and master the temperamental office printer, they shouldn’t lose sight of their most essential task: establishing a connection with your boss. The first few weeks on the job are workers’ chance to sow the seeds if a productive relationship with their supervisor.

With these tips in mind, workers can lay the groundwork for a harmonious, mutually beneficial mentorship — and gain an ally who will help them advance throughout their career.

  1. Know Who to Ask

From broken copy machines to general lunch hour protocol, there’s more to every job than what they teach during employee training — but it’s up to new hires to learn company culture early. Get answers to those nagging workplace etiquette questions from new colleagues, not a new boss or supervisor. By developing relationships with coworkers on this front, new hires can ease their transition into shared workflow.

  1. Seek Help

Workers shouldn’t be too hard on themselves. They might be thrilled about their new job, but, like anyone else, they’re bound to make a mistake at some point. To recover effectively from a slip-up, don’t chalk the mistake up to being new. Rather, take full responsibility for the mistake and indicate that a desire to receive feedback to help avoid future mistakes. By following these steps, new hires will turn each beginner’s fumble into an opportunity to demonstrate that they value their boss’s advice.

  1. Exceed Expectations

New workers should be eager to prove themselves, but they should also be wary of biting off more than they can chew. For consistently impressive results, it’s best for new hires to under-promise and over-deliver. Say a new hire is working on a project. They should give their boss a realistic timeline for completion — and then turn in their work early. Exceeding reasonable goals sets a better impression than blustering forward with bravado and failing to follow through.

  1. Learn the Supervisor’s Habits

New hires should get a gauge early on their supervisor’s leadership style. Carefully observe his or her behavior and act in accordance with their management style. If the boss is likely to check in on people’s progress throughout the day, be prepared to casually discuss ongoing projects on a whim. Alternatively, if they’re more hands-off, provide them with a daily update email recapping what progress has been made. Regardless of a worker’s personal communication preferences, they should adjust their habits to fit the parameters laid out by their new manager.

  1. Be Positive

Starting a new job is difficult, but remember: everyone in the office was the new at some point. The last thing a new hire wants to do is to come off as unenthusiastic to a supervisor. When new workers are feeling negative, they should take a step back and remember that they were hired for a reason. Not only is a positive mindset a productive one, but by maintaining a generally cheerful demeanor, new hires will befriend new co-workers more easily than they would with a grumpier outlook.

  1. Be Personable

As a new worker’s relationship with his or her boss flourishes, they’ll find that they have more in common with them than just the company they work for. New hires should show interest in who their supervisor is as a person by engaging in small talk. It can be about anything — their kids, their weekend plans or a sports team you both admire. Remember: Keep the in-office conversation professional — and save the politics for happy hour.

Ken Sterling is executive vice president, chief marketing officer at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau, a lecturer at the UC Santa Barbara School of Engineering and a columnist for Inc. magazine. To comment, email