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How to Bond with Your Off-Site Boss

How to Bond with Your Off-Site Boss

By Caroline M.L. Potter, Yahoo! HotJobs

Bonding with your supervisor isn't always a snap. You may have different ways of working and decidedly different personalities, especially if he wasn't the one who hired you in the first place. What can make the bonding process -- and thus, your job -- even more difficult is if you and your boss work in separate locations or time zones.

"The lack of regular physical contact removes the possibility to read energy, personality, mood [and] body language," says Alanna Fero, a performance coach and employee engagement specialist. "How do you impress a boss who never witnesses your work process? How do you keep current with a coworker whose experience of the job is completely different than yours? With consistent application of certain 'bonding' tactics, it's possible to create high-functioning, loyal and enjoyable long-distance working relationships."

She recommends the following five tactics to make the bonding process a simple and smooth one.

Make Getting to Know Your Boss Part of Your Job

"A genuine 'getting to know you' process is crucial," Fero says. "It's best if there's a lengthy and substantive interview series; thorough reference checks; followed by daily emails, Skypes and/or phone calls in the early weeks." Building a foundation will pay dividends later when you face challenges together.

Technology can help build bridges as well. "Videoconferencing is inexpensive now and goes a long way toward creating intimacy and connection over long distances, and, believe me, those are not just words for romance and friendship," says Fero, author of Love Made Visible: Values-Driven Approaches to Work/Life. "Good workplace relationships are interdependent and highly intimate."

Engage in Small Talk for a Big Impact

Don't be all business all the time. Fero encourages new employees to include a brief personal infusion in one-third or more of their communications with their bosses.

"Try something like, 'Hey Sheldon -- hope you had a good weekend. It was so incredibly hot here we just sat in front of our fans and thought about ice! Maybe it was a little cooler in your world?' or 'Hi Marise. Great news on finishing those kitchen renos -- must feel great to be able to spread out and cook now,'" she suggests.

Don't overshare or get too personal, but politely inquire about life outside the office on a regular basis. "A major part of in-person work relationships are the casual and even accidental conversations that happen in hallways, staff rooms and elevators," Fero says. "To deepen your long-distance relationship, create ways to know, appreciate and express a level of caring for one another even across many miles."

Find Out What She Likes or Dislikes

Ask a lot of questions up front about your boss's style and preferences so you can meet and exceed expectations. Fero suggests questions including:

  • Do you prefer questions and feedback as they come up or batching them into one email or telephone conversation? 
  • What's the best time of day to reach you at your desk without intruding on time you need to focus?
  • I understand some people prepare the XYZ reports in chronological order and others in priority sequence. What works best for you?

She believes that investing time to make the critical standards transparent from the start will save you a lot of headaches later.

Reach Out Often and Consistently

Silence isn't golden when you're not at the same site as your boss. "Provide regular progress reports and updates," Fero advises. "A good benchmark is a minimum of twice a week, a maximum of twice a day."

Remember, too, that some folks may not feel you're pulling your weight if you're working remotely. "Chunk your work down into small deliverables and frequently report on them," she suggests. "You'll appear considerate, reliable and highly results-oriented."

Find Time for Face Time

Even the best working relationships require a bit of face time, so make time for it every chance you get. You don't have to commit to a week-long visit. Fero suggests taking advantage of any opportunity to be in the same physical space or city. "If a one-hour flight layover en route to somewhere else could put you in the same place, make it happen," she says.

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