How to influence your boss

Research has shown that the inability to build a successful relationship with the boss is a significant reason for managers failing or not reaching their full potential.

When I approach this topic, I encounter several mindsets that lead to an inability to effectively influence, these include:

  • My boss is autocratic
  • My boss doesn't listen to me
  • I don't want to jeopardize my career
  • I have no power in the relationship
  • My boss doesn't give me time

Do any of these, sound familiar?

The problem with blaming the boss is that you have created an external locus of control which is the exact opposite of self-leadership. To influence you must ask yourself, “what can I do that will make a difference?” The purpose of this blog is to provide some ideas to get you started:

  1. Create an Ally

Allies have open and honest conversations; they may not always agree but they will listen to what each other wants and assertively communicate what their own needs. "But my boss doesn't care what I need" I hear you cry; and my response is, do you know what they need? and have you told them what you need?

  1. Finding the boss's currency

We all have currencies, those things that are important to us and 'count' in relationship. Bosses
currencies are likely to be some of the following:

  • Commitment to the stated vision
  • Doing things 'the right way'
  • Offering help without being asked
  • Doing things faster than expected
  • Providing information that they need
  • Having a skill, the boss doesn’t have
  • Acknowledging the boss’s contribution to the organization
  • Activities that build the bosses reputation
  • Using your contacts to expedite a task
  • Expressing gratitude for anything the boss gives
  • Minimizing discomforts and distractions for the boss

Noticing which currencies, the boss responds to and paying them in these currencies cost you a little in time and energy but sets up reciprocity.


When something does something for us, we feel consciously or unconsciously obliged to reciprocate.
Reciprocation is the number one principle of influence, why else do you think marketing campaigns offer you a free gift? If your boss 'owes' you first, then you can assertively ask for what you want.


We are most influential when we frame our influence with confidence and conviction. So, a formula for influencing your boss might look and sound like the following:

"Boss [use their name] I understand that x [insert currency or bosses pet project] is important to you and to do this I believe that we should [insert your suggestion here]."

"Boss [use their name] I appreciate that x [insert currency or bosses pet project] is important to you and to achieve this I will need [insert your request here]."

It is my experience that most employees underestimate their ability to influence Without Authority, whether this is with their boss or their peers; believe you can influence, and you will find a way.

Did you find these strategies useful? Do you have a success story on influencing your boss? Please share your stories.

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