How to Earn Your Boss’s Respect In the Army

Today, I want to share some insights on how to earn your boss’s respect in the Army.  I know these tips won’t help EVERY single person win their boss’s respect, but I think it will help a lot of people.

I understand that all bosses are different.  Some are uptight.  Some are easy going.  Some are fun and humorous.  Some are slackers. Others have HIGH expectations.  Some are just miserable to be around.  I could go on and on here, but everyone is wired differently.

I’ve had good and bad bosses during my time in the Army.  Most, probably 90% of them were good bosses who were fairly easy to work for.  But, I’ve had one or two that really frustrated me.  Know what I mean?

I also learned a long time ago that if you are good at what you do and are a high achiever, it’s easy to work with just about anyone. Who doesn’t want a high performer working for them?

If you are trying to improve your relationship with your boss and you want to earn their respect, I can share five simple tips you can follow that will help you do that.  They are listed in no particular order.

# 1 The Magic Sentence – This is quite perhaps my favorite and best tip on how to improve your relationship with your boss and win their respect.  I used to use this magic sentence ALL of the time and it worked wonders.  The sentence I would say is “what can I do to make your life easier, sir?”  This always worked in my favor.  Whenever I got my work done, or saw that my boss was stressed out, I would ask this question.  It almost always put a smile on their face, or gave them a sense of relief.  You should use this sentence whenever possible.

# 2 Do Things Without Being Asked – Some people try to do a bare minimum.  And then they wonder why they get a center of mass evaluation report.  Your job is to take some initiative and do things without being asked.  I’m not telling you to try to read your boss’s mind, but I am telling you to use some initiative at work.  Never just sit around and wait for it to be final formation.  If you get you work done, find something else you can do to stay busy and be productive.

# 3 The White Board or Butcher Block Method – One simple thing you can do is put a dry erase board or butcher block and easel by your desk.  Every day when you get to work, you want to do two things.  First and foremost, write down your BIG 3-5 tasks for the day.  That way when your boss walks by they will know what you are working on for the day.  The second thing you should do is add a section below your priorities.  Name it “fires” or “things my boss wants me to work on today.”  That way, your boss can come over to your work area and add things to your list when they need something done.

# 4 Make a List About Your Boss – This tip might sound weird at first, but hear me out.  If you’ve been working with your boss for any period of time, you probably know what they are good at and what they aren’t good at.  You will know their strengths and weaknesses.  Write these things down on a piece of paper.  For all of your boss’s weaknesses, come up with some things you can do to help out in that area.  For example, maybe your boss isn’t organized.  What you could do to help remedy that is to help organize the office once a day or once a week.  Find a  few areas you can pick up the slack and make an immediate difference for your boss.

# 5 Review Your Boss’s Calendar – If you have access to your boss’s calendar you will know about upcoming supsense’s from higher, meetings, and training requirements.  See if you can be proactive and help your boss plan for these events.  For example, if there is a meeting at 1400 hours, maybe you could go in an hour early and set everything up for them, without being told do so. Or, if you know your boss is teaching a class the following week, see if there is anything you can do to help them prepare.

Final Thoughts

None of these points are designed to help you kiss butt.  There’s no need to do that.  But, I do think it’s your job to by loyal to your boss and help them become successful.  That’s what being a good follower is all about.  Even if you don’t like your boss, it’s your job to help them and support them.  Follow the five tips mentioned above and I think there’s a good chance you will definitely earn your boss’s respect.

What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.  I look forward to hearing from you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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11 thoughts on “How to Earn Your Boss’s Respect In the Army”

  1. All these ideas are good to keep in mind. The whiteboard especially, so that things are written down and readily seen.

    There are always times that a particular plan gets hung up and has to be adjusted.

    A boss doesn’t always know exactly what the next best move should be. Most bosses will have a contingency plan, but still need to know that those they lead are for him or her and support the plan in general.

    Asking the question in #1 shows that you can put the greater good above yourself and help move things forward. There are certainly situations that this question helps and can get a problem closer to being solved quicker.

  2. Theresa Williams

    Love love love the magic sentence. I say this to people, including my husband, all the time. It shows that you are invested in yourself, your work, and the greater work of those you are under (or are together with). What can I do to make your life easier, sir? Everyone should memorize this and use it often. Also, I love having the “what my boss wants me to do” section on your daily priorities board. It gives the power back to the boss in addition to letting him know you’re a team player with eyes on the bigger picture.

  3. I’m also a really big fan of the whiteboard. This is a visual reminder to your boss that you are there to work hard and do what needs to be done, whether it’s your own task, your boss’s, or maybe even another team member’s. As you’ve discussed in other articles here on the site, earning respect means doing more than what’s expected of you and often times that means putting the interests of others before your own. Self-indulgence won’t encourage your teammates or your boss to respect you, but when you start dishing out help to others, people will really appreciate your efforts and probably reciprocate the gesture. That is real respect.

  4. One point I think you miss but come close to with #2 is to just do your job! Every job, whether Army or civilian, is going to have parts of it that you can’t stand. It might be PT. It might be paperwork and forms. It might be the politics you have to play. Whatever it is, do it. Nothing is going to irritate your CO more than always hearing your excuses for why you couldn’t get that particular task done, day after day after day. Make a game of it if you have to, but just do it.

    1. Amen to that. Do your job without whining, and give 110% to it. I also agree with all the other tips you put here.

      It really isn’t about kissing butt; it is about having a great team, and we can do this when we all respect each other. When you respect your boss and show them how they can respect you; everyone else on the team will show respect and you will have a successful unit.

  5. White board. White board. White board. An absolutely excellent idea and I have seen it in practice both in country and deployed. Nothing makes things easier than having a list of goals and keeping your boss in the loop. Plus it gives them an opportunity to more accurately track your training. Excellent ideas.

    1. Glad I could help. Whenever I used a whiteboard, it always seemed to impress my boss and keep them in the loop. Plus, the people working for me could look at the whiteboard and see what my priorities for the day were.

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