How to Manage Your Boss

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Let’s be honest – if you got to pick your boss, you might make a different choice. But in the real world, you don’t have much say in the matter. And even a totally incompetent manager can make your life pretty miserable. So the more effectively you can manage your boss, the more pleasant your days are likely to be.

See if any of these statements might apply to you:

  • I tend to get into power struggles and control battles with my boss.
  • I resent the fact that my boss has the power to direct my activities.
  • I sometimes intentionally fail to do something that my boss asks or expects.
  • I tend to feel somewhat anxious when I am with my boss.
  • I am very hesitant about expressing disagreement to my boss.
  • I often keep my ideas and opinions to myself instead of sharing them with my boss.

If you see yourself in any of these descriptions, you may need to do a better job of “managing up”. Consider these suggestions for improving the relationship . . .

Accept the fact that your boss has been given the power to direct your activities.

This is true even if you are much smarter than he is, even if you should have been given her job, even if he is the most obnoxious loudmouth on the planet. You are stuck with this boss for the immediate future, so becoming rebellious will only make a bad situation worse. Accepting reality and working to increase your influence will produce better results.

Don’t expect perfection.

Managers are people, not androids, so they have an endless variety of quirks and eccentricities and odd little habits. Recognize your boss’ hot buttons and for heaven’s sake don’t push them! There’s a name for people who annoy their managers on purpose – masochists. If you have a wonderful boss who is a pleasure to work with, celebrate! Be grateful every day for as long as it lasts. If not, lower your expectations.

Study your boss’ management style and figure out what makes her happy.

Look for clues that tell you how she likes work done or how she prefers to get information. If you’re not sure what your boss expects from you, in terms of results, work habits, communication style, or anything else, then don’t try to guess – ask! You need to find out ASAP. Any reasonable manager will gladly answer these questions and, in fact, will be pleased and surprised by your interest.

Try to make your boss look good.

Produce quality results, meet deadlines, stay within your budget, respond to people quickly. Find problems that need solving and address them. Contribute new ideas and suggestions. Share useful information with your boss. And your own political power will grow when your manager tells everybody how wonderful you are!

Never, never, never complain to others about your boss.

Especially to people outside your department or to your employees (if you are a manager). Strategizing with trusted peers about how to handle your manager’s more challenging peculiarities is one thing – kind of like a group therapy session – but trumpeting your unhappiness far and wide will only get you in trouble.

Give your boss a sincere compliment from time to time.

Managers hear lots of complaints, but few employees ever bother to give their boss a kind word. Unless your manager resembles Attila the Hun or Adolph Hitler, you can surely find some quality worth praising. Mention it at some appropriate point. But let’s be clear – paying a sincere compliment is not the same as groveling or sucking up.

Finally, don’t forget the old saying “it’s not your boss who protects your job, it’s your boss’s boss”.

Look for opportunities to interact with higher-level managers. If they know who you are and think well of you, then you will have enhanced both your political power and your job security.

Successfully managing upward will make your time at work more pleasant and make it easier to accomplish your goals.