10 Great Tips to Manage Your Manager
Working out how to manage our manager is so important to create a good working relationship with your manager. Manage your boss well and you will
- be happier at work,
- get better opportunities, get better projects etc
- increase the size of your bonus,
- get promoted quicker
- progress your career faster
All very good reasons to work to manage your manager well.
In this article the tips we cover on managing upward are:
- Do a Good Job
- Learn What Your Manager Wants
- Understand the Pressures
- Bring Solutions not Problems
- Use The right Communication Styles
- No Surprises
- Take responsibility for the Relationship
- Take Work from Your Manager
- Give Your Manager Positive Feedback
- Don’t Complain about your Boss
There is a lot you can proactively do manage your boss and improve your professional and personal relationship with them.
Tip 1 to manage upwards is Do a Good Job
Your manager has to hit targets for themselves personally and also the team targets. If you are doing a good job, their job of hitting their targets is that much easier.
What manager doesn’t appreciate a team member doing a good job. Whether they tell you or not, they will appreciate you doing a good job which helps your relationship with your manager. It is a lot easier to manage your boss if they think positively towards you.
You don’t have to be shooting the lights out to be viewed as doing a good job. Even if you are doing exactly what you need to and not a lot more, your manager will still put you in the “helps me” category rather than the “hinders me” category
Make sure that you are performing at average or better when compared to your peers. Managing upwards is so much easier when you are doing a good job in the first place.
Tip 2 to manage upwards well is Learn what your manager wants.
It is very hard to do a good job if you don’t know what good looks like in your manager’s eyes. Find out what your boss expects from you. For extra points work out how you are going to measure what you deliver against your manager’s expectations.
Go through your job in detail with your boss. Ask what they want from you in each areas, and for each task, you are responsible for. Keep asking for their expectations until you are confident you know what you need to deliver and how they want you to deliver it. This is essential to manage upwards well.
Set objectives and goals together and agree what okay looks like and what good look like. Make sure you are both clear on how you are going to measure yourself against “okay” and “good”.
Make sure you get your manager’s input and agreement.
Ideally capture the output of this discussion in a MyRole form (see our Management Skills Hub for a template and examples) or the equivalent form used in your company. Putting in writing your responsibilities and goals creates a reference document that captures expectations.
You and your manager can then use your MyRole document in your weekly or monthly one-to-one meetings to discuss and measure progress. Regularly checking progress against goals is a great way to manage your manager’s expectations.
Tip 3 to manage your boss is Understand the Pressures
When you understand the pressures your manager is under and what activities, projects and deadlines they need to deliver against, you have the chance to help them hit their deadlines.
The more you can help your manager and relieve the pressure they are under, then the more they are going to appreciate your help and view you as a key asset in the team.
So ask about their work, what projects need to be done, what their current challenges are and what requests are coming from their manager or other stakeholders.
Listen carefully to what they say and look out for opportunities to help them directly. Also look for opportunities to tailor your work to help alleviate those pressures as much as possible. Looking for opportunities to help is essential to manage upwards well.
Take opportunities to help your manager look good and 19 times out of 20, you will benefit. You might be first choice for new projects, become a trusted confidant, get a bigger bonus, or be considered for promotion earlier. You will certainly be more secure in your job
Making your boss look good is very much in your interests.
Tip 4 – Bring Solutions not Problems.
Many employees are happy to point out the problems and issues with a course of action, a process or an idea when asked. This is useful to the manager. I mean if the manager does not know or appreciate the problems, then how can they fixt them.
As a manager, I always wanted to know the problems and how bad they were. What I really wanted was those same employees to come with a solution as well as the problem.
Bringing solutions demonstrates many positive attributes – proactivity, caring about the team and colleagues, teamwork, confidence, problem solving skills, communication, … all great for getting your boss on side.
Make the time and effort to investigate, come up with different solutions and choosing the best one. By doing this you are reducing the problems your manager has to deal with. This great behaviour is a key part of your toolkit to manage upwards well.
Coming with a solution reduces the effort the manager has to put in. If the solution is good, then the manager only has to approve it. If the solution is okay, then you and the manager have a head start to get to an acceptable solution. If the solution is poor, then the manager knows you are trying and can work with you to improve how you create solutions, helping them and you going forwards.
Coming just with the problem is effectively saying “I have spotted this. I can’t be bothered to work out a solution, so I am dumping the problem in your lap”. I don’t know many managers that appreciate this approach.
Bring solutions, not just problems and managing your boss will be a lot easier.
Tip 5 to managing upwards well is Use The right Communication Styles
Every person is different, and every manager prefers their team members to communicate with them in different ways. How does your manager prefer to be updated by you on what you are doing?
- By email
- By phone call
- In a weekly one-to-one meeting
- Before 9am or after 5pm
Does your manager only want to hear from you when there is a problem? Or are they micromanagers so communicating with them often and in detail is what is needed? Are they happy for you to just pop round to their desk or do you need to book in a meeting?
Find out what your manager prefers. You can
- Ask your manager directly
- Observe what others are doing
- Speak to your colleagues to find out your manager’s preferences
- Experiment with different approaches and find out which one works best.
Find out what works best for your manager. And then every once in a while, ask for feedback to check that the communication style(s) you are using still works for them.
Tip 6 to managing your boss is make sure there are No surprises.
No one likes surprises at work and your manager definitely doesn’t. Managers hate surprises because they don’t have the chance to mitigate negative surprises and even positive surprises can make them look silly or not on top of their job.
Trying to solve a problem last minute is always a lot harder than solving the problem with weeks or months to spare.
A key part of managing your boss is to avoid giving your them surprises.
Keep up regular communication with your manager and be realistic and honest. We are all cautious about giving managers bad news. It is much worse to underplay the negatives and then for these to come and bite the manager later. This will reduce your credibility, reliability, judgement, and trust in the eyes of your manager. You really do want to avoid these sorts of issues building.
Judge how often and what you tell your boss based on the situation – just make sure there are no surprises where at all possible.
Tip 7 when managing your manager is Take responsibility for the Relationship
It is absolutely in your interests to build a good relationship with your manager, even if your manager is a bit of a nightmare or you don’t really like them personally.
Don’t leave the relationship building to your boss. You need a good relationship with them more than they need one with you, so take the initiative and proactively build the relationship. Do not passively leave your career progress in someone else’s hands.
Build the trust in your professional relationship by delivering on the day to day, by meeting expectations agreed, by helping your manager deliver what they need to deliver and employ as many of these tips to manage upwards as possible.
Also, don’t forget that your boss is a person, with interests, hobbies, family and so on outside of work. Get to know what these are and get them talking about what they do. Everyone is happy to talk about what they like – it is human nature. Do a bit of research so you know what sort of questions to ask to get them talking. This could be a simple as asking about the score from their club’s game over the weekend or finding the basics out about birdwatching or sailing or golf… whatever your manager is into.
A bit of extra knowledge will give you the platform to build a personal relationship alongside the professional relationship.
Building both relationships will help improve how you get on, your communication and make working together more enjoyable.
Tip 8 to manage your boss is Take Work From Your Manager
Reducing your manager’s workload is nearly always a good thing in your manager’s eyes providing you go about it in the right way.
If you are able to take away tasks or activities that your manager finds annoying or time consuming, great. Doing so will help your manager and further improve their attitude towards you. How doesn’t like a team member directly helping make life easier.
Look for opportunities to ask to take on work that your manager is doing or will have to do say if a problem arose. Get agreement and be clear on what you need to deliver by when and meet these expectations.
What you should avoid doing are:
- Don’t take activities, tasks, or projects that the manager likes doing unless they ask you to do so
- Start doing tasks, activities, or projects without getting the manager’s permission to start doing them
- Trying to take activities or tasks that are core to their role as a manager. If you try, you may become a threat to their position which would undo a lot of good work.
Be supportive, be helpful and make sure you do not make yourself a threat to their position.
Tip 9 to manage your manager is to Give Your Manager Positive Feedback
Everyone likes to be told when they have done something well. Your boss is no exception either. And the higher your climb in the management ranks, the harder it is to get useful feedback about what you do.
So when you manager does something well, let them know. Definitely let them know if what they do impacts you positively. Positive reinforcement works.
How you give your positive feedback is important. You have to be genuine with your comments, and not trying to such up to your manager which can have the opposite effect. Don’t go over the top, or exaggerate the impact for instance. Just tell it how it is.
Everyone likes compliments they have earned.
Tip 10 to managing your manager is Don’t Complain about your Boss
One guarantee we can make is that your manager will not do everything right. They will annoy you at times, be a pain, be unfair or be inconsiderate etc. Even the best managers make silly mistakes or misjudge a situation (They just don’t do it often).
Don’t succumb to the temptation of venting your negative feelings or frustrations to colleagues – around the water cooler, in meetings or over lunch.
Complaining about your manager is unprofessional and unhelpful to you in the long term. If you are angry with your manager, take a walk around the block, vent to non-work friends, do what you need to calm down and get it off your chest – just keep it way from work.
If you do gossip or complain about your managers, then at some point your complaining is likely to get back to your manager. This will undo a lot of the work already put in and may even bring your integrity into question.
Resist the temptation to talk badly about your boss at work.
So there you have 10 key actions that you can take to help you manage your manager and build and maintain a great professional relationship with your manager.
Having a good relationship with your manager is absolutely in your interests and will impact your happiness at work, the bonus you get, whether you get promoted and how quickly your career progresses. A good relationship is absolutely in your best interests.
There is a lot you can do to build a good enjoyable professional relationship with your manager.
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