"Manage Your Manager"

There’s a saying, “Managing would be easy, if it weren’t for people.”  LOL!  Having been a manager myself, I know this to be true.  But even when you are not a manager, you should still be “managing your manager”.  What does this mean?  Believe it or not management is not only downward, but it is also very important to learn how to “manage” upward.  Yes, it is possible if you know what you’re doing.  Now I’m not talking about manipulating your manager.  I’m just trying to show you some options on how to deal with a boss and possibly improve your relationship with them and maybe even improve your career.

 I wish this was taught in High School or even college.  Because it seems NOBODY wants to teach you how to deal with your boss whether they are awesome or awful (or even both at times).  Throughout my career having many different types of managers (and being one myself) there is no “one-way” to deal with a boss.  You would think it should be as simple as “If I do the best I can, my boss will think I’m awesome.”   Yeah, well, that’s nice but that may not always be true for many different reasons.  Depending upon the type of boss you have, you may have to take a different approach.  To show what I mean, below is a chart that may be useful for you and as some of you may know some managers can actually be all 3 of these types depending upon the day and their mood.  Have a look:


Manager Type
The Up and Down Side of this Type
How to Manage "Up"
Example:  You run to your manager and say "The building is on Fire!....
Helicopter-Micro Manager
This type of manager hovers over you and tells you exactly how to literally do everything (except probably how to use company toilet paper)
- This manager takes all the responsibility for decisions.  This may make people feel like they can't contribute, that they don't matter, like they are "worker bees" or "just a number". 
- However if you are the type of person that hates responsibility or contributing and loves to hide below the radar, this manager is perfect for you!
- Understand they are insecure and have trust issues.
- Unless they give explicit instructions, do not assume you know what they want.  Always repeat what they've said back to them and make sure you know what they want.
- Always make them feel like they are in charge and making all decisions
- Even if they HATE your ideas, never argue, do what exactly they say
- Keep a log/journal of every meeting and instruction from them (only for yourself do not show anyone else)
"… What would you like me to do?  I want to make sure it is the way YOU want."
Options Manager
This type is in the middle of the road.  They like to delegate but also manage. 
 - This manager can be confusing on what they want.  One time they delegate something to you, then they take the responsibility themselves next time. 
 - They almost like being in charge but become overwhelmed often
- Always provide this Manager with Options, even if it is only one option
- Always repeat the instructions back to them
- If you disagree with their approach, always start with "I will do what you ask, no problem.  But you may want to consider…."
"… Would you like me to call 911?  Get everyone out of the building?  Call the Insurance Company?
Absent and/or Imperialistic Manager
Absent = This type of manager is never around, never gives instructions, just expects the best from everyone.  Probably sits in their office and takes a nap.
Imperialistic = Acts like they are “Supreme Ruler of the Universe”.  NO ONE is more important than them and demands everyone just “do their job.”
- This manager may either be very important, or just wants to look important
 - Does not like to give instructions, "You should know what to do already." May come out of their mouth.
- If they look good, you look good - BUT, if they look bad, they will make you look bad
- Usually a high degree of responsibility
- Hopefully you enjoy working alone or by yourself because with this type of manager they will take (or receive credit) for everything that you (and everyone who works for them) do
- Never correct this manager in front of other people (even if they are wrong).  Try and take them aside or write to them privately to tell them that they "may" have come across in a way they did not intend. 
 - Similar to the Options Manager, it is always good to only mention a problem when you have a solution in mind (or have already started the resolution).  They don't want to hear about problems alone, they want to know you are working on it.
"...I've already called 911 and the local fire dept, got everyone out of the building, called the Insurance Company, and here's a sandwich for you in case you're hungry."

Some Additional Tips & Advice:

  • Everyone’s “Real” Job

You think that your job is to do whatever is on your job description and to further the company, right?  Actually it’s not.  Your ultimate job (regardless of what you are employed to do) is really to make your boss look good and make their life easier.  The theory is, a good human being will want remember and reward who made their life easier and who made them look good.  Of course take this with a grain of salt.   This could backfire if you have a narcissistic boss who will NEVER let you get promoted because you make their life easier  I do not mean to say you should suck-it-up if you have a boss that never appreciates what you do, even if you found the cure for cancer.  If you have a boss that hates you, you are better off leaving that job if you can.  For the most part, making your manager’s life easier will definitely be noticed and rewarded. 

  • Communicate Clearly

Many people tell their managers what they think they want to hear.  Do not fall into this trap!  Tell them exactly what is happening.  This includes when you are overloaded with work and/or behind schedule.  There is a saying that a manager rewards their employees with more work – so if you have a lot of work, it means they must really trust you to get it done.  With this trust though, you must be honest if you are becoming overwhelmed.  Often I give my boss updates and request timelines when he wants each project done.  If it looks like I am starting to fall behind, I will take him aside and ask him for example,  “Okay, I have project A-B-C to get done.  Which is most important to get done because I cannot finish them all by the end of the week.”  They are better off knowing sooner rather than later that you need to rearrange your work schedule.

  • Remind Them of Your Greatness

Throughout the year, write down a list (for yourself) of all the good and productive things you do for your job.  Keep this list when it comes time for your review.  Do not rely on your manager to remember everything.  It is very difficult for a manager to remember all the good things that you do through the year – they are only human so make it easier for them.  Most people only remember the last thing you did right before the performance review.  And if this was something bad, then you will be very happy to have that list to remind them of all the good that you’ve done.  Or if you want to be proactive before your performance review, send your boss this list in an email with a friendly note “Just a gentle reminder of all the great and awesome things I did this year while you are preparing my performance review”.

  • When to Contribute Your Ideas

It’s great if you want to contribute to better your company/business/the greater good.  And if your boss is receptive to your ideas – fire away!  But if they are not the type that is receptive to any ideas other than their own, then you may be better off to keep them to yourself and try very hard to not get annoyed that you are not being heard.  Your ideas may be better and your boss may be an idiot. But there is a time and place for everything – be patient.  You may want to remember that your boss is the one signing your paychecks and your idea/contribution may not be worth losing your job.  Just hold on to your ideas and maybe wait either for the right time when they are receptive or wait until YOU are the boss.  Since they are signing your paycheck though, they have the right to have things done the way they want.  Even if their stupidity runs the business into the ground.

  • Be Concise

There’s a popular saying, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”  I find this to be true.  Many people try to hide behind really long emails, charts, and a plethora of information to hide the fact they don’t know what they are talking about and they want the boss to figure it out on their own.  What every manger wants  =  In one sentence, explain simply the answer and then if they indicate they want a longer explanation then hit them with your version of “War and Peace”.

  • Recap Emails

If you have a manager that is particularly difficult to understand (or says one thing but means another), a recap email is a great tool.  After they give you an instruction or meeting with them, send them a recap email repeating your understanding of the instruction/meeting.  You should close with something like, “If I do not hear from you otherwise, I will assume this recap is 100% correct and we are in agreement.” Or something of that nature.  This is a CYA policy, just in cases you were wondering ;-)



I’m sure there are many more tips and advice out there, this is just a few off the top of my head that I have found successful. 

If you have any, by all means, please share!  Would be great to hear more :-D


1 comment: