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How To Manage Your Manager

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 20 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
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Most of us will have been in a position where we’re trying to do our level best in our job but are continually being hampered by our manager. This can cause us to feel frustrated and can also affect our performance.

If you often feel that you’re at loggerheads with your boss or that they’re not listening to you, it’s useful to turn things around and subtly learn the skills of how to manage your manager.

This isn’t a strategy that’s meant to belittle your boss nor is it designed to position you in such a way that you’re trying to get one over on them in order to make yourself look good at their expense.

However, by following some of these tips, it should enable you to forge a much better relationship with your manager which, in turn, should make your life a whole lot easier.

Understanding Your Manager’s Goals

In spite of the fact that you might be working closely with your manager and that both of you will be working towards common goals, it’s highly likely that you’ll not fully understand the rest of their priorities. Make it your business to sit down with them sometimes and to get to know what their goals and priorities are too. In understanding that, it will help you prioritise your own and then you can draw up a list.

Get your manager’s opinion on what you think are the key priorities in your supporting role and adjust and amend them where necessary. That way, you’ll not fall prey to them constantly asking you why you haven’t done this or that. Priorities do change, however, so when your manager comes in all flustered and has new priorities for you to attend to, you can pull out your list and ask them where they fit in and what should be removed from the list or moved down.

Be Credible

You’ll obviously want your boss to demonstrate good leadership skills and to know exactly where you stand and how you fit in to the bigger picture. Therefore, in return you should always be credible and the most important aspect in that is in ensuring that you meet all of your commitments. Don’t promise things that you’re unsure you’ll be able to achieve.

If things require clarification, seek it. If deadlines are unreasonable, tell your manager and explain the reasons why. Good management is not about simply telling someone what to do. It should also be about listening to staff concerns and allowing your workers to have input into the process.

Therefore, before it gets to the stage where your manager can be unhappy about something you’ve either done or, possibly more likely, not done yet, make sure you have a clear plan that is agreed by both of you as to what you’ll be working on including any relevant deadlines, then stick to your agreed commitments.

Don’t Be Oversensitive To Criticism

Bad relationships with a manager and their staff often develop because the workers don’t fully understand the pressures a manager might be under which can sometimes lead to unjust criticism of the workforce. Always bear in mind that it’s highly probable that your manager may feel under the cosh from their manager or perhaps other demands from the likes of suppliers or customers have put them under pressure.

Instead of a knee jerk reaction, don’t take any criticism personally and try to ignore any emotive comments or criticism and get to the root of the problem so that you can attempt to rectify the situation if that falls within your remit. If it doesn’t, then your manager is just sounding off, so let them get it out of their system without taking it personally.

Support Your Manager

Whether or not you fully agree with your manager’s policies and practices, make sure that you make them look good and give them credit for any successes. This is not about sucking up to them. In giving them praise, you should be doing this when it’s appropriate which, from your perspective, is when they’ve shown great leadership and guidance in relation to how you’ve been able to get on with your job.

Everybody likes a pat on the back now and then so by reinforcing a job well done when their actions have made your life easier too, your boss is more likely to adopt a similar approach next time too which will make things easier for you and that makes good management sense.

Get To Understand Your Manager’s Style

If you observe your manager closely, you’ll soon get to understand their little quirks and how they like to run things. You’ll also get to quickly understand the times when they are more relaxed and times they tend to get more stressed. So, for example, if your boss prefers e-mail communication rather than constantly being called on their mobile, don’t be calling them unless it’s imperative.

If they get stressed out towards the end of the month when they need to hand in end of the month sales statistics, requesting a pay rise or some time off should be put off until the beginning of the following month or some other appropriate moment. If they like to get to the facts and bottom line quickly, don’t go into a monologue as to the whys and wherefores of something if all that they’ve asked you is a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question.

All management relationships are different, of course. Not all of these tips will necessary help you to manage your manager better. However, the essence is that if you remember your boss is human and try to understand the dynamics of their personality a little better, it will help to improve your relationship with them.

Furthermore, by doing that, it will improve your chances of being able to subtly manipulate them in a way which might make your job easier and might also help you in your career.

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