Can you manage your manager?

Everyone will agree that your relationship with your manager, the immediate boss, is almost as important as with your family, spouse, kids and parents. Actually, this relationship is even more crucial as it impacts both your family and professional life. A bad day with the boss in general has an immediate spill over at the dinner table while a healthy discussion with your manager can sometimes offset the family tensions.

So what does it take to build a great working relationship with your immediate boss? How do you manage your manager…

Couple of simple habits is what I would say. However, before we dig deeper, I would like to drive home a realization of utmost importance that customers pay for products or services, and not for time spent on managing people. Managing people is a necessary overhead in the process of building a product or service, however, no one can be paid for just doing that! So you must recognize, in all sincerity, that your manager is being paid his salary for creating some component of the final product/service being sold, and managing you is an essential overhead he has to spend time on in getting the core job done. Now, whatever you can do to reduce this “overhead” will help you in establishing a great relationship.

Here are some simple, yet practical tips.

When you read through your inbox in the morning, don’t get into the reactive mode by replying to each and every message as they appear. First just read through all messages and scan for mails from customers and your manager. If there is a customer crisis (an everyday affair), proactively inform your manager that you are aware and working towards resolving the issue. Don’t wait for your manager to ask you “what are you doing about it?” Let’s be very clear – no manager likes a situation where he is aware of a customer crisis and you (who has the direct accountability), are unaware of the same. This leads to an immediate loss of confidence on your capabilities to perform the job. So,ensure that whenever you are scanning your inbox, your first priority is to revert to your manager on any important external or internal issue. All other responses and “my two cents” chain mails can wait. I would go to the extent that you must acknowledge all emails from your manager, even if it is a ‘one-line acknowledgement’ to spare him the pain of guessing that you have seen the mail or not. Unfortunately, what happens mostly is that people start to “react” to every email in sequential order and very often find themselves in a position that their manager is more aware of the crisis than they are. This doesn’t help in building a good relationship.

[ You would like to read: Leadership: In Small Daily Interactions ]

My second tip is to get into the habit of tracking your commitments instead of expecting your manager to track them for you. I strongly believe that a good manager never forgets any commitment made by himself, and on the same token, by other individuals around him. If he has to remind you of an unfulfilled action item, it leads to a loss of trust. So get into the habit of making a note of all action items you have chosen to own in meetings with your manager and even minor promises, like referring to a cool website you could have made, over casual coffee discussions. Track these commitments for yourself and revert on the status proactively to your manager at suitable times, not necessarily waiting him to ask. If a particular action can’t be fulfilled for reasons beyond you, take the initiative to inform him rather than wait for him to discover at the last minute and be shocked. Unfortunately, what happens mostly is people take action items on themselves and some of them, specially the long term ones, get neglected due to everyday work pressure. And then they decide to play quiet until the manager asks for an update. If your manager can’t have the assurance that once something is delegated to you, you will keep him informed one way or the other, you are really increasing the “overhead” at his end.

Last but not the least is that it is OKAY to differ with your manager’s viewpoint but it is NOT OKAY to challenge his viewpoint in an open forum where your peers and his peers could be present. This happens most often with emails where you may “reply all” and react with a stronger tone of disagreement. Everyone has an ego, right or wrong, and it doesn’t help in building a relationship if you rub someone’s ego the wrong way. So is the case with your manager. So the next time you are in disagreement, write, call or meet one-on-one with your manager and state your point of view. First listen patiently to his perspective, then state your point and let him take the final call. Try not to push too hard. Max 1-2 attempts, then withdraw.

Practicing these simple work habits on a daily basis can make you a real asset for your manager and make a significant difference in your professional life, thereby improving your personal life as well…

 “We don’t experience our professional and personal lives as separate worlds; they are intertwined and holistic”  ― Tom Hayes

[ Also Read – Entrepreneurs success stories ]


Image source: Forbes

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