Managing Your Boss

Posted by Bernie Reifkind on March 17, 2011

In 2005, the Harvard Business Review published an article on this sensitive topic by John J. Gabarro and John P. Kotter in which they write:

” Bosses need cooperation, reliability, and honesty from their direct reports. Managers, for their part, rely on bosses for making connections with the rest of the company, for setting priorities, and for obtaining critical resources. If the relationship between you and your boss is rocky, then it is you who must begin to manage it. When you take the time to cultivate a productive working relationship—by understanding your boss’s strengths and weaknesses, priorities, and work style—everyone wins.”

Managing the boss is a daily dance and knowing what effective steps to take can make for a wonderfully satisfying career.  Understanding a few critical points is crucial.

Your boss is your boss and having to report to this person means that there is a relationship that needs fostering all the time.

Recognize the fact that your boss has been given the power to direct your activities. This is true even if you are much smarter and even if you should have been given the boss’ job.  Accepting reality and working to increase your influence will produce better results.

  1. Study your boss’ management style.  Look for clues that tell you how the boss likes work done or prefers to get information.  If you’re not sure what your boss expects from you – 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.
  2. Don’t expect flawlessness. Managers are people with the same insecurities and endless varieties of quirks and eccentricities.  Be aware of your boss’ hot buttons and don’t push them!   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.
  3. Try to make your boss look good.  Produce quality results, meet deadlines, stay within your budget, and 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!
  4. Never, never, never complain to others about your boss – especially to people outside your department or to your employees (if you are a manager).  Strategize with trusted peers about how to handle your manager’s more challenging peculiarities is one thing but trumpeting  your unhappiness far and wide will only get you in trouble.
  5. 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. Mention it at some appropriate point.  But let’s be clear – paying a sincere compliment is not the same brown nosing.

An employee who knows how to manage a boss, will enjoy office life and will also improve performance.  An employee should always remember that the boss plays a key role in promotion and not having cordial relationship with your boss could turn out to be a career nightmare.  One should avoid the mistake of treating their boss as their friend and should aim at establishing a professional relationship with the boss.  A little respect goes a long away!

Any questions or comments? I am Bernie Reifkind, CEO and founder of Premier Search, Inc. I can be reached at 1(800) 801-1400 or email at ceo@psihealth.com

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