Many employees find themselves in a weird, topsy turvy, reverse management situation where they feel the need to pressure and chase their boss who is not living up to their expectations in one or more areas. They might not be paying enough attention to your queries, or they may be overly critical, failing to recognize good performance. It’s a common problem as shown by this Dale Carnegie Training survey, which revealed that the no.1 factor in employee disengagement, (they found that nearly 75% of the workforce is disengaged) was “relationship with immediate supervisor.”
And it’s a problem that you need to address, not just for your own mental well being, but also because it is holding you back, as shown by this Global Talent Impact survey by FutureStep. The survey revealed that a lack of a good relationship with one’s boss is the chief career limiting factor in the workplace.
Of course, your boss is meant to be managing you but he or she is not superhuman; your boss is human like you and has flaws, bad days, may be overstretched, may be prone to micromanagement, and respond badly under pressure. You need a strategy to deal with this in order to thrive in your team.
So, what can you do manage your relationship with your boss? Shower them with gifts, chocolate and an ingratiating attitude? It’s a little less prosaic than that; you’ll need to step it up a little and show a little more sophistication. And to help you do this, I have garnered some research derived advice on how to manage your boss effectively from a research paper by HBR, called, “Managing Your Boss,” and I have summarized the main points below:
1. Know your boss. Take time to understand your boss, and in particular, make a mental note of his/her goals and objectives for that week and over the year. Try and understand the daily and ongoing pressures your boss faces and be acquainted with any hotspots for pressure. Take account of his/her strengths and weakness (they’re human too) and any particular blind spots, (such as moving on to the next task without recognizing success in the current one). You also need to really understand your boss’s preferred work, communication and decision making style.
2. Know thyself. You pretty much need to do the same examination that you have done on your boss on yourself. Be clear on your own strengths and weaknesses, preferred interpersonal communication styles and understand how dependent you are on authority figures, e.g. do you like to be closely managed or prefer to be given freedom?
The process of developing and maintaining a positive relationship with each other is about developing a communication style that suits both your needs and styles. For example, how does your boss like to make decisions? Is he or she a “reader” who likes to take in information via a report or is he or she a ‘listener’ who likes it better when information is presented in person? According to Peter Drucker, if your manager is a reader, you are meant to give him or her a memo first and then follow up with a discussion, and if your boss is a listener, you have the discussion first and follow up with a memo. A failure to adjust your communication/reporting style to suit your boss can easily result in a communication and eventual relationship breakdown.
Managing your boss is really about working through each of the interactions that you have with your boss and working together to develop a communication style that takes into account his or her strengths, weaknesses and preferred communication style along with any immediate pressures he or she may be facing. Individually attuning yourself to your manager’s working style (which is not the same as ingratiation) will help you to get the most of your boss-employee relationship.