Main image of article Learn to Manage Your Manager

Tell someone that they need to manage their manager, and they’re liable to give you a quizzical look.  “Wait,” they might ask. “They’re my manager. Aren’t they supposed to manage me?” Technically, that’s true—but if you want to work effectively with your boss over the long term, you need to make the relationship a two-way street.

In an ideal scenario, your manager provides guidance and helps your projects succeed. Dealing with your manager effectively not only helps with your professional goals, but also makes team member dynamics more efficient. Here are some other reasons to manage your manager as effectively as possible:

  • It makes your office life better. If you have great communication with your boss, you can complete projects faster and sometimes head off problems before they occur.

  • It will open up more opportunities. If your manager’s on your side, you may have access to additional chances for training, promotions, and more.

  • It will make your boss into a mentor. Your manager may become more inclined to give you advice and guidance, boosting your career in the process.

So, as much as you might want to lock down and work on your projects with minimal interference—you’ve got deadlines, after all—here are some handy tips for effectively managing your work relationship with your boss.

Get Face Time

Take care that you don’t fall off your manager’s radar. A regular get-together (preferably one-on-one) not only gives you the chance to air your concerns, but also ensure that you keep your manager up-to-date on your current projects—which may help keep you adequately resourced. Remember to come to each meeting with an agenda or list of bullet-points to discuss. And don’t be afraid to ask for performance feedback; your boss can give you quick tips that could prove insanely useful.

Know Your Boss’s Boss

As Bob Dylan once sang, we all gotta serve somebody. Your manager has goals to meet, as well as their own manager to manage; if you’re aware of what and who those are, you can adjust your projects and workflow to ensure everything runs smoothly. Your manager will look good in front of their boss and other managers, which could come in useful for you around bonus time.

Present Solutions

You know what’s better than bringing a pressing issue to your boss? Bringing a full-fledged solution. Your manager will not only view you as a problem-solver, but perhaps grant you more responsibilities in the future.

Recognize Weakness

Your manager is a human being, complete with weaknesses and a predisposition toward certain ways of doing things. Before engaging with your manager on a regular basis, sit down and make a list of those weaknesses, strengths, and ways of working; evaluate how those interact with your own attributes. If you need to adjust your “style” in order to fit their needs, do so (within reason). That will help keep the relationship smooth and efficient.

Set Clear Expectations

Periodically (whether at the beginning of the year or a new quarter) sit down with your boss to review your respective expectations for projects, workflows, and more. Make sure that your visions and goals are aligned. You can use this time to be proactive—don’t wait for your boss to bring up any issues, but take the initiative and ask for what you need.

Be Responsive and Communicative

If you’re prompt in your communications with your boss, you may prompt them to be especially communicative in return; in turn, that builds trust.

Be Considerate

Your manager is a human being, too—read the room, and use your “soft skills” such as empathy and communication to build a rapport with them. You don’t have to be friends with them, but things will go smoother if you can develop a friendly relationship.