Career strategy Blog

How to manage your manager: 7 unwritten rules to managing your boss

“What? I have to manage my manager?!!!”

I know managing your own manager sounds ridiculous. Even scary.

But it is very helpful for your career trajectory. Let me break it down for you.

Why should you manage your Manager?

One of the most important relationships at a job, is your relationship with your manager. In fact, a lot of times, when people quit a job, it’s usually because something went wrong in their relationship with their manager. Managing upward and managing your manager is extremely important.

One of the questions you might have is, “What do you mean managing your manager? My manager manages me. I don’t manage my manager. In fact, I can’t manage my manager!”.The fact is that that you both manage each other. That is why it is super important for you to manage your manager.

Wave Hello GIF

Let me share 7 rules that will show you how can you manage your boss better.

#1 Understanding and managing expectations

first, I would share with you, is around understanding expectations. Understanding what your manager is expecting from you, in your role, is extremely important. Because your manager is always measuring you, understanding you. Whenever you are having an interaction with your manager, she has a certain expectation of you, in your job, in your role, she is always measuring you against that.

So make sure you understand that really clearly in terms of

  • What is your manager’s opinion about your role in the team?
  • What are the key responsibilities and accountabilities?
  • What is expectation re: the performance of your role?
  • What is the expectation around your work deliverables and work products?

#2 What is your manager’s work style?

Also, understand your manager’s work style. What is her style of working? For example, does she like a lot of detail, or does not like detail? Does she like a lot of verbal communication versus written communication?

Understanding your manager’s work DNA is essential to manage your manager better.

#3 Establishing a trusted relationship with your Manager

One of the most important things for managers is to have a trusted relationship with his or her direct report. Establishing that trust-based relationship is extremely important. The way you build trust is by continuing to deliver things that are on time or before time, things that are exceeding expectations, exceeding quality that your manger is expecting from your work. That’s how you establish credibility and establish that trust with your manager.

Once you have that trusted relationship, it just becomes better for managing your manager and managing your manager’s expectations.

And that trust usually comes from putting in the work to drive the right results and showing good judgment.

#4 Minimize surprises

One of the pieces of managing that trust with your manager is also making sure there are no surprises. Most managers have this unwritten rule with their team, which is, “Please do not surprise me.”

Surprised Wait What GIF by Saturday Night Live

If you come up with unexpected situations, make sure you are providing your manager enough of a heads-up and informing her upfront, so that there are no surprises.

If you at some point in time, unfortunately, create a surprise for your manager then it is time to manage it proactively. It means it is time for you to do ‘damage control’ and make sure that this doesn’t happen again. ¬†If an issue happens, it is always good to get ahead of it and talk to your manager directly rather than hide it. Sooner or later she will find out and at that time, it might be an ugly surprise. Better to avoid it and be upfront about it.

#5 Clarify

It really helps to ask clarifying questions. Whether it’s about your project, or maybe a task, or what have you. Sometimes, those questions even help your manager. Look, ¬†managers are not supposed to know everything and every single detail. So when you’re doing work, make sure you are identifying your assumptions and you’re clarifying those assumptions, by asking those clarifying questions.

#6 Look over the horizon in your manager’s best interest

One of the important things about managing your manager is also to help her see over the horizon. Give your boss a 360-degree view, based on what you see.

It is extremely important for your manager to understand that the whole picture that they may not be aware of. By providing her that complete view, it makes will make her even more successful.

Which brings me to my next point, which is look out for your manager. Help her see around corners. Help her to identify issues and opportunities in the organization. Make it crystal clear to her that you are there to make her even more successful.

Look, your manager has gotten till here because she has been successful, right?

Now, your job is to make them even more successful. Look out for your manager and she will look out for you.

That’s the way it works, it’s a two-way street. Make your manager successful, your manager will make you successful.

#7 Ask your boss for help

Then, last, but not the least, ask your manager for help. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help from your manager.

In fact, many times, it helps to establish a great working relationship with your manager.

Asking for help is actually a sign of strength, that you feel comfortable in a trust-based relationship with your boss to ask for that help.


These 7 rules are recommended to create an amazing work relationship with your manager.

Managing your manager requires you to be proactive and take care of these unwritten rules. You have to make sure you understand expectations, understand the work style of the manager, make sure there are no surprises, continue to deliver great, and look out for your her, and make your manager even more successful.

What do you think? What are some of the unwritten rules that you follow to manage your boss?

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