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

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

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

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

Managing upwards, sideways and downwards

Managing your boss is kind of an interesting concept, so let me see if I can talk a little bit more about what does that mean, in the context of work. You may have heard about managing your teams. If your a manager, for example, you might be managing teams. It’s called managing downward, right?

Then, if you’re managing people that are at a peer level to you, that’s called managing sideways. Managing your boss, and your bosses’ boss is called managing upward. This is very important part of anybody’s job. A lot of times, careers are made by managing their bosses better, so I would highly recommend it.

Why should you manage your boss?

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

One of the questions you might have is, “What do you mean managing your boss? My boss manages me. I don’t manage my boss.” But let me just share with you, that you both manage each other, so that’s why it is super important for you to manage your boss. Let me share, with you, a couple of things that might help you, because those are some quick tips around 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 boss is expecting from you, in your role, is extremely important. Because your boss is always measuring you, understanding you. Whenever you are having an interaction with your boss, your boss has a certain expectation of you, in your job, in your role, and he, or she, is always measuring you against that. So make sure you understand that, really clearly, in terms of what is the expectation around the work, around the performance of your role, because that is extremely important.

 

#2 What is your manager’s work style?

Also, understand your boss’ workstyle. Like, what is his, or her, workstyle in terms of, for example, does your boss like a lot of detail, or does not like detail? Does your boss like a lot of verbal communication versus written communication? Whatever your workstyle is, of your boss, you have to understand that really well, so that you can start managing your boss better, and managing the work, for you, a little bit better, as well.

 

#3 Establishing a trusted relationship with your boss

One of the most important things, for bosses, is to have a trusted relationship with his or her employee. 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 boss is expecting from your work. That’s how you establish credibility, establish that trust with your boss. Once you have that trusted relationship, it just becomes better, in terms of managing your boss, and managing your boss’ expectations. That trust, usually, comes from a lot of work, that you will have to do with your boss, so that’s what I would recommend.

One of the pieces of managing that trust with your boss is also making sure there are no surprises. Most bosses have this unwritten rule with their team, which is, “Please do not surprise me.” If you come up with unexpected situations, which come up many times, make sure you are working with your boss, providing him, or her, enough heads-up, so that there are no surprises.

 

#4 Minimize surprises

If you, at some point in time, unfortunately, create a surprise for your boss, it has a problem. In terms of of downstream trust, as well as the working style, your boss will try to recalibrate all of those things, pretty quickly, if he, or she, is surprised, so make sure that there are no surprises. Most bosses don’t like surprises. Manage this unwritten rule.

 

#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 boss. Because, look, I mean, bosses don’t know everything. So when you’re doing work, make sure there are no assumptions, or if there are assumptions, you’re clarifying those assumptions, so that you ask those clarifying questions.

 

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

One of the important things about managing your boss, and working with your boss, is also to help your boss see over the horizon. Give your boss a 360-degree view, based on what you see. It is extremely important for your boss to understand that. That really helps bosses, in terms of how to make sure that they get that complete view, and so it makes them more successful.

Which brings me to my next point, which is look out for your boss. Make it clear that you are there to make him, or her, even more successful. Look, the boss has gotten there because they have been successful, right? But, your job is to make them even more successful. Look out for them and your boss will look out for you. That’s the way it works, it’s a two-way street. Make your boss successful, your boss will make you successful, that’s how it works.

 

#7 Ask your boss for help

Then, last, but not the least, ask your boss for help. There is no shame in asking for help from your boss. In fact, many times, it helps to establish a great working relationship with your boss. Asking for help is actually a sign of strength, that you feel comfortable, in that trust-based relationship with your boss, and you’re asking your boss for help.

 

Therefore, just to summarize, managing your boss needs you to be proactive and take care of these unwritten rules. You have to make sure you understand expectations, understand the workstyle of the boss, make sure there are no surprises, continue to deliver great, and look out for your boss, and make your boss 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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