Andy: She hates me, Nigel.
Nigel: And that’s my problem because… Oh, wait. No, it’s not my problem
Nigel: But we’re not expected until Tuesday. Did she say why?
Andy: Yes. She explained every detail of her decision-making.
And then we brushed each others’ hair
and gabbed about American Idol.
Nigel: I see your point.
The key to a positive work experience is forging a great – or at least good — relationship with your boss. That might be a challenge with some bosses (think Miranda in Devil); but when you’re hired, that relationship becomes your No. 1 Priority. For the time that you report to a particular manager — regardless of age (and they do seem to be getting younger and younger), gender or ethnicity — that person holds your career with the company in his or her hands. There are exceptions; but generally speaking, that’s the rule.
As a brand new hire, you have a specific relationship with your boss, which is different from that of transferring in from another department as a more experienced employee. Therefore, you have some things to prove to earn your new manager’s trust and respect. You have a good start, of course; your manager liked you enough to hire you! And, your ability to perform optimally will depend on your manager’s continued liking for you! Thus, knowing how to “manage up” is essential to solidify that relationship.
What is Managing Up?
Managing up is the managing of your relationship with your boss. It’s not managing your boss; she or he will be the one who will be doing the managing – of you. Getting that straight will be fundamental to your strategy, which should include focusing on fulfilling the needs and requirements of your manager in order to (1) make his or her star shine even brighter and (2) elevate your business unit to (even higher) prominence.
What managing up isn’t is sucking up, which is repugnant and self-serving; nor is it manipulation or duplicity to gain your own ends. Remember, you want to be authentic, ethical and trustworthy, and demonstrate your integrity in everything you do.
By doing what you were hired to do — and by outperforming in the execution of those responsibilities — you will increase the odds of gaining the appreciation and admiration of your boss and attract the attention of other managers. These are the prerequisites to career advancement.
To help you place your relationship with your new boss in the proper perspective and achieve a productive and enjoyable rapport, following are some tips on how to “manage up”:
Your boss wants to be assured that she has your loyalty. Never talk negatively about her or betray confidences to anyone. Don’t go around her or over her head. Support her in public; disagree with her in private. Bring issues to her attention even if others hesitate to do so, especially if doing so will protect or forewarn her of something she should address. Keep her confidences. Have her back.
Do your job. Show up for work on or before your scheduled start time, or whenever you’re needed. Meet or exceed deadlines. Anticipate your boss’s needs and take action. Don’t let him down. Be true to your word. Make sure your work is accurate and that you carry out your responsibilities with impeccable care. By focusing on completing your currently assigned tasks better than anyone before you, your boss will be more receptive to promoting you or giving you that plum assignment.
Whatever keeps your boss up at night, don’t let it have anything to do with your dependability. Become the rock (star) upon which he depends.
Take a page from the executive assistant’s playbook: focus on the needs of your boss and her department, whatever it takes. Make sure that her priorities are your priorities. Find out how you can make her job easier. Ask questions; be observant about your boss’s likes and dislikes. What pushes her buttons? What impresses her? What lightens her mood? Is she an early bird? How does she work, and how does she want you to tackle assignments? By tying her needs and desires to your job performance, you will increase your value and make yourself close to indispensable.
Is your boss a big-picture or fine-detail communicator? Does he want “just the facts, ma’am” or does he want to be filled in on every point? Does he prefer face-to-face briefings or email summaries? Learn and adapt to avoid frustration and maintain productive communications. Then, discuss issues, ask questions, present ideas and collaborate thoroughly on projects, as appropriate. When advising your boss of a problem, always have a suggested solution; and when proposing an idea, always include supporting data.
Become Results Oriented And Relevant (ROAR). Often when you’re in a salaried position you can get bogged down in becoming process oriented. This is usually due to the rules and protocols you must follow in performing your job. But this is precisely the reason the concept of “thinking of out the box” came into fashion. When you repeatedly run into obstacles in completing a particular task or assignment in a reasonable period or meeting deadlines without loose ends to be tied up, it’s time to be creative. That means finding a new way to achieve the results your boss wants. How many times have I heard my bosses over the years say to me, “I don’t care how you do this, just get it done!” Sometimes you’ll be able to see how a process can be improved in order to achieve results faster. Of course, when you’re tinkering with a process you must ensure that quality and accuracy are not sacrificed; such setbacks can cause delays in achieving results, not to mention embarrassment and reputational loss. Therefore, to be a leader and innovator rather than a paper pusher means constantly looking for ways to improve processes to achieve better and faster results. And, achieving better and faster results on a regular basis is a major way to strengthen the bond between you and your boss, whether those results are routine or extraordinary, small or large.
Boss Man versus Boss Lady
Are there differences between male and female bosses? Studies over the years have revealed that all things being equal, gender does not play a big role in the ability to manage. The key is “all things being equal,” which, of course, they are not, and never have been. The more accurate indication of a boss’s approach to managing has more to do with the environment and level of respect and support from his or her higher ups and colleagues.
In general, if a female manager is alone in a sea of male managers, she might be more threatened by other women who aspire to leadership roles because she knows that she’s occupying the token spot that will be accorded to a woman. One only has to look at the percentages of female Fortune 500 CEOs, women in the U.S. Congress and female U.S. Presidents to understand the feelings of female managers in a male-dominated environment. In such a case, it’s important to know that loyalty is at the top of the list of qualities a female boss seeks in her subordinates. On the other hand, a female boss who’s in a field, company or department that’s dominated by women might be inclined to have a more relaxed management style.
There is, of course, the perception, promulgated through the ages by the media and those who have been uninformed or bigoted, that a woman is not as equipped as a man to manage, and that when a woman assumes a leadership role she breaches her stereotypic feminine nature. Enlightened professionals know that is horsefeathers; but the fallacy persists. Having both reported to women and been a manager myself I can assure you that working for a boss lady can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience!
Until next time,