Meh boss? Maybe it’s you.
You may actually have a lousy boss and work in a toxic environment. If so, then you should run, not walk, to the nearest job exit. But if your Boss is basically okay, yet your job seems to be going nowhere and you don’t seem to get the opportunities you say you want, then it may not be the fault of how she manages you.
It may be the fault of how you are managing her.
Managing your boss has nothing to do with office politics, manipulation and maneuvering, kissing up, or even being the boss’s toady.
I’m referring to the steps you can take to become the valuable, indispensable asset that your boss needs; how to help set and meet expectations and thereby gain the influence you need to get things done and boost your career.
When you “manage up”, you are building a long-term working relationship with your boss, with the goal to obtain the best results for not only you, but also your boss, and your entire organization.
Here are three steps you need to take in order to start managing your boss (and your career):
1. Understand your boss’s personality, preferences, and perspective.
Every boss has different likes, hot buttons, weaknesses and strengths, so the better you understand why your boss does what she does, the better you are positioned to deliver results. Try to put yourself in her shoes, even if you’d never wear heels that high. Avoid her pet peeves (like a loud radio or not participating in a group discussion), and recognize that her weaknesses may also be an opportunity for you to build on your strengths. When you know what drives your boss (or what drives them crazy), you can both start to communicate without all of those distractions.
2. Communicate directly and regularly.
Most bosses want those that report directly to them to also be direct. They need to know that the information they receive is accurate, the steps taken are timely, and that the input given is truthful (even sometimes when they don’t want to hear the truth.) Talk to your boss face-to-face, not through email or by post-it notes with smiley faces. Be sure to keep bosses in the loop on all progress, and avoid surprises even if they are good surprises, so that they are always ready to share the news with their boss. Keep the conversation going both ways — ask for direct feedback and learn to accept it when it is given.
3. Provide solutions, not just problems.
Problems are going to pop up, regardless of your efforts to prevent them. And trying to sweep problems under the rug will only hurt you in the long run, because bad news doesn’t get any better with age. A key component of managing up is being trustworthy. By proposing solutions at the same time you let your boss know about the problem, it shows that you have thought the situation through, which will help to build trust in both directions. Never go over their head or behind their back with a problem (unless the problem is the Boss.)
You may just find that you have more control over your job environment than you might imagine.
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