Managing your boss

Managing your boss means consciously working with higher level manager to obtain the best possible results for you in the traditional top-down organization. Effective managers not only take time and effort to manage subordinates, but also their bosses. An inability to manage upwards is usually costly.

Personality conflict is only a very small part of the problem. According to a Gallup study, half of all employees in the United States have quit jobs at some point in their careers in order to get away from their bosses. The bigger issue is people have made unrealistic assumptions and expectations about the nature of boss as in subordinate relationships. It involved mutual dependence between two people in order to be effective manage the relationship.

On the one hand, the boss needs help and cooperation from employee to do the job with honesty. Some managers see themselves as self-sufficient with little dependence on their boss. However, this view is damaging because the boss can help to link him/her to the rest of the company. Some managers make the wrong assumption about the boss would know what help their subordinates need and provide them. But this is not a reasonable expectation for another human beings. Effective managers accept this fact and talk primary responsibility for their own career development.

Managing a situation of mutual dependence requires good understanding of yourself and the other person in terms of strengths, weakness, work styles and needs. The information is then used to develop healthy working relationship that is compatible and meet the mutual needs of the other person. You need to gain an understanding of your boss’s goal, pressure, objective, blind spots in order to avoid unnecessary conflicts and misunderstanding. Effective managers seek out information about the boss’s goals and problems. They find opportunities to ask question to test their assumptions.

On the other hand, you can have a higher level of self-awareness by reflecting over past experience. Typically subordinate is more dependent on the boss than the other way around. This constraint results a negative feelings or even a rebellion. Escalation of the conflict for the sake of fighting against institution enemy hindering progress could be impulsive. This reaction is called counter-dependent behaviour by psychologists. According to a study, power imbalance in favor of the supervisor as a root cause of abusive supervision. There would be more trouble when the boss is authoritarian. The boss becomes the enemy and lost trust. Research shows that the experience of having a bad boss can be similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.

On the other extreme, some subordinates swallow their anger when the boss made a poor decision and not to give any disagreement. It is damaging to view the boss as all-wise parent who should know best and protect them in their career. This unrealistic view of unlimited time, knowledge of everything is difficult to change as it is deeply rooted in personality. However an awareness of the extremes is useful to understand the implications on how you behave in relation to your boss. You can understand and even predict the reactions of counter-dependency or over-dependency relationship with the boss that making both of you less effective.

After a clear understanding of yourself and your boss, you can establish a working relationship that fits both of you. A research shows that higher engagement in its various forms tends to predict a range of positive organizational outcomes, such as individual job performance, team effectiveness and customer satisfaction rating. Subordinates can adjust their styles in response to their bosses’ prefer way to receive information between reading and listening. Other adjustments include decision-making style between ad hoc basis and delegation.

Creating a compatible relationship also involves each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The subordinates should not passively assume that the boss would explain his or her expectation very explicitly in great details. Instead the subordinate should find out what the boss’s expectations are. Effective managers find ways to get that information such as informal meetings depending on the boss’s style.

Developing a workable set of mutual expectations also require subordinate to communicate your own expectations to the boss. It is important to influence the boss to value your expectations and set a realistic standard.

The amount of information needs depending on different boss’s style. Effective managers recognize if they are underestimate what their boss need to know and find ways to keep them informed. Not only the good news, but also escalate problems even though the boss may not want to hear about it for the good of the organization.

A commitment to an optimistic delivery date may please a superior in the short term, but it would become a source of displeasure if not being honest. A boss can more trust on the subordinate if he is more consistent. The boss could work effectively if he or she can get fairly accurate data. Trust is required in order to delegate and not to check all of a subordinate’s decision.

It is wise to be selective to draw on boss’s time on important issues rather than trivial matters. Time and energy are required to manage the relationship and effective managers realise the importance of this activity to simplify their job by eliminate potential problems. After all, you are ultimately responsible for what you can achieve in an organization by knowing the need to establish and manage relationships, including the boss.

By Victor Leung

Experience in software development, consulting services and technical product management. Understanding of business and technology with an MBA in Finance and a Master degree in Computer Science. AWS Certified Solution Architect with experience in building products from scratch and serving as a charismatic leader.

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