Managing your manager: Mission Critical or Mission Impossible?

  • Monday, July 10, 2023
  • Posted By GM Leadership Hive

Guest Blog: [Jacqui Anderson, Business Advisor at GC Business Growth Hub]

Managing your manager is something of a minefield but the benefits to both parties can be enormous. In the past, the mantra that suggests “if you can’t get permission seek forgiveness” was acceptable in many situations because the message was simply about making decisions rather than doing nothing. That mantra encouraged action rather than inaction, but it sometimes undermined the relationship between manager and employee. The more acceptable approach is to communicate as much as possible so that both parties are clear about what is expected, I don’t believe it is ever possible to over communicate. 

Managing Your Manager

Putting themselves in each other’s shoes

The key to managing your manager is about exercising emotional intelligence so that both parties can put themselves in each other’s shoes.  Knowing how your manager works is crucial to developing a strong and meaningful working relationship. Understanding where each of you is coming from is essential if the working relationship is to be productive and fulfilling.  Adopting uncompromising positions is never useful and breeds resentment.  Nothing can be achieved without the willingness of both parties to accommodate each other’s views or at least explain why their views are different.  Agreeing to disagree is an important compromise when working together as both parties can at least appreciate differences.  Although difficult, helping managers to manage their workloads will often be welcomed by hard pressed managers who have competing demands on their limited time.  So how do you do this?

3 tips to improve the communication with your manager

It is important to prioritise the tasks that you bring to the attention of your manager.  The key is to make sure that you don’t frequently bother your manager with routine, trivial matters.  Both you and your manager will be busy doing your respective jobs so try to avoid unnecessary meetings as these can be time consuming and unproductive.  Making a list of must do, should do and could do tasks on a daily basis is a useful way of establishing an informal means of completing your workload.  Sharing this with your manager is a helpful way of establishing work priorities and an indirect way of ensuring that you exercise some influence over your manager’s involvement in your daily routine.

Managers have to make decisions so assisting them to make the best possible decisions is important.  One of the best ways to manage your manager is to seek their opinion on problem solving at work.  Most managers will try their best to help you as they recognise that they are perceived as the individuals with the expertise.  Seeking their support, advice or help is a subtle way to manage some aspects of their work.

Being prepared to challenge your manager’s style is essential especially if they tend to over or micromanage.  This is really difficult to address as it focuses on personal management style and this in turn relates to personality.  Raising matters of style will help you to manage your manager but it requires sensitive handling and high levels of emotional intelligence.  This is mission critical.

Being unsure of how your manager might react to your efforts to manage him/her needs careful consideration so it is worth rehearsing possible outcomes.  Think about what you want to achieve and adopt a non confrontational approach otherwise this becomes mission impossible.

Managers prefer solutions to problems

Managing your meeting schedules with your manager is really important.  If you think that meetings are too frequent and unproductive, then make sure you raise the issue and provide a solution.  Managers prefer solutions to problems and are generally more willing to listen and act if you appear to have thought through options.  Whatever you do, always try to avoid inundating your manager with too much paperwork and detailed information.  Less is more when trying to manage your manager.  This most certainly helps you to manage your manager.  Most managers keep meetings to a minimum and prefer “keep in touch” (Kit) meetings where you have the opportunity to share ideas and concerns.  Managers should use these meetings to ask employees whether there is anything that they do that causes routine difficulties.  Such openness encourages opportunity for dialogue on just how working practices can be improved.  It also demonstrates mutual respect.  This is ideal when attempting to manage your manager.  The key is to be clear what you want to achieve and be well-prepared for your meetings.  Remember, managers prefer solutions to problems.

Managing your manager is not easy but avoiding certain pitfalls certainly helps.  For example, it is never a good idea to over promise and under deliver just to create a short-term gain.  Managers tend to remember frequent failures, and, in these situations, it is difficult to manage your manager simply because of the lack of credibility that repeated failure generates.  Achieving success when trying to manage your manager is about developing a relationship based on mutual trust, openness, and a genuine ability to find solutions.  Easier said than done but there is no doubt that managers can only be managed if they are willing to accept that they rarely have a monopoly on wisdom.  In short, they need to be active participants in a process that is mutually beneficial.

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About GM Leadership Hive
Delivered by GC Business Growth Hub in partnership with Greater Manchester’s university business schools, the Greater Manchester Leadership Hive brings together the best leadership and management training the region can offer, all in one place.  

From executive and workforce development to mentoring programmes and support with sustainability and inclusivity, the Hive gives small business leaders everything they need to run their businesses as effectively as possible. Find out more here.