Employees often fall into the trap of feeling disempowered and having to work very long hours in order to get the job done. But by learning how to “manage upwards” or “manage your manager”, you can control your workload, improve your productivity, achieve your professional goals and have a better work-life balance.
Understanding your manager’s needs and style
The first step in managing your relationship with your boss is to gain a better understanding of how you can meet his needs. Know his style and be aware of his current priorities so you are better able to align them with you own. A good way to learn these things about your manager is to watch how he interacts with others. Find out how he likes to be kept informed and what his preferred methods of communication are.
Develop and adapt your own communication style
Once you understand your manager’s communication work style, put yourself in his place and try to figure out how he perceives you and your own communication style. Try to adapt your style to suit his.
Influence your workload
If you are swamped with work, schedule a meeting to discuss priorities and options fro what you can and cannot handle. If you cannot take something on, you need to be able to say why. Be proactive by asking your manager to suggest whom you may ask for assistance, or recommending that the job be done by a temporary worker. Be prepared to be able to tell your boss exactly what your workload includes and have your to-do list available for inspection.
Manage your manager’s expectations
A recent research shows people have up to eight or more jobs throughout their working lives. Many managers have not “risen through the ranks” as they would have done a generation or two ago. This means they may be less familiar with the processes of your day-to-day job. So the responsibility lies with you to manage their expectations and ensure they have a realistic idea of how long tasks may take.
While you may want to impress your boss by working from home or staying back late into the night to get things done, this may also have negative outcomes. You may make a good impression in the short term, but you are also raising your manager’s expectations with what you and your team-mates can realistically achieve within the office hours.
Provide your manager with solutions
One of the most important skills to learn when managing upwards is to approach your manager with solutions rather than problems. By requesting his approval on a solution, you are involving him in the decision, making his job easier and showing him you are proactive. This has the benefit of impressing your manager and giving you the opportunity to hone your problem-solving skills.
By making a few changes to the way you work with your manager, there are huge gains in helping to achieve productivity and meeting the company’s or department’s objectives. Just remember to keep the lines of communication open, ask for feedback and never cross the line to being manipulative. That promotion may just be within reach if your manager sees your initiative, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.