How To Have A Healthy Working Relationship With Your Manager!
Yes, you heard it right. This is possible with an intentional effort. There is a very famous saying “You don’t choose your parents and your manager”. Well, a few lucky ones get to choose their bosses too.
Let me attempt to define here who is a boss (or your supervisor or manager). He/She is someone who is obviously on a higher position in the organization than you. And there can be many reasons for this – her age, experience, qualifications & laurels or none of the above. Fundamentally your Boss drives your performance to deliver her performance. Most importantly, she is critical for your career trajectory within the organization. She plays a vital role in your professional growth.
Therefore she is not an alien from another land; she is one of us put in a position of authority by virtue of all the above.
Pl note I would be interchanging he and she which in no way indicates that that action is gender-specific :-).
Therefore when a person is playing such a crucial role in your life, you need to pay special attention to this relationship. Like in any other relationship, you need to have an intent to make it work. And then invest time and efforts. Making your relationship work with your manager is a two-way street.
7 Useful Tips for a Healthy Relationship with your Manager
In my 20+ years of working, I have had an opportunity to work for managers with different styles of working. Some were micro-managers, while others were delegation experts. Some were very time conscious & respected work-life balance while others started the meetings after 5 in the evening. I learnt bittersweet lessons from all of them, which made me a more tolerant, flexible and determined subordinate.
Therefore while managing my team, I ensured all my learnings reflect in my behaviour towards my team. I think I have had a reasonably healthy working relationship with my managers based on mutual trust and respect, which continued even after I moved on to other assignments.
What I share with you here is my checklist for having a healthy working relationship with your manager, irrespective of your grade.
Understand the Pulse of your Manager
Whenever you move to a new assignment, within the organization or outside, it’s important to do some fact-finding. Its always good to know about the person you would be reporting to. But please be cautious while doing this. Many people will share their perceptions about the person based on their experiences. Hence these may vary depending upon whether their interaction has been smooth or rickety. One of my key life lessons has been to form my own opinions and not to pre-judge someone. You may want to read more about it here – 5 Essential life Lessons You Need To Know.
The key things that I would like to find out is what is his style of working –
- Does he like to be kept informed on smaller of details or he is happy with high-level updates?
- What are his meeting styles? Crisp and short or long and exploratory.
- Does he prefer a participatory style of management and is open to suggestions or prefers one-way communication?
- Does he prefer his subordinates to front end senior-level interactions or he would want to limit that to peer communication?
Another important thing is to understand the political map of the organization and your Boss’s positioning in the same. Remember many a time, your Boss’s behaviour may be driven by the various pressure points outside your control. Also bear in mind that these pressure points are not constant and are moving targets. Therefore it’s essential to have your hand on the pulse of the changing priorities. It’s critical to stay up to date.
I feel having an insight into some of the above answers will help you plan your working strategy with the new Boss. Next step is to hear things straight from the horse’s mouth.
The next step is to clarify the expectations preferable in your first meeting itself. If some of these corroborate your fact-finding, then you know how you need to adapt to the workings of your new Boss. This meeting is also an opportunity to share any expectations that you may have concerning your time or style of working. But keep in mind some of these leeways may not come immediately.
There needs to be a sufficient amount of trust that you need to build in with your Boss, especially if both of you have not worked together earlier. Remember, she may have also done some pre-work about you. Therefore give this relationship a little time to develop trust and comfort level.
Document The Meetings
Something very basic, but it is important to document the smallest of discussion & action points when you have a meeting with your manager. I find it very annoying when people walk into meetings with no writing pads. Jotting down important points on a writing pad or digital media helps you also to recall the points in the follow-up actions. It also enables you to organize your thoughts and provides an easy reference point for your Boss for future discussions. As a matter of fact, it makes the future meetings crisper, to the point and effective which will be appreciated by your Boss.
I prefer to carry a notebook with me every time I had a meeting with my manager to ensure I don’t miss out on any critical points. By the way, I love the Make Your Mark series of journals and organizers from leader In Heels. They are elegant & stylish and at the same time, professional enough to be carried to important meetings. You may want to have a look at their latest collection here and build your collection.
Do What it takes to make your Manager look Good
Never contradict your Boss in front of other colleagues, his peers and especially his Boss. Any differences in opinions should be sorted either before the meeting or after. It’s highly unprofessional to contradict your Boss and may not go down well with him. It does not mean that you agree to whatever he says and be a sycophant. But there is merit in weighing your words when you are in a public forum.
Also, it’s avoidable to indulge in casual corridor conversations regarding your Boss’s behaviour. Also please do give him credit wherever due for your and your team’s achievement.
Stay One Step Ahead
A Manager is someone who may call you up anytime to get the latest update on the business which may be sales numbers or project update. Make sure you have the latest information, whether it’s your sales numbers or project update. Nothing can be more irritating for your manager than to hear ” I will get back or I am not sure” repeatedly.
I as a habit like to get a quick update from my team the first thing in the morning for critical projects. Hence my team got attuned to sending this information to me. I also made sure I proactively kept my manager informed of the updates before I get a call or a message. And in some cases when the information is not available on hand, make sure you revert asap on the query. And be prepared for the next time. There is one more thing to this. Read on.
After spending a few months with your Boss, you will start predicting his questions, his objections, arguments & motivators. I suggest using them to your advantage in a positive sense. Whenever you are going to him with a proposal, do a role play on what the probable questions or objections can come up. Be ready with your answers beforehand.
There will be two purposes served. First, you will have more effective & comprehensive discussions. Secondly, it will put you in a good light in front of your Boss as you have explored all the possible angles. Well, there is no guarantee that your manager will not come up with a new objection. This is his job profile. But you will undoubtedly leave the room with an edge and a good impression.
Another critical aspect of staying ahead is to keep your Boss informed of any bad news before he hears it from outside. Share the news of delays in the projects proactively due to internal or external factors or targets going haywire. It’s always good also to have alternatives to share for getting things back on track. If there are no alternate solutions, then you better have your manager on your side before the bubble explodes. I have felt that being honest with your bosses always works especially when you or your team is at fault. Any alibi may not stand strong over a period of time. It’s better, to be honest, and face the consequences now than be questioned on integrity.
In the words of Jane Boucher ” You can lessen the chance that your Boss will make bad decisions that adversely affect you and your career by managing your relationship with the Boss. Keep the Boss informed about what’s going on at work and never forget the pressure your boss is under. Honesty and reliability will win the hearts of most bosses.”
Have Healthy Disagreements
Just because someone has a managerial title does not mean that she knows everything about everything. As I mentioned in my first paragraph, your Boss is also a human being and may not have all the answers all the time. Another challenge can be that she may not be willing to accept that she does not have all the answers. It is a difficult situation and the one which most of us have faced or will face in our careers.
There is no clear solution for this. It always helps to understand where your Boss is coming from and her perspective. You should make sure you put your points across as well. It may so happen that your point is not taken but don’t take this personally. This is not Tug of War where we need to score points against the Boss. You win some; you lose some. Also, make sure you don’t lose this trait of putting your points across. Just because you are a few rungs below your manager, does not mean you don’t have valuable insights to share.
Things may not go your way always but do not take it personally. Pick your battles wisely.
Focus On Your Work
All’s well if the work is done well. This is the bottom line. If you do your job and the outcome is as per expectations than all is hunky-dory. Which Boss does not like to meet the numbers? The problem comes when the numbers are not met, or there is a delay in project delivery. There will be questions asked and explanations sort. But as long as you have been diligent in doing your job and keeping your Boss informed on any possible missed targets, you have a story to tell. Your habit of documentation will help you here.
But let us assume that your Boss in an inspiring leader. And he has one or most of the traits mentioned in my blog 7 Traits of an Inspiring Leader you need not worry. If you have kept your Boss informed of the various challenges being faced by you and your team in achieving the deliverables, he is sure to stand by you.
I came across an interesting article which classifies the bosses in 10 categories. Depending on the type of Boss, it gives you some specific tips which I found very useful. I will probably add them to my list of 7 depending on the nature of my future Boss. Happy Reading- 10 Different Types Of Bosses And How To Work With Them!
In conclusion, I want to reiterate what Jane Boucher says ” The relationship with your Boss is a partnership. It takes effort to built the relationship and nurture it. You have to communicate well, avoid confrontations and resolve differences in a positive way.” If still, things don’t work out between you and your Boss then its better to part ways gracefully rather than have a bitter after taste. As you never know when your paths may cross again!
So Stay Focussed on your work and keep on working on having a meaningful relationship with your Manager.
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