Q: I want a manager who knows what I’m doing and can help as needed, but who also lets me just do it without constantly jumping in and telling me what or how.
I know my new manager well — I reported to her before — and while I like her as a person, she’s the opposite of my ideal boss.
How can I manage this? —Jeanne, 49, product development manager
A: Get off to a fresh start based on open and respectful communication.
To prepare, think about what has worked well in your professional relationship.
It’s helpful to build on positives.
You may have to dig deep, particularly if you are still carrying a lot of baggage from the first round of working for her.
Focus on what you like about her as a person, and think about ways that can help now.
For example, you may be confident that her intentions are good as a manager.
That’s no small thing. It gives you cause to think that she really is interested in your best interests, in the company’s success, and in doing a good job as a leader.
This creates an opening to express your needs framed within acknowledgment of this positive attribute.
For example, you might say, “I know that you care a lot about the success of your employees. I appreciate that and would like to share ways that you can best help me succeed in my role.”
This will be better than “it drives me crazy when you …”
Also allow for the possibility that things may have changed since you reported to her before.
She may have learned how to lead without neglecting or micromanaging, and you may find that she doesn’t get under your skin as much.
On the other hand, her patterns may be much the same as before.
Give thought to the underlying motivations that may be driving her behavior. She may have been burned in the past or might not know how to share goals without defining action.
If her background is as a highly effective problem solver, her go-to action will be to solve problems.
She may also be somewhat scattered, thus accounting for her lack of attention at some times.
If you understand, then you can adapt and manage the interactions with her.
Set up the structure that you’d like and that you think will work for her style. For example, you might maintain a simple list of tasks, their status, and support you would like, and review it with her regularly.
Build in a chance for her to share how she would approach it, but also set an expectation that you’re bringing your own expertise and approach.
If she mandates that you do things in certain ways that you disagree with, outline the risks and be prepared to advocate for your approach.
Finally, don’t let it get into your head.
Avoid any tendency to ruminate it outside of work — vent and move on.
Managers come and go, and, if it really is unmanageable, you can take charge by looking for new opportunities.
While that may not be preferable, sometimes just knowing that there are alternatives make the challenges more workable.