Knowing how to manage your manager is vital to building a successful career.
In theory, career success depends on how well you do your job.
In practice, it depends on a whole lot of other factors. One of these — possibly the most important one — is how well you get along with your boss.
The relationship with a boss is like no other relationship you have. You are friendly, without being actual friends. You are collaborators, yet one of you (the boss) has control over the destiny of the other (you!). You know your boss in a way possibly no one else knows him or her, but that knowledge can sometimes cause suspicion, distrust and even resentment.
So though you want to be on congenial terms with your boss, and may even feel you are peers in terms of skill and experience, you can never truly let down your guard because the relationship is not an equal one.
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Which is why it’s so important to know how to manage your manager. Start with these basic tips:
Keep your boss informed. No one likes surprises, especially bad ones, so always keep your boss clued in to what’s going on. Do so in the manner that best suits your boss’s work style, whether in frequent emails or via a weekly report or occasional chats on the phone. If your boss is forgetful, follow up in-person talks with a summarizing email or memo.
Balance out your boss’s weaknesses. A common tip for boss management is “make your boss look good.” How? By understanding your boss’s limitations and making up for them. The key here is to be subtle about it, or if not subtle, then as gracious as possible. (Note: This means never correcting or contradicting your boss in front of other people, even when your boss is clearly in the wrong.)
Complain constructively. There will be times when you need to bring up a problem. When you do, try as hard as you can to suggest a possible solution at the same time. Even it’s not the right solution, the fact that you came prepared with ideas puts you firmly into the “part of the solution, not part of the problem” category. Whatever, you do, don’t just dump an issue in your boss’s lap.