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managing your manager

Managing your Manager – Build a Trusting Relationship


Managing your manager, surely you have heard this phrase before. Doing this in its simplest form is about managing workload and your boss's expectations. However, it can be so much more!


I used to think that the relationship with my manager is solely determined by my management. After all, my manager is the beneficiary of the relationship as I need to get the work done, isn't it? It took me a while to recognize that I have had the most to gain from an effective relationship with my manager. And managing my manager was the way to go to reshape this relationship.


So why is that? Getting promoted is about your relationships with people who are in a position to promote you. This is besides the quality and visibility of your work. And you can actively determine the quality of this relationship through managing your manager. Done right, it is about building and cultivating trust with your boss.


Therefore, this post is all about managing your manager.

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Essential Behaviors for Managing Your Manager to Build Trust

how to manage your manager


1. Understand Your Boss

This is the most crucial step in managing your manager. You must understand what your boss cares about. What are her goals and objectives? What is her plan to achieve these? Most importantly, how do you fit into this picture?


Once you have understood your boss, focus your efforts on these areas. Then discuss what you currently doing in these areas, your wins, and your roadblocks when you have interactions with your boss. This will demonstrate your support in achieving your boss’s goals and objectives.


I have a productive and open relationship with my boss; however, I recognized that he doesn’t verbalize everything important to him. So I pay very close attention to what he asks me regularly and things he wants me to correct in my work. Doing this, I recognized that requests and content are often similar. Now I implement those things from the start, which saves both our time.


2. Agree on How to Make Decisions

This is a tricky one in managing your manager. Especially if your boss has a hands-off style. Nonetheless, you need to agree on permissions for making decisions early and check regularly if her boundaries have shifted.


The agreement with your boss on how to make decisions will fall into one of two categories. Both are valid approaches as long as they are agreed with your boss, and here is why:

  • ‘Recommend action to your boss first, then act’: These are high-stake decisions that, if gotten wrong, can harm your boss. In these situations, you should prepare a proposal on how to make the decision but your boss makes the decision. No action or talk with anyone other than your boss should happen before that. If you don’t get this right, you will likely damage your relationship with your boss permanently.
  • ‘Take the decision by yourself, and then inform your boss’: These are often decisions on day-to-day activities if gotten wrong, won’t cause your boss to drop everything she is doing for damage control. If issues are arising from your decision, inform your boss, detail the actions to clean up the mess, and propose how to prevent it from happening again.


3. Deliver on Your Commitments

Managing your manager to build trust requires you to demonstrate that you are reliable and you need to build credibility. You demonstrate this best by sticking to your commitments.


This part is closely related to understanding your boss’s work needs and ensuring that you are aligned well. Agree on the commitments with sufficient detail on the what, the who, and the when. Then stick to these agreements. Additionally, you should agree on the minimum quality required for the task. Please remember here that it is wise to under promise and overdeliver than the other way around. What’s more, is that “good enough but done” is more valuable than “perfect but never finished”.

International Association of Women membership
Free work interview preparation for first time manager questions
Career with a View networking event

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