What do you think of when you hear the term “manage your boss?” Is this something that you’d like the ability to do but feel is unrealistic? This topic, often referred to as “managing up,” is beginning to receive attention. The reason for this is that we live in an era where employee engagement is low in many organizations. It’s also said that we’re experiencing somewhat of a universal leadership crisis. Employees are quitting at companies, but they’re unfortunately remaining on the payroll. They show up everyday and do just enough to get by. This internal attrition is often the result of ineffective managers.

To appropriately address this topic, it’s important that we define what is meant by the phrase “manage your boss.” I take it to mean that you intentionally work to build a relationship that will allow you, your boss, subordinates, coworkers and the organization to achieve personal and organizational goals and objectives and obtain positive results. This relationship should be built on honesty and mutual trust and respect.

Due to the hierarchical nature of organizations, building a collaborative relationship of this type can be a challenge. This is often due to fear and a tendency of many people to play it safe and not ‘rock the boat.’ Nevertheless, it is important for the organization and everyone involved to become comfortable supporting growth in others no matter who they may be. The thing that I am often reminded of is that regardless of level within an organization, we are all human beings. We have strengths and weaknesses and are all in need of constructive feedback and positive reinforcement. We also have goals and dreams. “Managing your boss” is something that will take work, but is certainly worth the effort and the risk.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, where would I begin and what are some best practices for doing this well. Here are a few tips for managing your relationship with your boss.

  • Growth Mindset– Work hard on your own personal growth and development. Don’t wait for your boss or anyone else to do it for you. It’s your responsibility. Make it a priority to strengthen your leadership skills. Additionally, ensure that you’re clear on the expectations that your boss and the organization have of you.
  • Relationship Building– Make it a priority to build and cultivate a strong relationship with your boss. Get to know the individual as a person and allow them to get to know you as well. If you happen to already have a strong and open relationship with your boss, congratulations! Let them know that you appreciate the working relationship and focus on making it stronger.
  • Engage with Empathy– Find out which objectives are most important and pressing to him or her and what keeps them up at night. Attempt to gain an understanding of how their performance is measured. Afterwards, determine how you can help.
  • Ask for Feedback–After asking, make it a priority to listen well. I have found in my life and career that listening is a key component of building strong relationships. Once you receive quality feedback, determine what you need to do more or less of, then set a goal and take action. It’s also important to establish a regular cadence of update meetings with your boss to review your progress. Additionally, it’s important that you be willing to request permission from and provide candid feedback to your boss. As you provide feedback, respect his or her role but be transparent and honest and share your thoughts in a caring manner.
  • Take Risk– Be courageous but respectful. Take calculated risk in the relationship and your role. However, it’s important that you don’t surprise your boss. Keep them updated. Focus on building an open and mutually beneficial relationship.

If you do these things well, you’ll be on the road to “managing your boss” or more importantly building a reciprocal relationship of trust and mutual respect. You’ll be, as the acrostic for the tips denote, GREAT. Your boss, subordinates, coworkers and the organization will benefit. You will also benefit and be considered a catalyst for helping your department or organization evolve into a culture where leaders and employees are engaged, transparent and focused on developing leaders who develop other leaders. Managing up will be viewed as an opportunity to help each other, rather than as something to fear or avoid.

If you’d like to discuss this further, or if you need help in this or other leadership areas, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Right Path Enterprises. We’d welcome the conversation.