How to Manage Your Boss

Last Updated May 11, 2011 11:28 AM EDT

How to Manage Your BossEvery business site has articles about managing up or managing your boss, but they're usually a bunch of lightweight tricks for manipulating weak-minded people. And while there are plenty of dysfunctional managers who might fall for that stuff, the vast majority are at least moderately savvy and capable.

In other words, not only do they not need to be managed, tricked, or manipulated, they'll likely see right through your transparent games. More importantly, they won't be very pleased with you.

So, if you want to screw up your chances of getting somewhere, by all means, play all the games and tricks you like. Come to think of it, you may get somewhere. Canned.

If, on the other hand, you want to learn how to really manage up, keep reading. You see, where I come from - the real management world - managing up means two things, as we discussed in 10 Things That Good Bosses Do:
  • Keep management off employee's backs. Most people don't get this, but the most important aspect of that is giving management what they need to do their jobs. That's what keeps management happy ... and away from you.
  • Take the heat and share the praise. It takes courage to take the heat and humility to share the praise. That comes naturally to great bosses; the rest of us have to pick it up as we go.
Now, if you want to avoid pissing off your boss and being perceived as a complete waste of cubicle space, benefits, and headcount, you'd better pay attention to these ...

10 Ways Not to Manage Up
  1. Try to manage his expectations. As an executive, nothing annoyed me more than knowing that an employee was trying to manage my expectations. All your manager wants is your genuine assessment of the situation: how much it'll cost, how long it'll take, the probability of success. He'll take it from there.
  2. BS or sugarcoat the truth. Same as the above.
  3. Promise the impossible. Opposite problem as above, same result. If you make promises your management knows you can't deliver on, it'll destroy your credibility and that'll be the end of your potential.
  4. Tell him what you think he wants to hear. That may work for a time, but in the end, you'll fail to deliver, the truth will come out, and the game will be over. Managing an organization or leading a company is a long-term deal; Band Aids and quick fixes don't work.
  5. Make everything about you. Business is about beating the competition, winning customers, and keeping them happy. Business is about business. If you take the drama queen route and try to make it about you, management will write you off as a PITA.
  6. Make excuses. Nobody cares. Nobody wants to hear it. Whining is annoying and doesn't age well. Don't do it.
  7. Try to get chummy. Sure, sharing a personal anecdote or two is fine; most managers enjoy getting to know their people. Just don't overdo it by trying to "get in bed" with the boss. Nobody likes being manipulated.
  8. Kiss her you-know-what. I don't care what anybody says; good managers and executives do not want their butts kissed. They want people to do their jobs and help them do theirs. That's pretty much it.
  9. Waste her time. These days, everybody's overloaded, everybody's on 24x7, everybody gets too much information. Time is everybody's most precious commodity. Don't waste hers.
  10. Say, "trust me." "Trust me," "believe me," "listen to me," here's the problem with that. If your boss really does trust you, he'll wonder why you keep saying that and probably stop trusting you. If he doesn't trust you yet, you can't compel him to. You have to build credibility over time. Either way, it's bad.
Look, you might be able to manipulate a really dysfunctional boss with a giant-sized ego that'll lap up any BS you shovel his way. But the vast majority of managers and executives are just trying to run a business or an organization; they're not interested in playing games or being managed. Not even a little. So don't do it.

Also check out:
  1. Why Your Boss Doesn't Always Listen to You
  2. How to Win Over Your Boss
  3. Business Is About Winning - Deal With It
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Image: garethjmsaunders via Flickr

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