Tips for managing your boss (really!)

April 22, 2011

“Manage my boss — are you kidding me?” The hardest part about managing your boss is warming up to the idea.

Since it goes against everything we have been taught about job boundaries, the idea of managing management can be uncomfortable. However, as the Harvard Business Review points out, the benefits to your work life make managing your boss a worthwhile endeavor.

Here are a few tips for easing into the process:

Don’t make assumptions. Your boss is not a mind reader. Whenever you turn to them for input, paint a complete picture of whatever it is you are presenting. Do so as if telling a story — start at the beginning, moving forward clearly and articulately while making sure not to leave out any details. Effective employer/employee interdependence hinges on effective communication.


Don’t be afraid to test the waters. Obviously, you should keep your boss in the loop, but most bosses do not want to be asked about every little detail. This is why management tends to be impressed when an employee shows initiative. Taking initiative (within reason, of course) helps alleviate some of your boss’ workload while simultaneously showing independence and leadership skills.


Never make a promise you can’t keep. If you promise to deliver, you better step up to the plate. Trust is thin and delicate — hard to build up but easy to break. Sometimes you need to be open and honest about limitations. If too much is asked of you, inform your boss; sit down with them to work out priorities and details before proceeding.


Understand different work cultures. There are four profiles commonly found in the work environment:

  • People who like to control things
  • People more concerned with people
  • People more concerned with getting things done
  • People more concerned with ideas

Knowing which of these profiles best fits your boss will go a long way in helping manage them.


Finalize everything you turn in. Treat everything you turn in to your boss as the final version. For starters, you cannot assume that your boss will check your work (facts, figures, data, spelling, etc.). So if an error does turn up, responsibility rests on your shoulders no matter what. There is also the matter of your boss’ trust in your reliability, which you do not want to compromise.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central & Southern New Jersey, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in New Jersey. We would love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter @CarnegieJersey.

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