A Gallup poll released last year in America found that 50% of respondents had quit their jobs to get away from a bad manager. Most people will, at some time, find themselves working for a difficult boss, although they can come in many forms—bullies, poor communicators, bad planners and organizers, or simply incompetent.
While changing jobs or employer may be one answer, often you’re just parachuting into a similar situation in another company. Better instead to try and manage up, for the benefit both of yourself and your boss.
Managing up is not the same as sucking up, or an attempt to undermine your difficult manager. Instead it is a way of developing your career so that both you, and your boss, are seen in a positive light.
- The starting point is to understand their communication style and to match it. Do they prefer to communicate in person, via email or, if they work in a different location, by phone? Do they like detailed explanations or brief, to the point, message? Make sure that when you give them information, it is in the form and style that suits them.
- Understand their priorities. What projects, tasks, reports are important to them? Even if you disagree with their assessment, make them your priorities as well. Managers often have to deal with complexities that are just not apparent to more junior staff. Offer to help, and make yourself available to assist with these projects and tasks. Knowing that the priority list is being tackled with make your boss more relaxed – and appreciative of your contribution.
- Support their weaknesses. If they have a problem with time keeping, offer to the start the next meeting on their behalf. If they procrastinate, begin working on the next project or report. That way some of the ground work will have been time by the time they are ready to start.
- Never complain about them at work. By all means go home and tell your friends and family what you think about them but keep your complaints out of the office. You never know who is watching or listening. Your complaints could get back to your boss or their superiors. Seldom will this benefit your career either in the short or longer-term.
- If you have the misfortune to work for a bully, stand firm and do not let them intimidate you. Bullies get their power from fear, so if you stand up them, ask questions, seek clarifications, and work on defusing tensions, they will run out of steam and, ultimately, respect you the more for it. Never respond in anger, however difficult they may act.
- Finally, do your own job well. Make sure that you are meeting all the requirements and deadlines of your own role and that you are not too busy managing up to manage yourself as well.
Managing up successfully will make you feel happier and more fulfilled in your daily working life, and it should help you communicate well with your boss and develop a good working relationship. By making their working life easier, yours will be as well. The ultimate win-win situation!