Tag Archives: managing boss relationship

Managing Up: Your Relationship with Your Boss

Almost all of my posts to date have dealt with how a manager must meet the needs of the task, the team, and the individual. I offered a bunch of guidelines on how get the work done, how to manage group dynamics, how to motivate people, and so on. Do this. Don’t do that. Nag, nag, nag.

Well, what about you? What do you need?

Managers are so busy attending to the needs of other things and other people that they neglect their own needs. And by doing so, the task, the team, and the individuals suffer.

So, what are those self-needs? Here are three broad areas:

  • Managing the relationship with your boss
  • Going after your own learning and development
  • Coping with stress

Let’s start with managing the relationship with your boss, or “managing up.”

It took me a long time to realize that the quality of my relationship with my boss rested on me and me alone. For some reason, I thought it was my manager’s responsibility. (And of course, when the relationship went awry, I blamed my boss.) One day, I realized that my way of thinking was not serving me well, so I decided that I would drive the relationship. It took some work, but it made a big difference in my professional and personal growth.

To explore this whole managing up thing, let’s listen in on a conversation taking place between a boss and a colleague over lunch.

“Of the seven people who report to me, only one of them shows real promise.”

“Really. Only one?”

“Just one. Her name is Kira. She is the only one who’s built a real working relationship with me. All the others seem to fall into two groups: they either go out of their way to avoid me or they fall all over themselves trying to suck up to me.”

“How does Kira manage to do what the others haven’t?”

“Well, to start with, she knows me pretty well. She knows what my goals and objectives are. She knows my strong points and my weak points. She knows my preferred work style. And I’m pretty sure she knows which particular issues are freaking me out the most right now.”

“Wow, she knows a lot about you. How does she know all that?”

“We talk whenever we get a chance. She asks me great questions and she listens really well. She’s also watches how I work. For example, she knows that I like to communicate face-to-face or on the phone rather than through email. She also knows I don’t like a lot of detail, so she’ll summarize what went on in meetings.”

“What else sets Kira apart?”

“I guess the biggest thing is that she has great integrity. She shows up on time and produces good work. She says what she means and means what she says. And she keeps her promises to me and to her peers. That level of professionalism is important to me.”

“What else does she do?”

“One of the things I appreciate the most about Kira is that she always tells me the truth, even when she knows I may not want to hear it. Others on my team either withhold information or sugarcoat it to the point of making it irrelevant. And she doesn’t whine or complain. When she does come to me with a problem, she offers at least a partial solution. I appreciate that.”

“Anything else?”

“She’s serious about her work and always willing to learn more. She takes responsibility for her own development. She’ll push me to coach her and provide more training resources. She doesn’t just sit back and wait for it to happen.”

“Gee, Kira sounds like the perfect employee.”

“No, she’s not perfect by any stretch. She’s got her own weaknesses and blind spots. And we don’t always see eye-to-eye, either. In fact, we disagree with each other, loudly and often. In the end, though, I know that she’s got this company in her best interest. I wish I had six more Kiras on my team.”

“I’ll bet you do.”

If you’re wondering how to manage the relationship with your boss (because it really is your responsibility to do so), think about how closely you match Kira’s behavior.

The next post will deal with the second of your needs: going after your own learning and development. In the meantime, take care of yourself.

Until next time . . .