Learn to Manage Your Manager
Unless you are self-employed and are you own boss, it is likely that you have someone you report to – a boss, a manager, a board of directors etc. This person will likely hold the key to your career success and possibly determines how quickly you can make progress at your company.
As such, one of the most important parts of your job, one that is never explicitly stated and unfortunately a lot of people do not pay much attention to, is being able to manage this person. It may sound clichéd, but to ensure that you can climb the ladder of success you first need to learn how to manage your manager.
Market yourself to your boss: Your manager is likely to have a lot more responsibility than just managing you. In the midst of all their other responsibilities, it is possible that you will occasionally be tossed to the back burner. Take subtle steps to ensure that what you are working on is not forgotten. Make sure your manager knows at all times what you are working on. This may require you to speak up during meetings, copying them on emails to clients (especially those where the clients express satisfaction with your work), inviting him or her to meetings that you have with your peers (even if he or she is likely to not attend) etc.
Don’t be overly sensitive: Managers are humans too and are likely to show emotions every now and then. Occasionally, because of the pressure that they are under, these emotions come up as anger and frustration. Do not be overly sensitive to criticism – more often than not it is the circumstances and is not meant to be a personal rebuke. When caught in such situation, filter out the negative statements and find what it is that you need to do to rectify the situation. And even if you are effected by an outburst, do not mope around or worse create a scene and make a perfectly salvageable situation worse.
Make your manager look good: Remember, your manager has a manager too! While it is his job to offer you guidance and leadership, he will be much more inclined to do that job well if you make him look good and help him shine before his superiors. Learn the difficult and dark art of making your accomplishments known to the upper brass without snatching away the glory from your boss.
Your manager is not your friend!: It is possible that as time goes by you get quite pally with your boss. But don’t ever forget that when it comes right down to it, he still has in his hands your future and your fate. Things said in jest may be perceived as insulting which can cause unnecessary issues later. Sharing confidences and personal secrets could make him/her biased against you when it is time for a promotion or a critical project. While a certain amount of camaraderie is always good, never let you guard fully down.
Don’t be a pain in the butt: Don’t be a whiner or complainer. If you have issues with your peers or are dealing with a lack of resources, try to handle the situation yourself first. Do not be a tattletale and do not demand stuff that is not really important. When things are falling behind, keep him or her updated about possible slips in schedule, so no one is caught off guard.
Actions speak louder than words: You need to gain your boss’s respect and confidence and in the workplace, usually, the only way to do this is to prove your worth. Let your work speak for you – it goes a lot farther than just kissing ass. It does not matter if your actual job is significant or critical from the company’s perspective – but if you do it well anyway, it will be noticed and will open doors for you.
Don’t hog your boss’s time: Your boss will likely have a whole lot of tasks to juggle and people to manage. So make sure you do not hog your boss’s time. While discussing issues, make sure you can summarize the situation in a few sentences. The same goes for status updates. The more effective you are at conveying all that needs to be said in the least amount of time, the better you will fare in your boss’s books.
Identify your boss’s weakness and take advantage of it: Since you boss is only human, it is likely that he/she will have a few weaknesses. Some of these can be quite frustrating. But if you learn to identify these weaknesses and play them to your advantage, in the long run you could benefit immensely.
For instance, if your boss is a pompous ego-maniac, instead of being frustrated by how he claims credit for all your hard work, find ways to fuel the ego and look favorable in his eyes. If your boss is too timid, step up to the ladder and be his right-hand man while representing your group to further higher ups. If you make sure you make your boss look good in the process, you can not only gain points from him, but from upper management as well. Manipulating a boss’s weakness to work in your favor is very important if you do not want to be brought down by them!
Make sure your boss knows your personal career goals: If you are hoping to earn a promotion, make sure your boss knows that you feel ready for the higher responsibilities that come along with the promotion. If you would like to change the direction your career is going, make sure your boss has an idea. There are several opportunities that may be visible to your boss, but not to you. If he/she knows what it is that you want in the long run, he may find a way to steer you in that direction. Remember that managers are not mind readers, and if you want something, you need to tell them explicitly. Annual reviews are a good time to bring up these matters.
Ultimately, it all boils down to remembering that your boss is also human. And the human that is most important for the progress of your career, at that. So, like all aspects of life, improving your relationship with the boss and treating him/her with some respect and some subtle manipulation can go a long way in ensuring that your career fares well.