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How To Effectively Manage One's Boss

Great organizations, whether in a business or education setting, are not only the product of effective leadership but also a dynamic following. While a majority of people occupy some sort of leadership positions in their working environments, they also find themselves accountable to a departmental supervisor, director, manager, e.t.c. Yet a majority, this role can be challenging. Some days, they believe that they must follow blindly to succeed; on other occasions, they perceive their “bosses” as a hindrance to success. How do you strike the right balance? The answer relies on how to manage your boss.
Also, known as managing up, managing one's boss involves working with the manager consciously to get optimal results that support the organizational objectives. It is, however, not “kissing up” or politically maneuvering. Rather, it is a deliberate effort to enhance cooperation and bring understanding to a relationship between individuals who have different perspectives in a common workplace. Below are the key steps you should consider to effectively your boss:

#1 Get to Understand Who Your Boss Is

The first rule of thumb when it comes to managing your boss effectively is to understand who they are and what they value. In other words, have some empathy towards your boss. While most employees have a superficial understanding of their leaders’ goals and pressures, they always fail to analyze their bosses’ ambitions, aspirations, strengths, and weaknesses. Assessing these issues can help you think beyond your needs, and gain insight on how you can have a fruitful relationship with your manager.

For example, some managers are “readers,” i.e., they prefer information delivered to them through written format while others are “listeners,” i.e., they prefer verbal communication. If you want your manager to understand your ideas, it is important that you communicate in a manner that he/she understands.

In her article, Looking Up the Fine Art of Managing Your Boss, Janine Schindler, MCC noted that empathy is key to a successful boss-subordinate relationship. She advises that every employee should take spend time thinking about their work on the boss’ perspective. What organizational goals does your boss have? Is pay-raise dependent on you meeting goals? What challenges does your boss face when completing her tasks? Answering these questions help employees to develop empathy.

#2 Get to know yourself first

In order to have an effective working relationship with your manager, it is also important to understand yourself. Assess your strengths, goals, personal needs, and weaknesses, and be attentive on how you respond to being managed. For instance, are you a rebellious employee or do you tend to be overly compliant?

In an article recently published by Harvard University, A Strategic Approach to Managing Yourself and Others, the author noted that managing oneself and others require self-examination. You need to understand what motivates you, your strengths, and your weaknesses. The more you understand yourself, the greater your chances of coping with your boss.

#3 Anticipate and Solicit your Bosses’ expectations and priorities

A common mistake that employees make is to assume that they know what their managers need and expect. Managers rarely spell out their expectations, and the burden of recognition is always left on the followers. Do not wait for your boss to give you details of what he/she expects. Instead, establish a rapport with your boss and ask them about “our objectives,” help them communicate their ideas, and tell him/her your ideas as well.
In an interview with Forbes, Mary Abbajay, a Human Resource Management expert and an author noted that employees should learn to anticipate the needs of their managers. According to her, the more you learn about your boss and anticipate their expectations, wants, and needs, you will be able to address them proactively and remove any potential conflicts that may jeopardize your relationship.

#4 Build Trust

A significant element of managing up is building trust in the relationship. Some employees are always hardworking, dependable, and well-meaning, but due to mismatched priorities and misunderstandings, they can wrongfully be labeled as incompetent. According to the Financial Manager magazine, to avoid such a scenario, make an effort to maintain dependability and honesty by adhering to the working rules, deadlines, and commitments.

Lolly Daskal, the founder and CEO of Lead from Within, noted that leaders, particularly micromanagers, appreciate when employees approach them on how to improve themselves. “Micromanagers love that; that is food for their soul because they like to control things,” she added.

#5 Be supportive by adopting their standards

To every manager, time is a precious resource. Supporting your boss by adopting his/her standards and effectively managing requests will help both of you achieve your goals. Don’t present every issue to your boss for opinion. Instead, be innovative and come up with ideas that can help to address particular problems. You may even try to do some things intentional to make the life of your boss easier.

Forbes recently highlighted in an article that adopting the standards of a boss is one of the best ways to manage up. It is critical that employees learn what markers of quality their bosses need and deliver them appropriately. Also, employees should find out what “high-quality standards” are from their bosses’ perspectives. They should then align their own standards with these to foster a positive relationship.

#6 Give Feedback

On certain occasions, your boss may need constructive feedback about their leadership or performance as much as you need to know your progress in the company. Sharing what your perceptions are is one thing, but also remember to approach your boss when you do not agree with certain issues. No one is perfect at the workplace, and your input is critical to improving performance.

In her article, What to Do When You Have a Bad Boss, Mary Abbajay asserts that giving feedback may not be appropriate when dealing with a difficult boss. In this case, consider making requests. Try making specific requests to get what you need and be specific about the support and resources you need to execute your job. Also, explain how your rationale and the request will benefit the company.


Managing your boss is not a walk in the park, but it does not have to be hard either; it is just a matter of embracing focused efforts and open-mindedness. An employee who manages his/her boss enjoys many rewards. You may be able to stay with the same organization over a long period and fulfill a career that you truly enjoy. Even better, you will be looking forward to going to the office to share your dreams and ambitions with your boss.