Managing Your Boss: 12 Things You Need to Know

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 18, 2012

Learning how to "manage up" is a critical skill that contributes toward the success of your boss, the success of your organization, and ultimately toward your success.

This article outlines 12 steps designed to build a strong, trusting relationship between you and your boss. You'll learn how to give your boss what he or she needs, so you can get what you want!

Step 1: Stop blaming your boss.

It’s easy to blame work-related issues on your supervisor. “The project wasn’t completed on time because of poor communication.” “I’m bored at work because the boss doesn’t recognize my skills or experience.”

The first step in managing up is to stop blaming and to take charge. Understand that you can change the relationship dynamics between you and your boss. Make a commitment to take the lead.

Step 2: Understand expectations.

If your boss hasn't taken the time to explain expectations to you in detail, schedule a meeting to go over them.

Define your job description, and set goals together. Instead of assuming this will be enough to keep you on track, set regularly scheduled meetings for feedback.

Step 3: Understand your boss's management style.

Is he rule-oriented or more creative? Does she prefer to closely monitor employees, or does she appreciate it when you take the initiative? Does he like to work alone, or as part of a group? Is she formal or informal?

Demystifying your supervisor's management style will make it easier for you to adapt.

Step 4: Learn how to effectively handle conflict with your boss.

When issues arise, instead of becoming mired in the "whys" of your boss's actions, decisions, or behaviors, politely tell him or her how you are being affected. Then ask for feedback on how he or she believes you are contributing to the problem.

Conflict is much easier to resolve when the parties recognize their part in it and don't play the blame game.

Step 5: Be loyal.

Never publicly criticize your boss. If others are doing it, don't join in. Instead, walk away and say nothing, or counter with a positive comment.

If you have an issue with your boss, bring it up in private, and don't talk about it with others.

Never go over your boss's head, unless the issue concerns something illegal or immoral.

Step 6: Don't compete.

Instead, be supportive. Succeed together, not apart. Trying to stand out while making your boss look bad won't help you get ahead in the long run.  

Start by figuring out the goals you have in common, and devise a plan that ensures you both succeed and look great.

Step 7: Recognize your boss's good points.

It's easy to point out the things that get on your nerves. Instead, focus on the things you like about your boss.

Be sure to point out these attributes frequently, and you'll find that you get compliments in return.

Step 8: Be indispensable.

Think of ways you can make your boss's job easier.

Not only will this help your boss, it will also help you when your boss realizes you are an invaluable asset to him or her -- as well as to the organization.

Step 9: Keep your boss informed.

Did you hear something at the water cooler that could have a significant impact on your manager, your department, or your organization?

Make sure you share the information with your boss. Developing a trusted network at work will help you be your boss's eyes and ears.

Step 10: Keep a positive attitude -- no matter what.

There will be days when things don't go well, your manager is in a bad mood, and nothing you do seems to be right. Unless this is a consistent trend, take a deep breath and let it go. Then take an action to improve the situation.

Step 11: Talk your boss's talk.

Does your boss prefer to communicate by e-mail, or in person? Does he or she want you to check in once a day, or once a week?

Determine how your boss likes information conveyed, and communicate in that way.

Step 12: Be a good follower.

There are good leaders and good followers. Chances are you'll be both in your lifetime.

But remember that when everyone tries to be the leader, nothing gets done.

Let your boss be the leader, be a good follower, and you'll both reap rewards.

A great team

Managing up is all about building a successful relationship with your boss.

With the right knowledge, understanding, and behavior, you can take charge and build a mutually beneficial relationship with your boss that ensures success for both of you.

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