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Tip Sheets

Managing Your Manager

You’ve probably thought about how your manager manages you. But have you ever thought about how you manage your manager?

Your manager or supervisor can have a big influence over your success in a job and your long-term career plans. Your boss’ recommendations can carry a lot of weight in decisions about raises, promotions, training resources and even job references.

More than 50% of employees say relationships with immediate supervisors are an important aspect of their job satisfaction. It’s true that there are ineffective supervisors, just as there are ineffective employees. But in most cases, both you and your supervisor are responsible for creating an effective working relationship, one that will benefit both of you and your organization.

Boss or customer?

Traditionally the supervisor/employee relationship has been a one-way reporting line, with the supervisor as boss and the employee as a less important subordinate. Management practice has changed in the last several years, recognizing that the supervisor/employee relationship is more effective as a partnership.

In other words, your supervisor needs your contribution just as you need your supervisor’s support and resources to do your job. Both of you rely on the co-operation of the other to achieve your organization’s goals.

Actually, your supervisor is your most important internal customer. How will you provide that customer with the best possible service? Start by considering the following questions:

  • What stresses and demands does your supervisor experience?
  • What kind of environment does your supervisor work in?
  • What is your supervisor’s preferred work style?
  • How does your work contribute to your supervisor’s success?
  • What does your supervisor need from you?

The suggestions in this tip will help you meet your supervisor/customer’s needs.

Be Professional

Bring your best skills to the job every day:

  • Be responsible. Meet deadlines and tell your supervisor about accomplishments and problems.
  • Be reliable. Follow through on what you say you’ll do.
  • Keep up to date with changes in your industry. Improve your skills through learning activities.
  • Be a team player and find a good balance between work and family responsibilities. Manage stress.

Be a communicator

A two-way flow of information helps everything run more smoothly:

  • Set up a regular way of reporting to your supervisor, whether it’s daily or weekly, by email or an informal chat.
  • Keep your boss up to date with what you’re working on, including changes, challenges and successes. Ask for feedback, direction or support if you need it.
  • Flag any potential problems. Bad news is never good, but it’s worse when it’s a surprise.
  • Review your supervisor’s priorities to make sure you’re focusing on what’s most important.
  • Share your priorities. Ask for advice in reaching your goals. Talk to your supervisor if you’ve got too much or too little to do.

Be proactive

Keep up with your duties and look for ways to go beyond what is expected of you:

  • Take the initiative, look for opportunities to make improvements and tackle problems before you’re asked to.
  • Participate fully in the work your supervisor wants you to do. For example, speak up in meetings, volunteer to sit on important committees and welcome new assignments as a way to increase your skills and employability.
  • Find ways to add value, particularly in areas that are a priority for your supervisor. Come up with ideas to save or make money, increase customer service, shorten response times, etc. Share these with your supervisor.

Be resourceful

Handle challenges with a “can do” attitude:

  • Be creative, share ideas and develop problem-solving skills.
  • Develop a Plan B for each of your projects, in case Plan A doesn't yield the results or meet the standards required.
  • Stay flexible. Willingly accept changing priorities, assignments and goals.
  • Maintain your network. It’s a valuable resource that can save you time and help you meet challenges.

Your supervisor can open doors for you or make sure they stay firmly closed. Your relationship is too important to be left to chance.

If you think of your manager as your most important internal customer, you’ll want to offer exceptional customer service whenever you can. Being professional and resourceful not only gains you positive notice from your boss—it can also open up opportunities and increase your job satisfaction.

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