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Manage 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 supervisor’s 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 managers, just as there are ineffective employees. But in most cases, both you and your manager are responsible for creating an effective working relationship, one that will benefit both of you and your organization.

Manager or customer?

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

In other words, your manager needs your contribution just as you need your manager’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.

It may be helpful to think of your manager as 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 manager experience?
  • What kind of environment does your manager work in?
  • What is your manager’s preferred work style?
  • How does your work contribute to your manager’s success?
  • What does your manager need from you?

Try these 4 suggestions to help you meet your manager/customer’s needs:

1. Be professional

Bring your best skills to the job every day:

  • Be responsible. Meet deadlines and tell your manager 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 your stress and the stress of those you work with.

2. Be a communicator

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

  • Set up a regular way of reporting to your manager, whether it’s daily or weekly, by email or an informal chat.
  • Keep your manager 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 manager’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 manager if you’ve got too much or too little to do.

3. 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 manager 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 manager. Come up with ideas to save or make money, increase customer service, shorten response times, etc. Share these with your manager.
  • If you're going to be late for work or need to take time off, let your manager know as soon as possible.

4. 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 manager 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 manager, it can also open up opportunities and increase your job satisfaction.

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