Want to Boost Job Satisfaction? 5 Ways to Help Your Legal Manager Manage You

Etiquette Mistakes Managers Need to Avoid

Are you working for a micromanager? Do you often find yourself wishing your manager would stop focusing on inconsequential details and provide more constructive feedback that could be more helpful? Such issues with your legal manager can be extremely frustrating and disconcerting; and more importantly, they can have an adverse impact on your job satisfaction, perhaps even your work performance.

Years ago, at the start of my career, I had a supervisor who often neglected to provide several critical details until late into a project, which sometimes negatively impacted the work. At some point, I realized I had to learn to manage my manager to improve the quality of our work product and our professional relationship.

If you’re dissatisfied with the way you’re managed, there are ways to help your manager manage you. Here are five strategies that can help you achieve the kind of guidance from your supervisor that you desire:

1. Understand what’s missing in your supervisor’s style: Start by listing the behaviors you want -- or don’t want -- from your ideal manager. Then, note specifics about what you'd like to change in your current manager’s supervisory style. Perhaps you want more “big picture” context when you start an assignment? Less day-to-day interference? Greater accessibility to your boss so you can ask questions and clarify issues in a timely manner? It's necessary to first identify what you'd like to achieve before you can take steps to improve your managerial situation.

2. Establish trust: One of the most critical ways to establish a strong, effective relationship with supervisors is to understand their “pressure points” so you can anticipate their actions and reactions and respond to them proactively and pre-emptively. Deal with a micromanager who is reluctant to relinquish control or delegate responsibility by anticipating what they'll need and providing it before they request it. For example, if your manager is always anxious about project deadlines, make it a point to provide more frequent updates or status reports on your assignments or legal research so he or she doesn’t feel compelled to check in with you each day. Go out of your way to show you're reliable -- never over-commit but always deliver what you promise. Demonstrate that you're a model employee who is results-driven, efficient, productive, and communicative. Over time, these tactics will boost your manager’s confidence in your abilities and provide the work independence you desire.

By proposing and developing a constructive
foundation for working with your manager --
one that helps you and addresses your boss’s
concerns -- you’ll be able to establish a more
productive and effective relationship.

3. Communicate your needs: Be open with your manager about what you need to effectively perform your role and deliver results. Whether you want more clarity on expectations, access to additional resources or more constructive feedback during projects, communicate your needs in a tactful manner. For example, if you consistently have trouble reaching your boss for guidance on rising caseloads, suggest it would be helpful to schedule a brief weekly meeting to touch base and discuss project status and priorities. And if you have an issue with a controlling boss, start a discussion by saying, “I know you like to check in with me daily. Would it be helpful if I sent you daily status reports via email?”

4. Speak up “gently”: It takes strength and courage to approach your boss about changes you desire in supervision. Obviously, be diplomatic and respectful in your communications; and acknowledge your top priority is to make your manager successful. Then, offer specific solutions or action plans to resolve areas of concern rather than just citing your complaints. By proposing and developing a constructive foundation for working with your manager -- one that helps you and addresses your boss’s concerns -- you’ll be able to establish a more productive and effective relationship.

5. Emphasize the positives: When you see signs of positive change in your supervisor’s management style, let him or her know. Complimenting supervisors is a powerful way to reinforce and encourage such behaviors. Cite specific examples of how your boss helped you to accomplish a certain task or how much you valued their guidance on a particular project. Just as you are motivated by positive feedback, so is your manager.

By taking these proactive steps to help your manager manage you, you’ll create an effective framework for working together and strengthen your performance and job satisfaction. Just remember -- your objective is to improve your communications with your supervisor without damaging your relationship. Diplomacy and respect are the key to achieving the best possible outcome.