The Delicate Art of Managing Your Boss

Often, our professional skills are put to the test not by our work assignments, but by challenging situations with our supervisors. Knowing strategies for managing your boss can make the difference between keeping your cool and potentially harming the working relationship.

Here are four common personality types you may encounter and tips for managing your manager if he or she matches one of these descriptions:

The Waffler

You need to submit that big purchase order, but your supervisor can’t decide on a vendor. Employees are starting to ask you when they’re going to get the supplies they need, but all you can do is shrug.

Managing your boss effectively in this situation means taking a look at the big picture. For instance, did you provide enough research to your supervisor to help make the decision? Or perhaps there are other factors going on in the company that may be delaying action on the order? Regardless of the reason for the holdup, it’s alright to remind your manager of looming deadlines or the impact of further delay.

The Zinger

You never thought you’d be in the position to worry about managing your manager. You have always met expectations and worked well together, until one day you’re shocked by some strong criticism on how you handled a call with a client.

Take a deep breath and give yourself a minute. While it’s natural to go in defensive mode, think about whether there’s some truth to the conversation. No one is perfect. You may find it helpful to ask for more specific details and advice on how you can avoid the same mistake going forward.

The Ghost

You’re the executive assistant to the head of information technology operations and bad news has come in: email is down. You’ve tried desperately to reach your supervisor with no luck.

Managing your boss is particularly hard when you can’t even find the person. Once you’ve tracked down another leader to step in, you need to think about the future. When your supervisor returns, prepare a list together of what you can do should different situations occur again when he or she is inaccessible.

The Micromanager

Early in my career, I worked for the ultimate micromanager. He’d wait until employees went home and then comb through wastebaskets to make sure we didn’t throw away anything critical. I thought it was a crazy rumor until one day some junk mail I’d tossed was stacked on my desk in the morning with a note to file it.

Now, your situation in managing your boss may not involve trash (hopefully!), but the same rules apply. You need to build trust by giving thorough updates and explaining your decision making process in areas you know are a priority for your manager. In my situation, I remember explaining that the information I threw out was a duplicate of sales brochures already filed and shared how I screened my mail. All was fine after that.

Managing your manager doesn’t have to be an eye-roll situation. Okay, well, you may still do an eye-roll now and then, but if you focus on what you can do to adapt, you’ll find you’re much happier on the job.