14 Ways to Manage Your Manager
It’s no secret that your manager can make or break how you feel about your job. In fact, according to Gallup, employees will voluntarily leave a job because of a difficult manager. Further, having a bad manager doesn’t just affect how you feel about your job. It can also affect your health.
"Having a bad manager is often a one-two punch: Employees feel miserable while at work, and that misery follows them home, compounding their stress and putting their well-being in peril," according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Manager report.
Regardless of whether your boss makes you feel miserable or inspires you to work harder, “everyone needs to manage their boss,” says Nancy Halpern, a leadership advisor in New York City. Most employees believe their boss should be managing them but, in reality, learning how to manage your boss will make you a happier and more effective employee, Halpern says.
“You might think you can do your boss’s job better than he or she can but those judgments can often lead you to bad behaviors such as dismissing their suggestions or not listening to their directions,” she said. Here are 14 strategies for managing your boss in common workplace situations.
1) Your Boss Sets Unrealistic Deadlines
We’ve all had at least one manager who has a new idea every hour and expects staff to execute it immediately, even if this new task interferes with other deadlines. While you can’t change your boss’s behavior, you can ask your boss to help prioritize your work.
Instead of telling your boss that you can’t take on another project, tell your boss, “I’m happy to do this but that means I will have to postpone working on this other project you have me doing.” Then ask your boss to prioritize your workload so that you can meet their expectations.
2) Your Boss Doesn’t Respond to Your Emails
Not every boss is great about responding to emails or even requests for meetings. The best way to get your manager’s attention is to figure out how he or she likes to communicate.
Do they prefer short emails with bullet points? Maybe they don’t have time to read email online and prefer that you print out your email if it’s urgent and leave it on their desk. Perhaps they only want to discuss your work during a weekly one-on-one meeting. Or do they expect you to catch them in the hallway and ask them in person?
3) Your Boss Is a Workaholic
Even if your boss works long hours, it doesn’t mean you have to keep the same hours. However, you might need to train your boss so that he or she understands what hours you are willing to work.
If your boss emails you after 7 p.m. or before 7:30 a.m., don’t feel like you have to answer. If you do respond, that signals to your boss that you’re always available.
4) Your Boss Doesn’t Know What You’ve Accomplished
If your boss manages a dozen employees or more, he or she might not be aware of all you’re doing and what you’ve produced, so be sure you boss knows what you’ve accomplished on a weekly or monthly basis.
You don’t have to ask for affirmation on everything you do, but be sure to demonstrate to your boss what you’ve accomplished each time you have a one-on-one meeting by bringing a list of completed tasks. Don’t be shy about sharing any positive feedback from other employees and clients.
5) Your Boss Micromanages
Your manager may be under immense pressure to deliver results or your boss might just be a control freak. Either way, railing against your boss’s management style won’t help matters.
Instead, work to earn your boss’s trust by scheduling regular check-ins, sending unprompted updates about your project via email with specific, tangible details that will help your boss feel like he or she is being kept in the loop.
Make sure your updates demonstrate progress towards the project’s final goal.
6) Your Boss Changes Your Work
No matter how perfect a report or a memo may be, some bosses feel they need to change a word here or add a comma there. Don’t take it personally, Halpern says.
“It comes from your boss’s instinct to add value and they feel it’s part of their responsibility to make a correction,” she said. “It’s not a slap on you.”
7) Your Boss Is Disorganized
Everyone’s had a least one boss who can’t find the memo you sent two hours ago or doesn’t remember that you filed your report two days ago. Even if your boss asks you to resend something five times in as many days, you should just smile and send it again.
If your boss has an assistant, you might be able to enlist his or her help to ensure you manager saw that report or memo you sent last week.
8) Your Boss Isn’t Always Fair
It might feel like your boss is playing favors if the same two people are always tapped for special projects. If you feel as if you are being overlooked for stretch assignments, let your boss know you want to take on extra work and outline why you are the right person to take on the next available challenging assignment.
9) Your Boss Isn’t Clear About Your Objectives
Even if your boss isn’t always clear about what your goals should be, you can determine what you should be working towards by finding out the goals of your department and the overall company goals. Your objectives should be in alignment with those larger goals.
10) Your Boss Doesn’t Help Solve Problems
Bosses don’t want to spend their time listening to employees complain about their workload, their hours, or their coworkers.
If you need your boss’s help in solving a problem, it’s best to go to their office with an idea or two about how to tackle the problem. Rather than telling your boss that you have a complaint, tell them you’d like their advice, then layout the options and ask for their feedback.
11) Your Boss Lacks Vision
Not every boss can envision what their department will be doing five years from now or even five months from now.
If your manager tends to focus on the here-and-now and doesn’t look forward, perhaps you can help by asking thought-provoking questions during your one-on-one meetings, such as: What are our team’s goals for next year? How could our team work more efficiently? How can we better serve our clients?
12) Your Boss Is a Poor Communicator
If your boss changes his or her mind often or is hard to pin down about assignments and due dates, it’s a good idea to get buy in from your boss after a meeting by sending a follow-up email to summarize what you agreed upon.
If your manager doesn’t respond to email, you can ask for a verbal confirmation at the close of the meeting.
13) Your Boss Takes Credit for Your Work
Your manager may believe that by taking credit for your work, they’re essentially praising your work. You probably won’t see it that way.
Consider talking with your boss directly, or you might want to discuss the situation with another senior-level employee at your company who you trust to find out if this is part of the workplace culture.
To guard against someone taking credit for your ideas, keep good meeting notes and save any emails that demonstrate your work.
14) Your Boss Seldom Offers Praise
Some managers have a difficult time thanking their employees for a job well done. They might feel you are just doing your job, or they might be too busy to notice what you’ve accomplished.
If you boss fails to acknowledge your achievements, don’t take it personally. If coworkers or other managers send you emails or notes congratulating you on an accomplishment, there is nothing wrong with forwarding that to your boss.
You should also keep a running list of accomplishments, obstacles you’ve overcome, and positive comments colleagues, bosses, and clients have said about you throughout the year. Not only will they offer you encouragement when you’re feeling neglected by your boss but you can also use them when you write your mid-year and end-of-year reviews.