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Managing Your Manager

Managing Your Manager

The New York Post via Yellowbrix

November 30, 2009

You work hard. You do your job well. You get to work early and leave late. Sure, companies are getting rid of workers like they’re weeds at Wimbledon, but those poor hacks were deadwood anyway, you think. What does a good worker like you have to worry about?

Plenty, experts say – if you’re not cultivating the right kind of relationship with your boss. And that means more than just getting your work done. It means understanding the ins and outs of your boss’ work style, and thinking about what they need and how to make them look good.

“You need to develop a sense of partnership” with your boss, says management consultant Mark Stevens, the author of “Your Marketing Sucks.” And this is particularly important during a time of upheaval, he notes. “When you get a shock to the system economically, bosses start re-examining everything – not just for cost, but for quality,” he says. “It comes down to who’s dispensable and who indispensable.”

To determine how best to put yourself in the latter camp, @work talked to a range of experts who weighed in on ways to become the perpetual employee of the month.

First lesson: An employee who enjoys a good relationship with his boss is an employee who knows – and accounts for – his boss’ strengths and weaknesses. “It equates roughly with marriage. You know what your spouse is good at and what your spouse isn’t good at, and you cover for it,” says Stevens.

So if your boss likes sales but loathes business development, offer to go in her place to the next meet-and- greet. If he hates firing his wards, tell him you’ll wear the executioner’s hood. In essence, you’re looking to become your boss’ foil, says Sally Haver, a business development executive with the Ayers Group, an HR consulting firm.

As long as you offer your services in a “diplomatic” way, “you can strengthen them up in places where they’re not particularly strong,” she says. It’s not difficult to glean what your boss hates to do, says Stevens. “You feel it out through intuition. Most people read the boss and take it to the water cooler and brag about it or bitch about it,” he says. “I’m saying, don’t take it to the water cooler. Use it as a part of a strategy.” Demonstrating “a unique set of competencies” is another way to boost your boss’ esteem, says Wayne Hochwarter, a management professor at Florida State University and an expert on employee-management relations.

“Your boss has to know that you are one of the few persons who can do ‘X,’” he says. “If you become indispensable, your boss is more likely to help you with other day- to-day stuff.” Another thing to remember is that smart employees makes themselves look good – smarter ones make their bosses look good. That means “figuring out your boss’ raison d’etre at the company and channeling your ideas towards that end,” says John Baldoni, a leadership consultant and author of “Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up.”

“If your boss is about customer service, you frame your idea around customer service,” Baldoni says. “You align your idea to what it is they’re interested in.” Of course, all this is for naught if your boss doesn’t notice, so “always keep the boss in the loop,” he says.


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