Thu, 22 Aug, 2019
Before you ask— no, we’re not going to teach you hypnotic mind tricks to get your manager to make your morning coffee for you. We’re going to discuss something far more useful (in the long term, at least): how to create a mutually healthy and growth-oriented relationship with your manager.
The company’s power structure.
At first glance, your company’s power structure might look vertical. That is, strategic orders come down from the Queen Bee at the top and are passed down the line until they reach those with the least responsibility— the most hands-on workers who set the wheels of the business in motion.
But in reality, it’s not quite so simple. In truth, the actions of those at the bottom of the authority ladder are just as crucial to the success of the company as the decisions of those at the top. In addition, your actions have a direct impact on your manager’s job success and career growth. It really is a two-way street.
Why the relationship with your manager matters.
From your perspective, having a good relationship with your manager is, of course, crucial. Why? Love them or hate them, the person in charge of your day-to-day job has a huge influence on how happy you are and how much you grow as a professional.
From their perspective, though, you’re just as responsible for their job performance. If they can’t find the right way to communicate and collaborate with you and you underperform, their own metrics and leadership will suffer. If you do great, your team and manager do great too.
What should matter to both parties is— you guessed it— the relationship. If both of you work to hone the work dynamics and support each other, you’ll both thrive. But even if your manager doesn’t seem committed to nurturing a positive, constructive connection, you can still do your part and reap the benefits.
How to manage your manager.
Here’s how you can work to cultivate a good relationship with your manager. Focus on developing a solid alliance— honesty, trust, and responsibility are key.
These are the four crucial areas you’ll need to focus on.
1. Set clear boundaries and expectations.
All successful relationships (of every kind) have clear expectations and boundaries. If you don’t know what’s expected of your role, you can’t achieve it. And, if it’s not laid down from the get-go, chances are your manager might hand over tasks that exceed your responsibility, experience, and availability.
You need to have a straightforward conversation to create clear boundaries. Making a list of the responsibilities and tasks you’re expected to carry out is a good idea, as is being clear on what you can and cannot do. If your manager gives you a task you know is too hard, say so assertively. On the other hand, a good manager will want to push you a little and help you grow outside of your comfort zone, so stay open.
Ideally, you’d do this when you get started on the job. But don’t despair— if you’re already having issues, you can ask your manager for a meeting to clear things up.
2. Communicate openly.
As you might have noticed from the situation above, you can’t build a good working relationship without good, honest communication. If you don’t know what your manager expects or how you’re evaluated, you won’t perform at your best. If the manager doesn’t know about the issues you’re experiencing, they won’t be able to help you. Speak up and ask!
3. Offer independent solutions.
Though communicating what troubles you is key, there is such a thing as too much complaining that turns to whining. You don’t want to go there— it’s always more productive to work through the issue to the best of your ability before you go to your manager.
When you experience a setback, take a deep breath and tackle it the problem. What can you do about this? Make a list of possible solutions, add the advantages and disadvantages of each, and try to decide. If you still can’t resolve the issue on your own, only then should you take it (and your list!) to the manager. Keep in mind that they’re probably busy and will appreciate your initiative.
4. Align your goals.
If you perform better every day, are happy with your job, and grow your skills, everyone benefits. Your team will run better and your manager will get better results and productivity. It’s a win all around!
The best way to ensure this happens is to be open about what you want to achieve in your role and in the company. For example, if you aim to gain the necessary skills to move into a different area or to become a manager yourself in the future, say so. By talking about your goals, you can both start working on ways to support each other and benefit the results of your work.
A good relationship with your manager is invaluable— it will help you move forward in your career growth while getting a great day-to-day job experience. You only need to follow these principles and put in the work.
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