We learn to manage our team (also called managing down), but we never really learn how to manage our manager (also known as managing up). However, we are all being managed at some point, and the employee is "50% responsible for the nature of the relationship with his manager" according to Hélène Jacob, author of Who’s the boss? How to manage your manager.
So, how can you better understand your relationship with your manager to avoid some unpleasant or difficult situations? How to make the manager/team member collaboration more efficient and more fulfilling?
Why is it important to manage your manager ?
The manager is by definition a team leader who is in charge of a project and a strategy. He is responsible for the efficiency and productivity of his employees, but also for the atmosphere that prevails within the group. It is this responsibility, combined with the hierarchy aspect, which can sometimes lead employees to be uncomfortable about the relationship with their managers.
Indeed, it is not easy to argue with our own manager, to disagree with someone more senior in the company, or to say no to our boss. It is even more difficult if you are the victim of toxic management, if you work alongside a manager acting tyrannically or a micro-manager who controls everything you do. However, it is essential for employees to become aware of the impact they can have on the management relationship in order to avoid a painful day-to-day (misunderstanding, negative atmosphere, stress) or a critical situation, such as a burn-out.
So why is it important to be proactive in your relationship with your boss?
This gives you some power, since you start playing a role in your own management. It is important to understand that management is not unilateral and is the result of the interaction between you and your manager. You're taking your share of responsibility.
You show your critical thinking skills: by being more active, you take a step back to know what is right or wrong, what suits you or not. Thus, you gain confidence and legitimacy.
You make your relationship at work more human by provoking more discussions. Thanks to this proactive attitude, you have the opportunity to change your boss's management techniques and most certainly improve your well-being and that of the rest of the team.
Practical advice: how to manage your manager?
The idea is not to take over the role of the manager, nor to impose your way of doing things, but to set up rituals and habits to better understand the manager/team member relationship. The first step is to become aware that you have the power to influence the situation, while not overstepping. Then, take the time to analyze the context and the personality of your manager. You will then be able to manage your manager by adapting the way you react. Dealing with a manager who likes to control everything, find a way to reassure him. When faced with a "best friend" boss, know how to set your limits and clarify the situation if it makes you uncomfortable. If your manager believes in participative management, plan regular 1:1 discussions to give him feedback regularly and spontaneously. The objective is to identify your manager's communication methods and to adapt your message, in order to ease the relationship and anticipate potential sources of tension.
It is also important to make your manager understand your way of working. Do you need at least 24 hours to prepare a meeting presentation? Let him know, this will avoid unnecessary stress and last minute requests. Do you need a minimum of coaching? Talk about existing management methods (OKR or SMART) that motivate you.
Finally, learn to formulate your feedback. Share your expectations, your doubts, your fears, your disappointments, your frustrations. To share negative feedback, the OSBD method is very effective. Developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, this method helps you react in the right way to a complex situation.
This method consists of four words: Observation, Feelings, Need, Demand (OSBD). First, it is about describing the situation objectively, then sharing your feelings, then identifying your needs and finally, expressing your request. For example: "Earlier, I was cut off in the middle of a presentation to our entire team. I felt a little humiliated and frustrated because I didn't have time to get to the end of my explanation. I will make sure to be more synthetic, but could you give me a little more time next time? Do you agree?". This attitude proves that you want to improve things, that you know how to step back and acknowledge your mistakes, that you know not only what you want but also the way to improve the situation. This method is also in line with the Situation-Behavior-Impact model, which consists in clarifying the situation, describing the specific behaviors observed, and explaining the impact this had on you.
Don't forget to give feedback in a positive way. The manager also needs to feel valued, to be supported and even reassured about his work and his management of the team. To do this, the formulation can play a very important role in ensuring that the message is well received and understood by your manager. The two simple formulas below will in most cases get the message across in the right way:
- The "I prefer" formula: "I prefer when you give me a deadline, otherwise I am lost".
- The “confirmation” formula: "I feel more comfortable when you validate my one-to-one presentation like the one we just did"
To be sure to find moments of discussion, suggest regular one-to-one meetings. With the Popwork solution you can plan and prepare these meetings easily and efficiently: it will give you a framework that will facilitate your conversations and will foster feedback in both directions.