Learn How to Manage Your Boss

by ianmckenzie on October 19, 2012

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No matter where you work, you report to someone – maybe even to two or three bosses. And whether you think your boss is brilliant or a bore, the fact is that you have to manage the relationship with your boss if you want to advance your career.

Many of us give little thought to managing our supervisors. We do so at our own peril. Supervisors can have a lot of influence over our success in a job and our long-term career plans. Supervisor recommendations carry a lot of weight when it comes to decisions about raises, promotions, training resources and even job references. Why then do we fail to develop positive work relationships with our supervisors?

In the past, the supervisor-employee relationship has been view as one-way, with the supervisor as boss and the employee subservient to their authority. It is better to view the relationship as a partnership involving mutual dependence. Supervisors need the contributions of subordinates, just as subordinates require support and resources from supervisors. Both parties need to co-operate in order to fulfil requirements and achieve goals.

Why do so many employees try to stay out of the way of supervisors and avoid their notice? Surveys indicate, more than 50 per cent of employees list relationships with immediate supervisors as the worst aspect of their job. Sure, there are poor supervisors, just as there are poor employees. However, both employees and supervisors are responsible for creating effective working relationships.

Develop positive working relationships

Employees, consider your immediate supervisor as an important internal customers. Ask yourself, what does my supervisor needs from me? What is the preferred work style of my supervisor? What kind of environment does my supervisor work in and what pressures do they experience?

What does your supervisor expect of you? Use this information to guide and build your interactions. Remember, supervisors are busy people with many demands placed on them. Make good use of their time and resources.

Take initiative

The workplace is fast-paced; it’s smart to take the intiative. Don’t wait for your supervisor to give detailed directions. Instead, show initiative, demonstrate sound judgment and ask questions. Ask your supervisor for feedback and act on the feedback. Most supervisors appreciate the participation of employees in company work activities. For example, participate in meetings, volunteer to sit on important committees and welcome delegated tasks as a way to increase your skills.

Be professional

You create good working relationships with your supervisor by acting professionally. Meet work deadlines and keep your supervisor informed about accomplishments and problems. Be honest and don’t agree to do things if you have no intention of following through on them.

The workplace requires you keep up-to-date about developments in your field and improve your work skills through ongoing learning. Avoid the temptation of becoming a superhero, working solo for long hours with excessive overtime. These behaviours can have negative effects on your family and volunteer activities. Learn instead to become a team player and to strike a good balance between work and family responsibilities.

Be resourceful

Growth requires change. Supervisors appreciate employees that are resourceful. Be creative, share ideas and develop problem-solving skills. Have Plan B on standby, in case Plan A doesn’t yield the outcome measures or standards required.

Flexibility is a worker’s key asset. Practise time management skills and schedule time each week for networking. Know who you can call for help when you need it. Supervisors are looking for self-motivated individuals who are interested in more than financial rewards alone.

The choice is yours

Supervisors can be an advocate or an adversary. The choice is largely up to you. The relationship you develop with your supervisor should not be left to chance. Learn to manage your supervisor by taking initiative, being professional and resourceful. Treat your supervisor as your most important internal customer and offer exceptional customer service. Doing so will enhance your employability skills and increase your marketability.

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