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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Managing Up

“Good morning boss! You look really terrific today boss! Did you like the necktie I gave you for your birthday?.. You know, your good for nothing other staff Caloy, he messed up his work again. I already told him to be careful because that project was important to you but he doesn’t seem to know anything!!!”

A little kissing up to the boss may help lubricate the relationship a bit but, too much of it and too little of everything else can only get you closer to his behind and nothing further.

For as long as you work in an organization, you will always have a boss, someone you report to and is responsible for your performance. He or she can be the big help you are looking for in succeeding in your career, but s/he can also be the biggest hindrance if you don’t know how to manage your boss.

There are perhaps tens even hundreds of tips out there on how to manage your boss, but let me give you five of the most important tips you can use as you traverse your professional life.

Pay attention, in short, know your boss, pay attention to how your boss works or what is important to him. Is he very organized? Is he a slob? A know it all, or a know nothing? Does he enjoy being more of a hands-on leader? Give him a chance to be a hands-on leader by asking his help or seeking his advice. Is he a free-reign type? Be resourceful enough to earn his trust and give him updates on your progress. Ask him for his expectations. Compile a list of the 3-5 things that define the management style of your boss. Keep these items in mind when interacting with him.

No Surprises. I remember a time when I saw my staff nervously pacing about in his cubicle. Since, that was not the first time I saw him do that, I also nervously asked him what the problem was. He took a deep breath and said “we’ll you see it’s like this”… He went on giving tons of excuses on why we have to pay an employee his medical reimbursement because he forgot to process the SSS reimbursement request, and has been hiding the problem away from me for weeks! I know now how incredible my patient is because, he tested it a lot! The key here is always keeping your boss in the loop. If it's good news, share it and share the credit, thank your boss for his support even if he didn’t have a single thing to do with it. If it's not good news, don't try to hide it. Your boss will find out, and it will be worse if it doesn't come from you. And if you made a mistake, take full ownership of it, present some possible solutions, and detail a plan that will prevent it from happening again.

Bring Solutions. I learned this the hard way. I was then a store supervisor in a convenience store. I went to my boss to tell her that we have a problem. My boss said, “did I hear you right? Did you say we have a problem?” “y-yes ma’am, was my uncertain reply.” She smiled at me and said “Let me correct you on that Ed, I don’t have a problem. Maybe you have a problem, but I don’t!!!” From that experience I realized that when there is a challenge, you have to be sure you've already assessed the options before going to your boss. If your boss is needed to make a decision, present the challenge, and then present the possible solutions. Be prepared to explain the ramifications - both the rewards as well as the risks - of your suggestions. Never, never go to your boss without a suggested solution unless, you’re absolutely clueless.

Communicate, communicate, and communicate. Don't expect your accomplishments to automatically get noticed. Some bosses are as blind as bats in recognizing accomplishments. Make sure your boss is aware of them without sticking your accomplishments to his face. Understand exactly what your boss is looking for and expecting from you. Understand what he/she uses to evaluate your performance and make sure that he sees you meeting these expectations. This is called Visibility.

Positive Attitude. Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you can do. Your attitude determines how well you do your job. Everyone likes and respects a winner, yes, even your boss. So what is the positive attitude you need to have? Think like a winner, be a winner.


  1. I like the new theme. Very nice!

  2. ^^^
    Someone noticed your layout! The overnight work has paid off! Cool!

    I think I had the most unmanageable boss at one point in my career. I said that because I was not the only person who did not like how he leads our team. He was a lot too "bossy" - that all of us ended up handing our resignation letters - well, one by one. (The last batch of those people under him went out to of the country to find new jobs).

    No one understood his behavior. I was not alone in that thought.

  3. @web-betty, Really? Thanks! Took me a while and a lot of panicky moments to have it done being the technologically naive that I am :)

    @Gem, I read a book by Larry Bossidy Ram Charan called Execution and it in effect implied that a poor boss is a by product of that person's poorer boss who fail to coach that person how to lead. I think that's a topic I should blog about next. Although I've talked about Jerks in the work place in the past.

  4. Thanks! I noticed that in a workplace, where everyone has this same "attitude" on leading people. It made subordinates uncomfortable and the working environment is a lot of pressure.


If you have an opinion about this topic or a related experience you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment but please be respectful. No bad words please or I will be constrained to delete it.