Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, once said that when he asked employees to tell him something about their jobs they inevitably began by telling him about their boss. “If I only know how to manage the boss.” Therefore, he dedicated an entire chapter named, “Managing the Boss” in his famous academic book called “Management.”
Drucker reckons that managing the boss is both an opportunity and a responsibility and outlines seven specific strategies to success:
- Make a “boss list.”
- Asking each for his or her input, and giving each your input
- Enabling them to perform
- Playing to the manager’s strengths
- Keeping managers informed
- Protecting bosses from surprises
- Never underrating bosses
We outline here seven more:
When you accept a task, your boss expects and relies on you to get the job done. If you are serious about impressing your boss, you better get it done as if your life depended on it. Never promise anything to your boss if you are not confident of doing the job. When the boss sees you as a person who keeps promises on a consistent basis, it is much easier to be in friendly terms. And your credibility as a person would rise a few notches up.
Bosses need cooperation and honesty from their direct reports. Subordinates, on the other hand, require managers to set priorities and make critical resources available promptly to conduct the work efficiently. Smoother the operation, better the relationship between the worker and the boss. It requires the employee to understand the personality traits, communication preferences, and subtle nuances of the bosses and adapt their working style accordingly. Because, after all, success in the workplace depends on your adaptability. The boss needs you as much as you need him/her. Hence establish a working relationship that is compatible to both of you.
If the boss is not aware of certain trends in the market that could derail your plan it is better to disclose that at an early stage so that nothing comes as a surprise. Moreover, the boss may be able to put measures in place that can mitigate risks and help you get on with your assignment without any disruption. Any manager would appreciate a trend-spotter in the organization. In fact, it is an essential skill of a competent employee. It is also a commendable trait to have a conversation about the potential challenges you could face in carrying out your project due to the upcoming trends. Agree on a plan of action and provide periodic updates.
Even if you think you have the permission to be casual with your boss do not go overboard in your friendliness. Keep a professional distance that is acceptable to both of you taking into consideration the company culture and the norms of the workplace. Your professionalism will also stand you in good stead when your boss does your annual appraisal or when considering promotions within or between departments. Developing a professional relationship can earn you your boss’s respect and admiration and will also set a good example for new recruits and junior employees. If you think things are not going well, handle it in a professional manner rather than let your emotions take control.
Bosses can be under immense pressure and may falter in performing the necessary managerial roles. It can have an unintended adverse effect on your job performance. Try to find out the reasons and politely discuss this with your boss but never confront because confrontation can deteriorate the relationship. It is feasible to manage the challenges with an open discussion and debate successfully. If needed, include a trusted HR personnel or a departmental colleague who can assist you in augmenting your arguments. That way you can have an eye witness to the discussion that happened between you and your boss.
Send your messages across to the boss using the right strategies. When you have an important point to stress that can benefit the whole company and have a positive impact on the bottom line try to demonstrate the highlights using either a spreadsheet or a visual demo. Remember most people are visuals. Zero in on what matters to the boss the most. Then hone in and use your persuasive skills. It is especially useful if your ideas and concepts are innovative and novel. You may be asked to repeat the demonstration during the staff meeting for everyone to see. It is often a good sign as it shows that you have got your boss’ attention.
Leave your boss
You may reach a point where you have tried all the strategies mentioned above, and none sufficed. Well, time to quit. A vast majority of workers leave jobs because of an unmanageable boss. It is better to look for greener pastures than to be stuck in a rut. Employees spend a good portion of the waking hours at the workplace. If an unhappy boss is making the workplace toxic, you should do yourself a favor and get out of the negative atmosphere. An ideal situation would be to find another job before you leave so that you do not have to feel the pressure of mounting bills. If you have an approachable colleague, who can understand you, feel free to discuss the matter with him/her.
We have come a long way from the time Peter Drucker outlined the seven strategies on how to manage the boss. Although all of them are still relevant, the organizational dynamics and employee roles have changed slightly and required additional tactics. Moreover, the rise of technology-based jobs and the entrance of Millennials into the job market have added to the complexity of the dynamics.