Developing a good relationship with your manager

Carlo Atienza-Sui Generis

Probably the single most important professional relationship you will ever have is with your manager. I say this because they can influence where your career is headed and they have the power to open opportunities for your career. But this does not mean you kowtow to their every demand because they are also dependent on your work to fulfill their deliverables. Hence, you need each other if you are to succeed in attaining your goals.

A good working relationship between you and your manager impacts both your careers because their success is also your success. When you work well with your manager, you consistently attain your goals, you enjoy your work more, and you find ways to be fully engaged in the way you do work. Given the nature of how your work is intertwined with your manager’s, it is important to have a mutually beneficial professional relationship.

To begin, assess for yourself what can be improved in your relationship with your manager. You need to understand that your career development depends on your manager so you need to know what they expect from you. When your manager sits down with you for your performance evaluation, ask them what they expect you to develop within the year. Do they see you running a small group within the team? Do they see you taking up more stakeholder management tasks? Do they see you as slacking? Asking them directly will help you fine-tune your action plans, as well as indicate to your manager that you want to professionally grow.

Next, clarify tasks to ensure that you understand what is expected from you. There are people who would just accept tasks without question and end up disappointing their manager and grumbling that the task was not explained properly. When given a task, your manager needs to depend on you to clarify the task if it is unclear because if you do not ask questions, they will expect you to follow through. When you agree to a task without fully understanding the end goal, you will just frustrate yourself and your manager. If you do not understand what your manager really wants, you will make the same mistakes over and over again. So, it is important for you to know what exactly is expected from you.

One thing you need to know about your manager is their work style. You need to know how they work to understand how they react and deal with you, their fellow managers, and their direct supervisors. This does not mean adopting their own work style but by knowing how they work, you can adjust your work output deliberately. For example, ask how frequent they need a report on a project, how detailed they want it to be, or even what time in the day they want it. These things will determine what you need to highlight in your project status reports and the manner of delivering them.

Related to their work style is their personality. If they are analytical and introverted, you might want to stick to reporting project status reports using a dashboard and highlighting only those that need their attention. If they are easy-going and extroverted, you can focus your report on what they can communicate in the next management committee meeting. Their personality can affect the way you do your work, so you will have to adjust based on their preferences. As an added caution, people change, including your manager, so you need to regularly make allowances for these changes.

Depending on how frequent they want status reports, provide them the information they need to make sound decisions. Your manager depends on you to provide accurate and reliable information so make sure you know what kinds of information they need on a regular basis, and which ones they need to urgently take action. In terms of issues, how involved do they want to be? Do they want to be copy-furnished in all emails? Or, do they want to be copied only on issues that involve people based on rank or urgency? These things help keep your communication lines open and ensure issues are addressed expediently before they become problems.

During discussions and team meetings, check your own emotions toward your manager and identify why you are feeling the way you do. These could indicate unrealistic expectations or unresolved issues that might be clouding your judgment. Check your own biases and understand how they affect the way you perceive your manager and how you communicate with them.

Whether you like it or not, your perception of your manager shows in the way you talk, your choice of words, and even your body language. Your manager can pick up on these things and might take them as cues for insubordination or distrust. So check your emotions and what they indicate.

Whenever disagreements arise between you and your manager, adopt a solution-based mindset. Focus on the facts and base your discussion on shared reports and documents. Understand that your manager may have other considerations aside from those that you have raised, and is in a better position to evaluate whether a certain action plan is tenable. Try to get as much information from your manager to understand why they decided the way they did, but also understand that they will decide based on all available information, so strive to provide accurate and reliable information.

When conflicts are resolved, rebuild trust by setting clear expectations from each other. Acknowledge how you contributed to the fall-out and then identify steps on how to move forward. If needed, involve human resources so that future incidents are monitored and they can provide alternative working arrangements when needed.

Your manager plays a key role in your success. You need to know how to best position yourself so that you get the support and help that you need. When you develop a good working relationship with your manager, doors of opportunities will open for your own success.

Image credits: Linkedin Sales Solutions on Unsplash


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