Managing your manager is critical in achieving promotions, winning coveted assignments and receiving raises. Many chemical professionals do not devote sufficient attention to this aspect of their jobs. It’s not about manipulation; it’s about helping your manager do her job better while still doing your own job well. The key to managing your supervisor is to meet their needs.
Managing upwards requires insight to figure out what motivates your manager so you can decide on the proper approaches for communicating and collaborating with him or her. It also may take initiative to give managers what they need to be successful. Once you have helped them build their record of success, they will likely be more willing to do the same for you.
By understanding what motivates your manager, you can tailor your performance to offer him precisely what he wants and how he wants it. Some managers make it perfectly clear what they are looking for above and beyond conventional performance expectations. However, with others, this is harder to determine and this requires clarifying expectations and continually working towards a greater level of understanding.
Don’t expect your manager do all the work in developing a productive working relationship. The manager – subordinate relationship is a two-way street; both of you are responsible for developing an effective working relationship.
To manage your supervisor, you have to understand her management style and personality.
The four main manager styles are:
- Command & control
- Calm & steady
Dozens of different management styles have been proposed. The above four are based in part on the analyses of management Ken Blanchard author of The One Minute Manager. Command & control managers are extroverts oriented towards accomplishment and success. They thrive on competition and deadlines. They look for both personal advance and greater recognition for the people who report to them. These are often the “movers and shakers” who quickly climb the organization ladder. Good command & control managers are not micromanagers. They are willing, often eager, to delegate authority and responsibility.
Good command & control managers do not stifle individual initiative. They want staff members to offer creative options but they require control over choosing which option to pursue.
Influencers are also extroverts but are often more people-oriented than command and control managers. They are friendly and seek opportunities for social contact with staff members. They often enjoy being the center of attention but the good ones are also excellent motivators. They encourage participation welcoming ideas and thus encouraging imagination and spontaneity. They are often great at running brainstorming sessions.
Influencers need reassurance that their management style is working. So offer positive feedback to show your appreciation for all they do to help the staff and you in particular to succeed. If you mirror their optimism and enthusiasm, they are more likely to listen to what you say.
Calm & steady managers are competent and reliable. They get the job done but may sometimes resist change. They prefer doing things the same way they’ve always done them. They are often more reserved and have less contact with staff members than the two types of managers discussed above. The contact they have with staff members is often more structured and less spontaneous than the two types of managers previously discussed.
Calm & steady managers appreciate staff members’ loyalty and getting the job done “without rocking the boat.” Earn their trust and they will ask you for feedback and other assistance. If you want to try a new way to do things, try to sell your manager on the benefits of the change and stress its similarity to current work processes.
Cautious managers are looking for ways to improve things or be more efficient. However, they prefer approaches that let them take things step by step. Not necessarily rigid, they may improve work processes but through a series of carefully considered steps implemented sequentially. Detailed oriented, this type of manager often is susceptible to the false lure of micromanagement. If you work for a cautious manager, demonstrate your attention to detail. Let him know he can rely on you to successfully do things the way he wants them done.
Giving managers what they need
Knowing how your manager defines success allows you to better communicate your successes to him. Does your manager like numbers? Offer him statistics. Does he value initiative and innovation? Collect and present success stories from others about how they have benefited from your ideas. If you work for a cautious manager and more senior managers are mandating changes, show him you know how to make changes without causing chaos.
Respectful candor should be the basis of communications with your supervisor. There’s an art to presenting information to managers, particularly issues needing a decision. Frame your advice positively. Avoid emotionally laden language. Don’t just bring your manager a problem – offer them a recommended solution as well.
Another concern is whether your supervisor prefers to learn just the bottom line – the final results of your work – or prefers to understand the details of how you got the job done. This isn’t hard to learn. Your boss will either tell you to get to the bottom line or his body language will do so while you discuss a project. Adapt your communication style accordingly. This can require some self-discipline as we often present ideas to others as we would like them presented to us.
Learn your supervisor’s preferences
Learn your manager’s preference in other areas besides communications. Understanding what makes your supervisor tick is essential to developing and managing your relationship. For example, what are his pet peeves? Learn his values, priorities, strengths, weaknesses and expertise.
No matter what type of manager you have, when you look good, he looks good. Perfecting your personal performance while tailoring your work processes and communications to her preferences form the backbone of your relationship with your manager.
John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.” He has had more than 1200 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers.