Career success

How To Manage Your Boss

Ah, the boss, the boss. The person responsible for how much raise we will get this year. That's the person we are talking about here. There is no one kind of boss. There are many kinds of bosses we see at work. But the one best trick to rule them all other tricks to managing the boss is, to make the boss look good. To repeat, make the boss look good, and things will look good for you as well. Sometimes, it may mean you doing the work, and the boss takes all the credit. Do this only when you have an 'understanding' with the boss.


The Seven Types of Bosses

- The Little League Parent: Many bosses treat you as if you are an errant son or daughter. Just remember, parents are self-sacrificing, bosses are not. Understand that what this boss does for you is not for love, but to further his or her own brand.

- The Mentor: Hope for one of these. A mentor will make sure your reputation rises in tandem with his or hers.

- The Wastrel: Sometimes you run into a boss you have to do everything for. If you do, tolerate his or her weakness and use the opportunity to build your own brand by taking on the assignments he or she can’t or won’t tackle.

- The Pariah: Try to keep your brand distinct from this boss. Defend yourself by proving your loyalty to the whole organization.

- The One-Way User: If your boss is one of these, you have to find a way to move on.

- The Wimp: Won’t let you build your brand because he or she won’t let you do anything.

- The Know-It-All: These bosses never listen. Avoid if possible.


(Source: 'Career Warfare' by David Alessandro)


Loyalty towards boss: The simplest example of loyalty is when you protect the interests of your boss. This is okay as long as it doesn't croos the 'line- when you have to compromise your integrity, or when you may be violating ethical, moral, and/or legal constraints. Loyalty is tricky.


Favors for the boss: This is done to make the boss grateful. When you share/give credit to the boss for your own good work, or when you deflect the blame on yoruself. However, as is the case with all boss-related topics, you must never let the boss takes things too far- make you a scapegoat for failures or pressures you to do all the work, and taking credit all the time. We are in exploitation territory now.


Find out what the boss expects: What does the boss like/dislike? Any quirks or prejudices? How does the boss like things done? How does the boss like things presented before them? (long report, to-the-point emails, some bosses are too much attached to presentations and spreadsheets, for example)


Really understanding the boss: The boss is a political animal as well as a very busy person. They won't say everything, or sometimes they are in the process of reaching at decision. Be proactive and 'read the boss', by looking at signs and putting it into context by previous examples. This is useful in impressing the boss as well as influencing the boss's decisions.


Being 'proactive and farsighted': You are 'proactive and farsighted' when the boss sees you always looking for ways to improve the company's performance in various ways, without having taken any permission or any extra resources.


Do the tough tasks: Be eager to take up any work or project that few others are taking up for being too hard, but the boss wants them done. Take up these tasks, learn up on the new skills etc needed to get the job done, and take any help and/or resource on the side. Get the tough shit done, as they say.


With a new boss: Start by accepting the new boss. Next, figure out your new boss's expectations, working style, and what growth opportunities you are going to have under the new boss. Get to work.


Disagreeing with the boss without getting fired: This is a tricky one too. But the suggested best practices are to preferably do it in 'less public' setting (to avoid embarrassing etc), to coat the disagreement with a positive (the 'praise-then-slap' tactic), or to spin the disagreement in form of a question ('what do you think about chances of option Y working in this case?'), or spin the disagreement as a better result ('I think option Y would save reduce the man hours for the project by 30%'). In any case, accept the boss's decision as final. It is soul-sucking but it is fact of working life. Never be the critical and combative type before the boss. Pick your fights carefully. If you decide to make a stand, do so on principle, not for personal gain. Back to the main point: As long as you are seen as a 'solution-bringer' you will most probably come okay after the disagreement.


The rule about talking with your boss: 'Typically, your boss either already knows about the problem or doesn’t want to know about it. Your role is to provide answers, not questions.'- Guy Kawasaki


Giving feedback to the boss: Get permission first. Focus on helping the boss. If you are sure of something, don't say it. Look for another way to say it, sometime later.


Dealing with a boss who demands too much: Don't praise the boss for working long hours (suggestion being that overworking is not good for anyone). Inform clearly when you have prior important commitment, when the boss tells you put in extra hours one day. As long as you are working really hard and are seen as a valuable performer, you may still come out okay. Remember, these tactics may work when the boss is not putting in the hours, but when the boss is the hardest worker of all, you really excuse most of the time. If you value work-life balance, time to move on.


Never ever let the 'difficult boss' morph into an 'abusive' boss: Stay calm, make sure your legal standing is strong, move against the boss through all the proper channels- senior management, legal etc. Also see the 'disagreeing with boss' section above.


Dealing with a 'bullying' boss: Everyone says we must take it up with the bully directly. But, everyone also suggests to take a break first, get some fresh air and look at the problem- at the boss's situation, at yours, at the issue in the middle- what is at stake? Go over your arguments. Go over the probable responses. Confront the boss, preferably in a private place. Be calm and resolute and present your case. Give examples, lots of them. And how they were wrong. Stay on point. Less emotions and more facts. Focus and frame everything around how valuable an employee you are ('I reduced the ad spend for the quarter by 25%, while increasing returns by 30%. I was disappointed to see you shout at me during the team meeting.')


And remember this: Don't complain about the bullying boss to your colleagues via email. Tom Hanks's character says something like this in 'Saving Private Ryan', 'Complaints go up, never down.' If things don't change after this showdown, time to move.


Thank you for reading.
This guide is from The Success Manual, which contains 200+ guides to succeeding in business, career and personal life.  Get the pdf ebook for $12 only.