Saturday, July 30, 2005

How to manage your manager

We all have one and like it or not, we do make fun of them behind their backs or at the very least disagree or assume that they are totally incompetent. The truth is far from that for as a manager, I do understand some of the sentiments. I have always taken the stance that "treat your employees the way that you would want to be treated" and that "a manager works for the team not the other way around". In other words, the role of the manager is to remove any obstacles that is preventing the employees from fulfilling and delivering on their work.

Here then is a list of Do's and Don'ts on building a good relationship with your manager.

1. Don't tell your manager to go RTFM.
I actually had an employee who told me that after I enquired about the steps that he needed to go through to install and create an Oracle database. What I would expect from the employee is his/her justification on why he would need two weeks to install and create an Oracle database. Needless to say, there were no good justification and if I could, said employee will be on the dole line but alas, other factors comes into play especially when you are managing in a unionized environment.

2. Don't run to your manager with problems
Although I see my role as a problem solver for the team, it is imperative that the employee has actually think the problem through and has come up with a few potential resolutions. My role then is assist in picking the right solution or to offer alternatives. This is a great way to develop and encourage your employees to be self-reliant.

3. Don't tell your manager that you are taking time off just 15 minutes before you leave for the day.
Unless it is an emergency, this is no way to leave your manager in a situation. Basically, you are telling your manager that you don't need his/her approval and tough luck if the request causes problems (it's not yours)! Well, as a manager, you would like to be able to plan and having your employees leaving you in the lurch and thereby forcing you to scramble to deal with the situation is not the best way to help your manager.

4. Don't surprise your manager.
Surprises are not good unless it's the birthday kind. Always keep your manager informed of progress. This can be done via an email or in person and should not be skipped especially if you are working on a problem.

5. Don't be afraid to admit that you don't know.
If something new came up that you have not come across before, don't be afraid to say that you don't know. The trick is to follow up and get back to your manager about it. I would prefer an employee who is willing to admit that s/he doesn't know but will follow up with research than someone who pretends to know.

6. Do not lie.
This is a CLM (Carerr Limiting Move). Not being truthful is probably the worst thing that you can do as it has a way of making a bad situation worse. Besides, if you are willing to lie, then what else are you willing to do?

1. Do help your manager be successful.
Being a team player and willing to help ensure that the team is successful will ensure that your contributions will not be forgotten after all who wouldn't want to surround themselves with folks who are willing to ensure success.

2. Do tell your manager when s/he is wrong.
Be willing to tell your manager when s/he is about to make a mistake. Obviously you need to do it tactfully and also provide the reason why. The worst that may happen is that your manager will ignore your advice. There is no point in rubbing your manager's nose in it. People do make mistakes and it's telling how you recover from your mistakes.

3. Do let your manager know of problems and potential solutions.
This is the same as "Don't run to your manager with problems" as it reinforces the need to inform your manager of problems and that you have things under control.

Obviously the list is by no means exhaustive and it is a start. I would be interested to hear from others.

Note: I was supposed to post this a few months ago but never did get around to actually getting my thoughts down until now.


Anonymous said...

"2. Don't run to your manager with problems"
"3. Do let your manager know of problems and potential solutions."

Not sure about (2). If you have problems and can't come up with solutions, then the manager still needs to know, especially when they are 'people problems' rather than 'technical problems'.

Peter K said...

Read the rest of #2.

I said that it is imperative that the employee has actually think the problem through and has come up with a few potential resolutions.

You definitely do not want your employees to be running to you at the first sight of trouble. The intent is to encourage the employee to come up with their own solutions (rightly or wrongly) otherwise, you are not helping them develop beside if you ended having to resolve all problems, you will not have the time to do the stuff that you are suppose to do. :D

David Aldridge said...

Nice article, Pete.

I don't have an elegant way of phrasing this, but one factor that has always seemed to me to be a quality of the best manager/employee teams is that of shared responsibility. It works both ways of course -- when employees give a manager an expected completion date then they accept responsibility for it, and managers accept responsibility for supporting the employees in reaching it.

One of the symptoms of a rotten team is of course the opposite -- employees who throw out a date then complain about being expected to meet it, or managers who dump a load of unexpected work on them and make the deadline too tough to meet.

Robert Vollman said...

It is impossible to look good when your manager looks bad. It's been tried, over and over again. Never works.