Employees, here are 3 ways to skillfully manage your boss

Despite what many employees think, managing your boss isn’t about vilifying his shortcomings. It’s about finding a clear path to follow and accomplishing what needs to be done while maintaining professionalism. In addition, it is about fostering mutual respect, trust and open communication. Moreover, it allows your boss to manage you better because he understands your needs and your communication style.

The reality is that few people in leadership positions have the natural ability to be an effective manager. Gallup research indicates that only about one in 10 people have the talent to manage. In fact, Gallup shared that individual contributors are usually promoted to the rank of manager because of the success they’ve had in their non-managerial role. However, a CareerBuilder study reveals that 58% of managers received no management training before being promoted. As such, a manager’s direct reports must find the best way to work together, which enables them to manage.

There are many benefits of managing your boss such as

  • Improve your own managerial skills
  • Learn to defend yourself
  • Demonstrate to others how to effectively manage
  • Create a healthy work environment for all
  • Understand needs, behaviors, preferences, etc. from your manager.

Here are some reasons why an employee should manage

  • Their manager does not communicate expectations clearly or at all
  • Gives conflicting information about a task or project
  • They are hands-off
  • They don’t get to the point when they talk
  • They are undecided
  • They give last minute tasks with little information and a quick turnaround for completion

Here are three ways an employee can skillfully handle their boss.

Build a relationship with your manager

The goal of building a strong relationship is to build trust. When managers trust an employee, they are more likely to listen when that employee provides constructive feedback. Similarly, they will seek out that employee’s opinion, ideas, and perspective on things. It’s no surprise that many employees are too intimidated to engage in difficult conversations with their superiors to give constructive feedback. By avoiding these difficult conversations, they let the problems fester. This then leads to the employee becoming resentful, blowing up, disengaging, or becoming passive-aggressive, to name a few.

Something valuable that I have learned from a mentor over my career is that providing constructive feedback shows the individual that you value them. It also shows them that you believe they are capable of changing for the better with the feedback they receive. It has allowed me to overcome my own fears when having difficult conversations with managers or employees, because I know it comes from a good place and is meant to help them.

Rather than wasting time trying to figure out a manager’s communication style and preferences, ask them directly. This helps the employee understand what is important to their boss and avoid doing things they don’t like. Likewise, it will be easier to manage and provide critical feedback when needed.

Here are some questions an employee can ask their manager to get to know them better

  • How do you want me to communicate with you? Through Slack? E-mail? Casual conversation? Formal face-to-face meeting?
  • Does this communication preference change depending on the circumstances?
  • How do you prefer to receive feedback?
  • How do you give feedback? Share with them how you prefer to receive feedback
  • How often do you want status updates?
  • If you are not available, who do you recommend I contact for help?
  • What decisions would you like me to make myself? What decisions do you want me to direct through you?


When an employee takes initiative, it shows that he means well. This often inspires other team members to do the same. Employees can take the initiative by finding the job that needs to be rather than waiting for their boss to assign them a task.

Here are some ways an employee can take initiative when managing their boss

  • To ask questions
  • Build relationships with your peers and know how to leverage their strengths for specific projects
  • Mentoring of junior employees
  • Find ways to grow and improve
  • Ask for feedback
  • Take on more responsibility
  • Provide regular status updates
  • Intervene/escalate when a team member is absent or unavailable
  • Identify gaps in systems, procedures or policies and propose solutions
  • Preparing for meetings and contributing

Another way to take initiative is to schedule a one-on-one meeting between a manager and an employee and come prepared with an agenda. One-to-one interviews are crucial because they give the employee the full attention of their manager.

Here are some ways to get the most out of a manager-employee one-on-one

  • If your boss doesn’t ask you about your career goals, offer that information and don’t be afraid to incorporate it into future conversations.
  • Use these one-on-one interviews to share how you prefer to receive feedback
  • Talk about short and long term goals
  • Ask them what they perceive to be your strengths and areas of opportunity
  • Find out more about their professional background
  • Seek coaching for the challenges you face, etc.

Set goals and defend yourself

Taking initiative and autonomy go hand in hand. Whether a boss is new or seasoned, it’s important to take the time to set goals, establish boundaries, and stand up for yourself. Self-advocacy is more than bragging about accomplishments; It’s about prioritizing their mental health, professional goals and needs.

Here are some examples of what self-advocacy looks like

  • Know your strengths and weaknesses
  • Speak up when your workload gets overwhelming or peaks
  • seek help
  • Collaborate with others
  • Manage your time
  • Share achievements

Often, employees assume that their manager will be aware of their difficulties and will immediately step in to help them. However, the fact is that their manager is most likely buried under his own pile of work. Being remote also makes it difficult for managers to notice when an employee is struggling unless it is brought to their attention. That’s why employees should be proactive and contact their manager right away so they can get the support they need right away. Also, if an employee has found a more efficient way to do something, they shouldn’t hesitate to tell their supervisor.

About Donnie R. Losey

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