Managing Your Manager – How to successfully ensure a smooth working relationship and grow your career


By Aileen Hallahan, Director, TalentScope Recruitment Solutions

It’s not uncommon that I hear candidates tell me they are frustrated with their manager and the reasons outlined can vary from “I do all the work… they take the credit” to “I feel my manager doesn’t understand what I contribute” and a huge range of situations in-between.

The key of course to any working relationship is communication and consultation. Quite often we assume that people know how hard you are working or what your frustrations may be on a day-to- day basis at work, but if you don’t express them,  then how is anyone to know your concerns or to help alleviate them?

Years ago I was advised by an executive coach that I needed to manage my manager and the suggestion somewhat surprised me. I was of that old-school approach that your manager was the “be-all-and-end-all” – you did your job, followed instructions, delivered your results and got on with it. It opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone is 100% confident in how to get the best out of each individual and that I indeed had my part to play in structuring my career and driving what I wanted to achieve from my job and promotional career path.

If you have an open environment in the work place to have a regular non-work related “catch-up” (excuse the overused business speak), this is the best environment for you to outline what and why you would change if you could, but be sure to be able to clarify why you think things might work better in a different way or how things could be improved. Simply saying “I’d like to achieve X, is fine but a far better pitch would be to say “because I feel it will achieve XYZ….and will benefit the business because….. In other words, come with the issue but also the solution. This will also make you feel less concerned that you will be perceived as simply airing your grievances or complaining about your current role/responsibilities.

Too many organisations only speak to their employees about work-related issues, not taking the time to understand their motivations or frustrations. Let’s face it, we all have them from time to time and having an opportunity to air your concerns or worries in the workplace, can make you feel entirely different about the situation and more importantly, to view things in a more positive light (as well as viewing your Manager and the organisation in a more positive light for taking the time to listen).

If you do not have the working environment that encourages this type of open discussion, it may fall to you to “manage” this process and hence “Manage your Manager”. Suggest a specific time to discuss progress, plans, concerns, ideas and ensure it doesn’t deviate into a generic meeting regarding the day to day operational duties again.

Yes, it’s about work but more importantly, about your work satisfaction and often just having the conversation can help hugely. This will help make you feel that you are a valued employee, that your opinion and your voice and of course, your enjoyment of your role, matters. Most good Managers will understand the need for this to happen anyway but if it’s not part of their agenda, then it will fall to you to make it so.

Recognition is key to most employees and a frank conversation around this can often satisfy a frustrated employee. It will be important to have a clear agenda so that you can tick off the items you wish to discuss and ensure you can stay on track around these topics.

It’s so important for all organisations to understand the motivations of their employees and to help them grow within the company or even grow outside the company and ideally there would be a formal (or even informal) and regular process for this.

Every Manager would prefer to know your grievances rather than to lose you to another organisation so it may be time to manage your destiny more and instigate the conversations at work you really want to have.

Lastly, don’t forget – your Manager likely has a lot of pressures, stress and responsibilities that you are probably unaware of. Don’t forget to treat your manager like any other work colleague and ensure you take into consideration their situation as well as your own. Get to know the best times to talk, what your limits are in terms of subject matter and try to get to know him/her on a more personal level.

You should find a positive outcome in most instances. If not, maybe that’s telling you that you may find better job satisfaction elsewhere.