fb pixel
Monica Wofford is a leadership development specialist focused on training and developing those leaders who have been promoted, but not prepared. For more information about Monica or her firm Contagious Companies, go to www.ContagiousCompanies.com or call 1-866-382-0121.

Has your boss ever made you feel small? It’s hard to manage up when you feel you’re in a vice grip, but if you can break free from the tyranny, you might be surprised at what is really going on with that leader of yours.

There’s an important concept to remember when you have a boss: It is just as valuable to manage up as it is to be an effective, well respected leader to your team members.  But how do you manage up when your boss is doing crazy things or things that hurt your feelings? Why does your boss do that? More importantly what can you do about it? Get better at managing up. These five managing up methods will help.

Ask Questions

When I teach new leaders how to develop their leadership skills, new and veteran bosses alike find value in the reminder to ask more questions. Questions indicate curiosity. (If you’d like a great resource for curiosity, check out Bryan Glazer’s book a Curious Mind) If you’re curious about what drives those you lead, you’ll be a more effective leader. If you’re curious about what drives your bosses behavior, you’ll be a stronger asset, better team member, and less likely to take his or her behavior personally. Some good questions to ask your boss might include: Which one of the three items you’ve asked me to complete takes priority? Did you mean for that to sound like I was in trouble? Being punished? Doing it all wrong? Can you help me understand what might be driving your concern? What can I do to make this less stressful for you?

See Their Humanity

We all know intellectually that your boss puts on his or her pants in the same way you do. No shocking news there. However, much as we do our parents, emotionally we forget that bosses are people, too. They have good days and bad days. They have days when they are not on their A game. They have days when they might have just been yelled at by their boss and proceed to take it out on you, not realizing what they’ve done. They might be afraid you’ll one day find out they’ve no idea what they’re doing. Bosses are people, too and they struggle just like you. One way to manage how their behavior, crazy as it may be at times, is to respectfully recognize they’re human and if it gets really bad, remind them gently that you’re human, too.

Look for Learning

If you’re fixated on all that your boss does wrong, you’ll be miserable. There may be a great number of valid reasons for your misery, but while you’re looking for outs or actions to take to do something about it, also look for moments from which to learn. Dig deeper. It’s possible your boss is simply a jerk, but it’s also possible that his email saying he was disappointed in you is coming from a behavior he sees in himself and he simply doesn’t know how to articulate that very well. You may not be able to ask for clarification here, but you can observe behaviors NOT to emulate or signs of a trigger that you want to avoid tripping in the future.

Stop Whining

This may sound a bit Larry Winget-ish (if you’ve no idea who he is, check him and his books out and turn your sensitivity meter way down!)  or in your face, but the truth of the matter is if you’re still reporting to someone that makes you ask “why does she do that stupid thing?” all the time, you’re still choosing to endure the outcomes. Either do something different or admit that working with her is better than being unemployed or that you don’t want to put forth the effort to create a different environment. Either way, whining about how bad she is while doing nothing about it, lands at least part of the responsibility for the disconnect, right in your lap.

Don’t Give Up

No boss will be in their position forever. Well, your boss might be there far longer than you like, but don’t give up. Try different behaviors to elicit different results. Speak up if you have to. It’s not about letting them win or not letting them win, but about the current test of your fortitude and strength. People typically develop respect for others who exude the kind of confidence that keeps them from getting pushed around. If you give up and throw the towel in, you’re telling your boss that whatever he or she does is okay with you. You’re training them on what you’ll put up with and how to treat you. It’s a fairly simple concept to explain, but admittedly at times more difficult to put into practice, in light of politics and various circumstances. Keep trying to work through it. Keep trying to find something new to do if you must. Keep trying to do what upsets them the least. Keep trying to be yourself and perform your consistent high standard of work, confidently.

There is no denying the well documented study outcome that the number one reason employees leave or quit is because of boss issues and leaving is always an option. However, there are a number of options most don’t try first that may come in very handy when the goal is to manage up more effectively, versus the goal being to change the person to whom you report directly. If you can lead yourself and lead a team of people, you can certainly also choose to lead yoru leader.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

Your leadership style and strengths change how you lead and are perceived by others. Find out how you lead with this quick online assessment.

Your Style?