IT Employment

Tips for managing up

Having trouble dealing with your boss? Studies show that fear is the most common factor beneath bad management behavior.

I ran across a piece today by Anne Kadet called 10 ways to make your boss love you. Once I got over the uncomfortable mental image of an employee standing under his boss's window with a boom box blaring Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" (ala the movie Say Anything), I found this article very informative.

Kadet emphasizes, among other things, the benefits of having empathy for the boss (undertanding some of his or her pressures), being positive, and showing initiative.

One statement in particular was intriguing to me. Kadet mentions a study by consultant Lynn Taylor, who interviewed 200 bosses and employees and discovered that the one factor underlying all the supervisors' most annoying behaviors was fear. In fact, many of the recommendations in the article are based on easing the fears of the boss, and subsequently, earning his or her loyalty. Kadet says,

"Whether a boss is being demanding, critical, stubborn or needy, chances are she's scared of failing or looking bad to her own boss."

I believe, also, that fear is a frequent determiner of management behavior. Sometimes it comes from insecurity about being able to lead a team -- not a far-flung fear when you consider how infrequently companies offer management training. (Case in point: Spending on leadership development as a share of employee education budgets fell 20 percent last year.)

Sometimes fear sprouts naturally from the pressures handed down by the executive team. Can I make those numbers? Can I meet that deadline?

The point of Kadet's piece is to understand these fears and support your boss. I'm concerned, however, that some people will take the tips given in the article and interpret them as ways to use their boss's fear to manipulate him or her. For example, "Make like Mini-Me":

They say that if you want to be the boss, you should dress like the boss. That's true. But here's an even better reason to copy your supervisor's look: It creates an instant connection. Research shows that we feel more comfortable and trusting around people who reaffirm the validity of our own choices, and that includes our choice of fashion. An employee who adopts the boss's look is saying he's on the boss's team, says Clearwater, Fla., image consultant Kelly Machbitz.

I'd have to draw the line there. And not just because I don't want to have to start wearing ties like my boss. It's just that I think that advice strays from helping a boss ease his or her fears to something along the lines of subconscious manipulation, which is a little creepy.

But over all, I think Kadet offers some good advice in the article, and it's worth checking out.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

17 comments
NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

The glaring truth of this article resonated with me so resoundingly, that I decided to go out during lunch, and purchase attire in order to honor my boss. I am now typing my last TR post for a while. I am about to be escorted of the building by security. Apparently, my now former-employer frowns upon plunging neckline shirts, pumps and short skirts on men. Fare thee well!!! :p

jck
jck

Don't feel bad. If I leave this job, I am wearing something really loud the last day that fits within dress guidelines and will get me sent home early. Then, I'll just stay home and call in and tell them I was in an accident. Weeeeeeee

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

After getting proverbially bent over the barrel, it would be good for workers to dole some of it back; even if in small and harmless doses!

jck
jck

I agree. There's gonna be something. Me and my neighbors next to me have been talking about that for 3 years as the market has gotten worse, jobs are more scarce (his company cut him...only after waiting 60 days after they expired his insurance), and people are sick of being stepped on by their employer, business, and the government. Although I don't support an overthrow/revolution of militaristic portions, something does have to be done in this country. I'd rather see change and progress come without bloodshed or tears.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

...not only got a pay-cut; they severely curtailed the ability for people to get a second job, citing "conflict of interest" anytime it would be broached. This is when he was trying to get a job as a bartender. I could see if if he was in law enforcement, or something along those lines. However, he's in logistics. Firmly planted behind a desk 9-5. Unreal. I heard Michael Moore the other day give an interview, mentioning that there is a revolution on the horizon. Usually, I dismiss a lot of what he says as self-serving propaganda. While he was obviously stumping for his new film, I still don't find it as easy to dismiss him on this one. Kick even the most timid and tame of dogs long enough, it will snarl and snap, eventually. I'm going to go buy my brown coat now! ;)

jck
jck

Well if I leave here to pursue another profession, I am seriously considering going to the authority over my boss' bosses. They have recently done some things that, in lieu of increases in costs of living, no pay raise, and how the economy is biting...they cost all employees more money to institute policy without any reimbursement. At a time when someone making $30k a year has it tough, asking them to drop in a month's time more money than it costs to power their house for a month...is what I'd call inexcusable of management and being out of touch with their staff and their staff's needs.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Or the plunging neckline. Probably was the thong.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

Your powers of perception border on prescience!! :)

jck
jck

you went commando :^0

Fregeus
Fregeus

But I have a real hard time with this line of thinking. My boss makes more money than I do, that's because its HIS job to fix problem that I cannot fix myself. If I can fix the issue, the best thing I can do is not talk to him about it unless he asks. My job is technical. I am here to either make sure things run smoothly or to install/retire some piece of technology as smoothly as possible. I'm not here to kiss a$$ anyone. What ever happen to just being happy about doing a good job. A job well done use to be all that you needed to make you boss happy. Now I have to fix problem before they get to him, dress like him (if everyone did that, you might as well dress like the CEO), take pity on him for having "difficult" duties that he get a shit load of money for and usually doesn't give a crap about. I should not have to be a leader for my leader. This both sucks and blows. TCB

JoeBro
JoeBro

I don't know how it works in the US or Canada but, in my experience, it's never been the reponsibility of a boss to fix a problem because his/her team member can't. The reponsibility of management is to ensure that the team/individual goals are set to align with the department/company's strategy, and to give their teams the resources they need to acheive those goals. If you're lucky you get a boss that has done what you do, is more knowledgable and can help fix something, that's a bonus. Helping them acheive their goals should help you acheive yours - and vice versa; it's shouldn't be about kissing ar$e. I do agree with you about dress code, though. If you don't know what's appropriate for your job role then that's your look out - and they should have more important things to worry about.

Fregeus
Fregeus

By "fixing the problems I can't", I don't mean technical problems. I mean problems I either don't have the authority to solve or question. Things like interdepartemental political issues, Hyper-demanding customers (users), Unreasonable demands from PM or PC (Project customer), things of that nature. I agree with your point of view in regards to ; to ensure that the team/individual goals are set to align with the department/company's strategy, and to give their teams the resources they need to acheive those goals.. What I hate is when the personal objectives of the manager comes before the company's objectives, where his ambition is more important than the smooth running of the department. I had a couple of those and they are not fun to work for. TCB

jck
jck

I like the way you think, TCB. We need to have a beer if I come up to Canada to visit. I got friends up in Toronto and Ottawa.

jfbauer
jfbauer

Being in IT for going on 20 years, half initially in engineering and half recently in management, I was constantly shaking my head "yes" as I read both articles. I even have to side with number 9 on dressing on par with the boss. I had someone in the management chain that was constantly making comments about the out of band dress code of subordinates, either too informal or formal compared to his own code. On a similar vein, I've started a similar thread of articles on the role an IT engineer plays in supporting his boss during a system outage and root cause analysis effort here: http://bit.ly/rDCS7

dhearne
dhearne

All of a supervisor's fears are of their own making. I have zero sympathy for a suit that makes twice as much as I do to pass technical information (usually INcorrectly) to decision makers. The ONLY way to handle a supervisor that messes in their own pen is to deliberately manipulate them into an unpardonable blunder and hope for less of a moron the next time around.

jck
jck

If your employee is more worried about making sure to dress like you when he/she goes home at night, isn't that a bit daft? I'd think you want your employees to be free (within reason) to express their individuality. Some people like wearing Polo shirts by Ralph Lauren. Some people think wearing a shirt with a Polo logo on it is a cry for attention they never got from their mommy. Some people think blowing $40 on a shirt with a Polo logo on it is stupid, when you can get a Jerzees golf knit at Bealls Outlet stores for $6-8. Letting your people be comfortable in their skin or their clothes either one makes for a better work environment for them and lets them worry and focus on their work when they're there...and less about what is needed for work when they are at home living their personal life.