Let your manager help you

Interestingly, about the same time when I was writing about how managers should assign jobs to employees, Scot Herrick on Cube Rules was writing on same topic from an employee perspective (“Help your manager help you improve your job skills“)! I liked his example of how employees can cause their own downfall by not using manager in right way:

Think of writing code for your job but then asking your manager to help you become a loan officer because that is your career aspiration. That is a very difficult request to both justify and provide as a manager!

I have seen many variations on this. One that comes to mind immediately is the case where manager had given explicit feedback (and others in the team were in total agreement) that a particular employee could not be a good lead and hence he should grow as individual contributor; however, in every performance review cycle, he would say “I want to become a lead”, would threaten to quit, and won’t really work on being a great individual contributor. Finally he left (3-4 performance review cycles later) but it was clear he didn’t want his manager to help him!

Managing your Boss

Here are some of the questions/issues I  have seen employees directly/indirectly ask which relate to their managers as well as to how they fit in the organizational scheme of things:

  • I can’t talk to my manager, he is too rigid/aloof/scary.
  • I am stuck in my career, no growth. My manager isn’t sympethetic to my career development. 
  • I don’t know how to navigate my company politics/power-structure. 
  • I feel I am under-utilized in my company. 
  • I feel that I am not learning enough. 
  • I don’t know what it takes to be successful in my company or industry.

While there shouldn’t be any employee who will have all of these problems (hope not!), managers or senior managers need to deal with these on frequent basis. Also, acceptable and consistent response to these will help an organization remain successful and competitive because they directly impact the effectiveness and satisfaction of their employees.

The reality is that most managers/organizations do not spend time in addressing these. However, there are some things an employee can do on his/her own even if organization is not geared to address these issues. I call it ‘managing your boss’, because most of what an employee needs has to come via the boss and he/she needs to manage the relationship with boss to get those. So, as an employee, if you want to be successful, you need to know how to manage your boss.

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