Help Your Boss Help You

You only get out of your career what you put into it, and that especially applies to your relationship with your boss. This is the person who will ultimately determine your path at the company, and you shouldn’t be afraid to “manage up” — that is, learn to adapt to your boss’s work style so you can give him or her the best performance and results possible.

“Not all managers work the same or have the same expectations, so if a lower-level employee learns how to adapt and serve a manager in a way that gets the work done better and faster, not only will that employee be recognized as a stellar performer, the business will excel and hopefully offer more opportunity for growth and advancement,” said Christine Barney, CEO and managing partner of rbb Communications.

In some cases, a boss doesn’t always have time to work closely with his or her team, said Guy Yehiav, CEO of prescriptive analytics company Profitect. It then becomes your responsibility to keep your boss updated on your projects and ensure that everything gets done, even if that means delegating tasks.

“In reality, this allows a lower-level employee to strengthen their skill set and put in place the leadership practices that they personally think are for the greater good of the company,” Yehiav added.

But you want to be careful when you’re having these conversations: To avoid seeming pushy or entitled, you’ll need to approach them professionally and respectfully. Here’s how to effectively manage up, and help yourself by helping your boss.

Earn your boss’s trust

If you want your manager to be receptive to your ideas and feedback, you must first truly earn his or her trust. You can do this by building up a friendly rapport with them to learn the way they work, said Samantha Lambert, director of human resources at Blue Fountain Media.

“You really have to have the right … chemistry with your boss to [manage up],” she told Business News Daily. “Lower-level employees are still learning and navigating through their careers, [but] … knowing how to adapt to or work with a boss will set them apart from the rest.”

Lambert advised workers to get to know their boss on a professional and personal level.

“Share about yourself, too, if you have the opportunity, because that is a level of curiosity, care [and] concern that can directly impact the [trust in a] work relationship,” she said.

Finally, check your ego at the door. Commit yourself to your manager’s and your company’s goals, and show them that you can be a reflection and extension of their success, said Lambert.

Give regular feedback (but don’t nag)

On any given day, managers are juggling a dozen “behind the scenes” tasks to oversee their other employees and answer to their own bosses. While your boss should be checking in with you regularly, you’re probably not the only person he or she has to worry about — if you’re not openly expressing your concerns and questions, your boss may not instinctively know you have them. That’s why it’s so important to offer your honest feedback.

“When your manager asks you for feedback, give it,” said Dominique Jones, chief people officer at Halogen Software, a provider of employee performance and talent management solutions. “Look at this as an important opportunity to … help yourself. A culture [of feedback] improves performance, advances personal development and improves employee engagement.”

It’s important to time your feedback properly, too. Barney reminded employees to be aware of their boss’s expectations and preferences when it comes to communication, and to understand when you might be perceived as helpful versus pushy.