05 February 2024 |

Is your manager failing to meet your expectations?

By Hebba Youssef

Have you ever been really excited about a new manager you’re going to work with only to end up disappointed? 

I’ve def been there! 

You go into the relationship with big hopes and dreams about what your manager is going to teach you, how working together will be a breeze and how they’ll always be your biggest champion. 

But then everything goes to sh*t and you’re left wondering: is it me? Am I the problem?

Truthfully the employee is rarely the problem. 

The manager is. 

TBH: Managers have one of the hardest jobs out there. 

I’ve extensively written about the balancing act that is managing from the lack of training, support, and resources available for managers to the impossible workload some managers have. 

And while I have a TON of empathy for managers, the first place a bad manager has an impact? Their team. 

And most employees don’t know what to do when they feel like their manager is failing them. 

Running to HR isn’t really an option because most employees assume that it will damage the relationship with their manager further and most companies would rather part ways with an employee than deal with the manager. 

Harsh, but true at some organizations… 

So what can employees do when they’re struggling with their manager? 

Try managing up. 

I see you maybe rolling your eyes at me, just hear me out!

Let me show you how to manage up effectively. 

Managing up 101: 

Harvard Business Review’s definition of managing up: “being the most effective employee you can be, creating value for your boss and your company.” 

🙄That definition kind of gives me the ICK. 

To me managing up is about protecting your peace as an employee. 

Every time I’ve managed up well I’ve felt more in control of my work, environment, and boundaries and I’m able to be more productive and engaged. AKA I create more value. All back to that HBR definition but a better way of framing it. 

To manage up well you need to:

  • Understand your manager’s goals
  • Understand how your manager operates 

KEYWORD: Understanding. 

My strategies will be focused on understanding how your manager operates! 

More on goals next week… 

3 strategies to deploy when managing up:

Okay, we’ve aligned on what managing up actually means now let’s talk strategies. 

✨Here are my top 3 ✨

1) Understand your manager’s style: No two people are the same and I bet your manager’s style of doing work is different than yours. Instead of trying to keep doing things your way (I’m stubborn, I get it!) you need to learn how they get things done. 

Like: 

  • Preferred communication style. Do they want to talk about things or just communicate async? Ask the question: what is your preferred communication style? It goes a LONG WAY, people love talking about themselves and it gives your manager a chance to express what they need. The answer might surprise you! 
  • How they make decisions: Knowing what your manager needs to make a decision is invaluable!! I had a boss once who wanted to know what other HR teams did before making a decision so I would bring her case studies from outside the org when we needed to make a decision about a new process. I had another boss who wanted to see options for everything and worst case scenarios before making a decision. Ask the question: what do you need to feel confident about making a decision? The hard part is they might not know, so then you need to listen and observe when they are making decisions and what data points they’ve considered. 

📖 Additional reading: What Causes Tensions at Work? I write about working styles and learning yours and your manager’s is a gamechanger! 

2) Become a communication expert: Everyone thinks they are clear & concise in their communication, but that’s hardly the case! When it comes to communicating with your manager here’s what you need to be doing:

  • Give regular updates on your projects. This can be live in meetings but I also prefer TWO modes of updates so follow up with an email or message. I am a huge fan of a weekly email, blame my project manager days but there is nothing better than a weekly email to get your manager up to speed and aware. 
  • Be proactive about delays or roadblocks. There’s no faster way to lose trust than to miss a deadline and say nothing about it. Reach out ahead of time and bring your manager into the convo by saying something like: how would you recommend I handle this or what would you do in this scenario. You build partnership through trust. 
  • Come with answers. Managers will ask questions. By anticipating their questions you show them you’ve paid attention and are prepared. More trust blossoms! 

📖Additional reading: How to Hold Better 1-on-1 sessions 

🎧 Additional listening: This week’s pod episode is all about communication! 

3) Be solutions oriented. In my opinion there is no greater superpower than being solutions oriented. TBH: I actively seek out those people to work alongside with! When it comes to managing up, being solutions orientated is crucial because:

  • It displays initiative: proactively anticipating problems and providing solutions helps your manager and displays that you care about the team and by default their success. 
  • It eases decision making: Managers are burdened all day long with decisions to the point that most managers can feel overwhelmed. Providing solutions to problems actually makes your manager more efficient at making decisions. It gives them options to react to rather than the burden of coming up with the options themselves! 
  • It builds trust: Actively bringing solutions to the table helps build trust by showing your manager that you’re reliable, capable and committed to the success of the team. 

📖 Additional Reading: Being Solutions Minded as a Leader

And that concludes the masterclass in managing up! That was jam packed with a bunch of strategies to help you effectively manage up. 

Dare I say as an HR team you could create training on this for employees? Might be helpful…. 

What’s next:

GOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL. 

Oh sorry, I got caught up in the GIF for a minute. But this is perfect because next week guess what i’ll be covering???

Goals. 😂

I’ve covered how proper expectations setting is crucial to performance but there’s also something else that contributes to employee and company performance: goals.

Spoiler alert: It’s about to get real juicy!!