Managing up: 7 tips to win over the boss

Let's be honest — if you got to select your boss, you might make a different choice. But in the real world, you must simply adapt to whatever manager you are given. While some people learn this lesson quickly, others just never seem to get it.

When I first met "Rick," he was complaining about a negative performance review which he felt was highly unfair. In reality, however, Rick was largely creating his own difficulties. One simple example involved sharing project information with his boss. Although his manager had specifically asked for regular updates, Rick chose not to provide them.

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When asked why he refused to comply with this perfectly reasonable request, Rick replied, "I don't see why he needs to have that information." This oppositional attitude was reflected in almost every interaction with his manager, making Rick's bad review both predictable and inevitable.

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Anyone with an ounce of political savvy knows that building a better relationship with the boss is a fundamental part of every job — and the key to career success. So here are a few tips for "managing up" in a intelligent manner ...

Seven strategies for managing your manager

1. Accept the fact that your boss has the power position. Perhaps you feel that your manager lacks knowledge, experience, or leadership ability. But even if you're correct, she still has more power than you and can therefore affect your life in many ways. When you see your boss as a partner, not an adversary, work tends to be much more pleasant.

2. Don't expect perfection. Most of us have the irrational expectation that our boss should do everything right. But managers are just people, with an endless variety of quirks, eccentricities, and weaknesses. So if your current manager is a pleasure to work with, celebrate! But if not, try to lower your expectations.

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3. Study your boss's management style and make every effort to adapt. Does your manager focus on the big picture or the details? Does he prefer to communicate in writing or in person? Does she like to chat or get right down to business? One key to success is the ability to adapt to a variety of leadership styles, so look for clues that tell you how to please your boss, then modify your approach accordingly.

4. Ask about your manager's expectations. If you're not quite sure how much information your boss wants or when to include him in meetings, take the initiative to find out. Most managers are quite happy to discuss their priorities and preferences, so it's surprising how few people ask.

5. Try to make your boss look good. If you can help your manager impress the higher-ups, she may return the favor by supporting your career. But criticizing or correcting your boss in public is likely to have the opposite effect.

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6. Never, never, never complain to others about your manager. While strategizing with trusted peers might be helpful, publicly airing frustrations about your boss can kill your career. If you have an uncontrollable need to vent, keep your gripes off the office grapevine by talking to a supportive friend or finding a competent therapist.

7. Give your boss a sincere compliment from time to time. Unless your boss resembles Attila the Hun, you can surely find some quality worth praising. Managers typically hear more complaints than compliments, so positive feedback is almost always welcomed. But expressing appreciation is not the same as sucking up, so keep the emphasis on "sincere."

Finally, remember the old saying "it's not your boss who protects your job, it's your boss's boss." When higher managers think well of you, both your influence and your job security will increase.

Strangely, however, employees often seem to forget that managers do talk to one another. So unless you have frequent personal interaction with the higher-ups, their view of you will be largely shaped by your immediate boss. And that's just one more reason why "managing up" is so important.

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— By Marie McIntyre

Marie McIntyre is a career coach ( and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics." Follow her on Twitter @officecoach.