Manage Your Manager: 10 Ways To Build Work Relationships

Updated February 3, 2023

Coworkers smile while holding a conversation at one of their desks. Two other coworkers are seen in the background of the office, also having a discussion.

Managing your relationships at work is important if you want to perform at your best and advance in your career. This principle applies to every relationship, from direct reports to colleagues and even managers. By managing your relationship with your manager, you can set and meet expectations and create a productive environment that will benefit both of you.

In this article, we describe why it's important to cultivate a relationship with your supervisor and share strategies on how to manage your manager.

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Why is it important to manage your manager?

Building a strong connection with your manager is important because it can help you develop a relationship that is respectful and supportive. Other specific benefits of managing your manager include:

  • Gaining your manager's trust

  • Securing your manager's support

  • Earning their respect

  • Advancing your career

  • Improving your job satisfaction

  • Increasing your efficiency and productivity

  • Improving communication by reducing misunderstandings

Related: Guide to People Management: Definition, Tips and Skills

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10 ways to manage your manager

Managing your manager is a strategy that involves communication, understanding, honesty and problem-solving. Here are 10 ways you can manage your manager:

1. Be honest

When your manager asks you questions about your work or requests feedback on a task or project, give honest answers. Always be accountable for your actions and decisions as well, even when the outcome differs from your desired result. Explain to your manager what you can do to get better results in the future. Honesty and accountability can gain your manager's trust and strengthen your relationship.

Related: How To Maintain Professional Integrity in the Workplace

2. Communicate

Have open, clear and frequent communication with your manager. Observe and determine their preferred communication style—in person, through a professional messaging program, by email or by phone—and use it to give feedback, ask questions and provide updates. Also, know whether your manager likes to discuss strategies with others or think about them alone. Respect their preferences and try to imitate their style.

Related: Top 10 Communication Skills for Career Success

3. Understand goals

Ask your manager about their professional goals and support them in achieving those goals. These might include immediate objectives, such as finishing a project on time or meeting a sales quota, or long-term aspirations, such as becoming head of the department. Find ways to show interest in and support your manager's career, and they might be more likely to support your professional advancement, as well. When your manager reaches a goal, celebrate it.

You can also communicate your goals to your manager. Ask what you can do to improve your performance or reach goals, such as managing a small team or learning a new skill. If they're aware of what you want to accomplish, they can take steps to help you achieve it.

Related: Effective Goal Setting: 7-Step Process for Success

4. Stay calm

Remain calm during high-stress situations and fast-paced or changing work environments. Being level-headed can affect the attitude of people around you, including your manager, and can help the entire team make logical decisions. Staying calm under pressure can also show you're a reliable coworker and allow you to continue being productive regardless of the situation at work. To stay calm in stressful scenarios, try exercises such as deep breathing, talking or thinking through the situation and using humor or positive thoughts to improve the mood in the workplace.

If you notice your manager is working under pressure or a lot of stress, ask if you can help by doing tasks that reduce their workload. Reducing your manager's workload and stress levels allows them to be more productive and focus on managing their department.

Related: How To De-Stress at Work

5. Solve problems

Make your manager's job easier by analyzing and trying to solve problems as they arise. Be assertive and address the issue yourself if possible. Present your manager with strategies to overcome obstacles or streamline workflows. You might email or give them a list of possible solutions and then offer to address them. You might also offer to brainstorm with your manager to find solutions to problems as a team.

Related: What Are Problem-Solving Skills? Definitions and Examples

6. Be positive

Be a source of positivity and optimism in the office. Try to find the good in a situation and communicate that to your manager. Give your manager compliments and praise for quality work, projects completed and goals reached. Act and speak with positivity, and your manager might be more likely to support you and help you succeed.

Related: How To Bring Positivity to a Negative Work Environment

7. Share your knowledge

If you have skills or experience in an area your manager does not, share them. Tactfully offer to teach your manager how to use a new type of software, tool or device, or create a training document your manager can reference when needed. You're not only helping your manager develop professionally but also proving your value to the company.

Related: The Importance of Teamwork (Plus 11 Ways a Team Benefits From It)

8. Be caring

Get to know your manager on a personal level and demonstrate an interest in their happiness and well-being. Ask them how their family is doing or how their holiday was. If your manager is feeling stressed or experiencing challenges, ask if they want to talk about it or what you can do to help. Empathy, which is the ability to understand what someone else is feeling, can help strengthen your relationship with your manager and gain their respect.

Related: How To Be Empathetic in the Workplace

9. Practice positive reinforcement

Reinforce positive behaviors or good decisions by praising your manager for doing them. Compliment your manager, or instance, for treating an employee fairly or handling a sensitive issue well. By focusing on and providing feedback about what your manager does right, you can encourage them to repeat those actions.

Related: Positive Working Environment: Definition and Characteristics

10. Be a strong performer

You can manage your manager more easily if you work hard and produce quality results. A manager is more likely to respect and value an employee's feedback and opinions if that individual is a top performer. If you want to improve your performance, consider getting training or taking continuing education courses to develop useful skills or expand your knowledge.

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