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How to manage your manager

Last updated on: May 11, 2016 18:16 IST

Have you ever come forward to save your boss from a bad decision? 

Utkarsh Rai with Narayan Murthy

IMAGE: Utkarsh Rai, author of Faster, Smarter, Higher with Narayan Murthy who's written the foreword for the book. Photograph: Kind courtesy Utkarsh Rai

They say, it's hard to tell what a woman really wants.

But does anyone really know what a boss really wants?

Turns out Utkarsh Rai, managing director, Infinera India has found the answer.

In his latest book Faster, Smarter, Higher, Rai attempts to offer a comprehensive guide to new age professionals on how to be a team player and why it is important to understand one's manager in order to grow in the career. 

We bring you an interesting excerpt from the book's chapter on 'Winning your Manager.'

Read on and share your insights in the messageboard below.


Winning over any boss is a tough challenge.

Most of the time you don't know what he really wants.

You may struggle to find out what makes your manager happy or you may end up doing something stupid while trying, and thus fall further in the eyes of your manager.

Finally, after a few unsuccessful tries, you give up and resign yourself to your fate.

What can you do?

Here are some tips that could help you to win over your manager if done in the right way.

Praise/acknowledge the boss when he deserves it

A boss is also human and wants to be praised and appreciated. Genuine praise carries huge value.

Even a simple thank you to the boss for resolving a tough issue will be sufficient.

Fine-tune the frequency of praise based on the nature of your boss, as doing it too often could dilute the importance and make you seem like a sycophant.

Make sure that it is appropriate for the occasion.

When your team members praise your manager in front of his peers, he could sometimes be ridiculed for sucking up to the boss.

However, when the praise is deserved, there is no harm in acknowledging and wishing him in public.

In fact, your peers will look at it in a positive way and will, in all probability, join you too!

Provide an early warning to your boss

It is sensible to alert your boss when his actions or decisions impact one or more team members. But beware of becoming an informer or mole because that could alienate you from your team.

Approach your manager as a responsible team member and provide your perspective.

Speak with others of your team and find out if it is bothering them too.

If yes, then you can go as team to your manager or inform them that you have already had such a discussion with your manager.

If it is a common issue, a heads up to the manager is good, rather than raising it suddenly at a meeting and surprising your manager.

If you attend a meeting where your boss is not present and you sense that a decision that could impact your team or him adversely is being taken, request that your boss be involved in the decision making.

Else, equip your boss by informing him of the potential fallout along with any suggestions you may have.

Support your supervisor in meeting his goals and help him to rectify his mistakes

Don't just do what is assigned to you. Keep your boss updated and seek help only when required.

He could be struggling with many issues: these could be speed breakers in a project or a threat from competition, or even a missed deadline thrown as a challenge to him.

A manager may not open up immediately if you ask him, but if he feels that you are genuinely concerned, he will open up and ask you for suggestions or solutions, even if he ultimately does not agree with your suggestions, he will know that you are concerned.

Such attitude and thinking beyond the assigned task will always help you in your career growth.

What happens when your boss informs you of a surprising decision taken by the management?

Can you stand up and tell your boss that the decision is erroneous or will you talk behind his back and criticise him?

It is important to point out the challenges in implementing such a decision.

If your manager is open, well and good, but if he is closed, then don't take it further because you have no option but to implement the decision.

Sometimes he could have committed to something under pressure from his management or customers just to save the situation without thinking about how it would be done or whether it could be done at all.

Have you ever come forward to save your boss from a bad decision?

Did you do your best to rectify it so that he is not embarrassed in front of others for having taken a bad call?

Those who come forward and pull out their bosses from a quagmire are the smart ones and are sure to be noticed, remembered and rewarded suitably.

Some bosses may take the help but will not acknowledge or give credit for it. Don't be discouraged by this. Treat it as an opportunity for knowing what your boss is really like under such circumstances.

To get credit, some employees start speaking to a wider audience about how they helped their boss -- never do that -- it could damage your case further. Just continue to be helpful. Even if your boss doesn't acknowledge you in public, he will know.

And if you continue to take a positive approach and approached again for help, sooner or later the management and others who matter to you will also come to know. So be patient and continue the good work.

Cover your supervisor's weak points

Every person has weak points and so does your supervisor.

If his presentation skills are weak, suggest that he splits the presentation into separate sections and let others people speak about their respective sections.

If your supervisor cannot handle complex people issues, suggest solutions and ideas.

If he is not a subject matter expert and does not understand finer details, help him out with points and presentations so that he can put his points forward in a discussion with his boss. Extend your support to your boss in whichever way you can and see how far it will take you.

A word of caution: sometimes a boss could recognise his weak areas, but may not want to make it public for fear of exposing his own shortcomings.

While some ask for help explicitly, most try to ask for it surreptitiously to hide their own weaknesses. So beware of how you offer your help.

Choose the right approach and see how far you can go.

Excerpted and published with the kind permission of Rupa Publications India Pvt Ltd.

Utkarsh Rai
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