Q: I seem to spend as much time 'managing' my manager as I do my own staff. Is this normal?
A: Yes is the answer, and for one very simple reason - managers are real people. When I first started work, I naively thought that a manager's job was to manage and that mine was to get on with the work. It was their responsibility to make sure everything was being run well and to know how to get the most out of me. And they would always have all the answers, no matter what dilemma arose.
I soon realised that life is not that simple. People have strengths and weaknesses, and not everyone is immediately brilliant at their job as soon as they are appointed.
Getting their own way
But what puzzled me was why some colleagues seemed to have the knack of always getting their manager to come round to their way of thinking, whereas I would come out of meetings seething because I couldn't get them to see my point of view.
That was when the penny dropped. Just because someone is a good manager doesn't mean they switch off from being a member of the human race when they are at work.
Most managers, if not all, will find themselves being wound up by the approach taken by some members of staff and will respond well to others. It is not an indication of how personable or successful each person is or of the issue being discussed. It is simply that certain people are astute enough to know what buttons to press to get the desired response.
Plan your strategy
A classic example is when you have a great new idea that you are convinced will wow your boss and win you a hard-earned pay rise. The textbook manager would, of course, listen with interest, congratulate you on your ingenuity and, yes, offer a pay rise. In reality, the best chance of the idea being implemented is if you cleverly let them think they came up with the idea in the first place.
A few years ago, a client of mine was being driven mad by her manager, who insisted on attending all her team meetings and, in my client's view, undermining her authority.
Instead of explaining how she felt (which would not have had the desired effect), she engineered a conversation with him in which she said she appreciated his attendance but was concerned it might undermine his authority if he was seen to have enough spare time to be at every meeting. It worked.
Onwards and upwards
In life generally, we need to think less about how we send messages and more about how they will be received. Managing upwards is simply a good example of this principle.
Send your questions to Valerie.Morton@haymarket.com
Valerie Morton is a trainer, fundraiser and consultant