DiceTV: Craving Autonomy? Try Managing Your Boss

The Script

Dear Cat: My boss is constantly hanging around my cube, making it hard to get work done  ¿ and to be honest making me a little paranoid. What can I do? Signed, Winston.

Well, Winston, the best way to change his behavior may well be to change yours. I’m Cat Miller, and this is DiceTV.

Managers – especially new managers – often keep a bit too close to their employees. Because they don’t really know you enough to trust you, they to tend manage everyone carefully, which can grate on the nerves of experienced workers.

But remember, the dynamics of your relationship aren’t going to be set only by your boss. You have something to say about it, too. So use these techniques to instill some trust – and keep your boss in his own office.

Start by keeping your boss up-to-date. Give him frequent progress reports, whether he asks for them or not. As you get more comfortable – and as he gets more comfortable – increase the time between your reports. Once he knows he can count on you, your boss is going to turn his attention to other things.

Next, schedule meetings: You don’t want to seem rude, and it’s good to have face time. But if your boss tends to stop by unannounced, or stays a bit too long, tell him you’re not prepared to have a real discussion about your work, and ask if you can update him the next morning. A scheduled meeting, with a specific agenda, is bound to be shorter than an impromptu chat.

At the end of that meeting, be sure to ask when he needs another update, and schedule it.

Knowing when he’ll receive your next report can help keep your boss from looking over your shoulder too much in the interim.

If you are trapped in your cube, you can offer subtle hints that you’re too busy to talk. Lean forward in your seat, or sit on the edge of your chair. Stand up when he comes in. If you’ve really got an extreme case, take any extra chairs out of your cube, or fill them with papers. That way no visitor’s going to stay too long.

If you have a question for me, send it to feedback@dice.com. That’s feedback@dice.com, and put “Ask Cat” in the subject line.

I’m Cat Miller, this has been DiceTV, and we now return you to your regular desktop.

Comments

26 Responses to “DiceTV: Craving Autonomy? Try Managing Your Boss”

January 14, 2010 at 12:12 am, Mina said:

That’s really a very useful advice specially the “frequent progress report” thing, I had the same experience in my new job a couple of years ago and this was a significant problem until a friend told me a similar advice.

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January 14, 2010 at 12:17 am, KK Smith said:

Hey Tom, May I have your boss? I’ve been out of work 18 months, and wouldn’t mind kissing some ass. I would like to hear to from some bosses as to why they think they need to watch some people, like Tom, so closely.

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January 14, 2010 at 12:18 am, Bill said:

These meetings are something the boss should be scheduling with you. If your boss fails to do that, I agree with the advice of taking the initiative to schedule it yourself.

As good as the advice might be, regretfully, it doesn’t always work. In my last job, I did this. My boss failed to make most of the meetings. I would literally go more than a year without having a meeting with my boss. I’d have brought it up to his boss, but m boss was a senior executive.

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January 14, 2010 at 12:27 am, KK Smith said:

F-stop, poor advice to send your manager’s boss an anonymous note–very childish. The worst thing one can do on the job, is try to go over their mgr’s head. For one thing, it rarely improves things. It may be your mgr’s boss asking what you do all day. Making you boss your ally by “managing” him is the best way. You could try being honest and asking if there are specific things that he needs from you that he’s not getting?

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January 14, 2010 at 12:28 am, Ben said:

F-Stop. I agree. My old boss who I’ve been work with for 15 years. We were getting along very well. However, he passed away few months ago (cancer).
The company hire new boss who I had heard that he got fire from Morris Philip in Swiss (don¿t know the real reason). I believed that this new boss was looking for job more than 2 years after got fired.
He is on board less than 6 months. My 2 colleagues resigned (forced to early retirement).
I just don¿t know when my turn is up.

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January 14, 2010 at 12:47 am, Kagan said:

I think the key here is to “earn” your boss’ respect. Not simply want or expect it. I am a boss, and I have bosses. I would say that the people who’s shoulder I never look over are those who openly exhibit a desire to succeed, not just appease. No one likes a kiss*. When an employee consistently demonstrates a desire to advance org. goals, they “earn” my respect. If they come to me un-prompted, seeking bits of specific advice, I know that they have the innate desire to succeed, and I view them as an asset rather than a liability. Remember though, when you go to your boss with a problem, bring a minimum of 2 solutions, and be prepared to discuss the pros and cons of each. Explain your thought process and seek their input. Otherwise you will only appear to be needy. And that would likely backfire. You want your boss to view you as a “teammate”, not just another employee. Another advantage of making a practice of involving your boss in your decision making is that it offers a measure of protection when things don’t work out as you hoped.

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January 14, 2010 at 12:49 am, Kagan said:

If they come to me un-prompted, seeking bits of specific advice, I know that they have the innate desire to succeed, and I view them as an asset rather than a liability. Remember though, when you go to your boss with a problem, bring a minimum of 2 solutions, and be prepared to discuss the pros and cons of each. Explain your thought process and seek their input. Otherwise you will only appear to be needy. And that would likely backfire. You want your boss to view you as a “teammate”, not just another employee. Another advantage of making a practice of involving your boss in your decision making is that it offers a measure of protection when things don’t work out as you hoped.

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January 14, 2010 at 12:51 am, Sandy said:

I think this is great advice and I have tried some of these tips in the past with some success. I wonder, however, how one handles a manager who not only hovers but likes to micro manage your work?

I had a manager who insisted on doing extensive analysis on her own and giving very detailed instructions to her staff. Normally the staf would do their own analysis and devlop and execute solutions on their own. This management style kept her in the know and very busy, but it left the team frustrated and bored.

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January 14, 2010 at 1:11 am, Tom said:

Hey KK! I know. With this economy and job market, anyone could loss their dignity.

Lucky me, I still have a full leverage to deal with my dumb boss ¿ knock your table before you start your leverage. -:)

My boss ¿play his violin¿ through his bosses ears (CEO, CFO, Chairman). Well, just tell bosses of what they want to hear.

My boss name is Wes.

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January 14, 2010 at 3:54 am, irit said:

Good info.
I’m going through same stuff now not by my boss by my boss’s boss. Hence my strategy is work from home. This way I get a lot done..but still many emails keep popping from him and I do “mass delete” 🙂 Send him back update email at of the day and copy my boss

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January 14, 2010 at 7:31 am, Mark said:

I like visitors so i keep my plush leather chairs but i will set up meeting agendas to keep things formal.
Retaining privacy at work helps to maintain a formal distance from your boss.

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January 14, 2010 at 7:48 am, Jay Conne said:

Cat,
Great advice.
Thanks!

I teach exactly these scheduling and reporting principles for software development teams. I recently failed to do this with a young client CEO in a foreign country and things did not go well. He has a lot to learn – and apparently, so do I.

Thanks again,

Jay

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January 14, 2010 at 10:08 am, Mike said:

Great advice assuming your boss is a secure, competent, Rational Human Being, and not an insecure, narcissistic Peter Principle.

e.g.: my experience, years ago, after my original boss was moved into a different role:

My first meeting with the new boss involved listening to him tell me:

1) how smart he is/was
2) how much money he had made
3) how much money he was making
4) about the new car he just bought for himself
5) and “oh by the way … you are being demoted”

Anyone else have a similar experience?

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January 14, 2010 at 10:39 am, Tom said:

In deed, this is an excellence advice when your boss is a good person, a knowledgable person. How’s about if you have a dumb, stupid, lazy boss? How do you deal with him.

I have a dumb, stupid and lazy boss. Well, he is a smooth, and good talker (you will credit him for that). When he talks he bring out a lot of technical terms – seem that he is the best. However, I made a mistake of asking him – during the meeting with Company CEO, CFO, Chairman – about the term, the technique of how he would done… you know what… I just stunk him!

He ended the meeting in next 5 minutes and bring me out and give me the moral about He is my boss and CEO, CFO, Chairman is his boss… and those people are my BOSS-BOSS. therefore, I just embarrassing him in front of …. BOSSES.

My boss is a Developer Director. He just got on board for 2 months.

The reason that I asked my Director on his own technical terms question because he criticized the developers who develop the software, which helps the company survise for more than 2 decades.

Oh! one more thing, one of my college make his retirement early (after work with the company for 27 years) because of this Director. and I quoted “this guy is really a BS. he BS a beautiful music around the upper management; but he doesn’t know shit.”

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January 14, 2010 at 10:45 am, Tom said:

Your advice is just sound like “kiss your boss’s bottom” or “bend over” and then ask him to enjoy himself.

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January 14, 2010 at 10:45 am, Bill Blass said:

Very good article and tips that can be used.
Its all about mastering these principles and understanding peoples behavior that will make one successful with this. Thanks.

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January 14, 2010 at 11:11 am, Chris said:

Tom,

You might want to try learning how to for a sentence before trying to insult someone’s advice; just sayin’.

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January 14, 2010 at 11:29 am, F-Stop said:

In these situations it is obvious the “boss” is really the subordinate, and asking a worker to “manage their boss” is making them the boss, not in title but in reality. I agree with the data on being proactive to get a long with the boss, but since that person does not know how to manage people I suggest sending an anomymous but polite note to the boss’s boss about the situation.

It is unfortunate that today anybody with a 4-year or higher university degree is automatically qualified to be a manager, such a misguided concept. Some of the best bosses I’ve had over my 30 year career had wonderful people skills (were not arrogant or elitist), real common sense and were naturally very social. Things that have absolutely nothing to do with a college degree.

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January 15, 2010 at 9:23 am, Carla Yonan said:

Hi Cat –

I am Administrative Assistant or should I say Executive Assistant. I finally have gotten solid work after a lay-off or reduction in force back in January 2008. I’ve had a few contract assignments that have always ended within 3 months.

Recently, I’ve been working for a medical device company since September 2009 as an Executive Assistant on a contract basis. I am not sure if this is a good fit for me since my manager is very much a “Type A” personality and is always stressed out. Granted because he is the Vice President of our office in the bay area. However, his stress is too much for me to handle. It is negative energy and I feel as though he doesn’t spend enough time with his Directors and tends to “blame” instead of resolving the issue at hand.

Needless to say, I’ve already called in sick 3 times within the past 4-5 months. What should I do? I realize I am fortunate to have a job, but at the same time I am so stressed out that I’ve gained 10 lbs and the environment is very different from what I am used to especially since I’ve worked for large high-tech and bio-tech industries.

Please help!!!

Thank you,
Carla

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January 15, 2010 at 9:48 am, Wayne said:

Decent advice but I’m curious why we never hear ole Cat Miller weighing in on some of the comments!

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January 15, 2010 at 10:58 am, Mark Feffer said:

She’s a star, Wayne, so I do it for her. (Actually, I shouldn’t say that. She would not be pleased.) All of us here at Dice News keep an eye on the comments and try to weigh in when we think people want us to.

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January 17, 2010 at 8:32 am, Ed said:

It is genuinely impressive how many I.T. people can’t form a complete or cohesive sentence. This is the reason that many managers have a poor opinion of I.T. people in the first place and find the need to micromanage people. Tom, must suggestion to you would be to start with a study the basic structure of the English language and move on from there.

These tips are basic and beginner time management skills for use in dealing with your boss. They will build trust between you and this will foster a better relationship. Get with the topic and try to focus.

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January 19, 2010 at 3:45 am, Tim said:

Hey Ed, I take offense with the statement that I.T. people can’t form a complete or cohensive sentence.
I take pride in my vocabulary and in my technical expertise. That is how I keep my boss at a safe distance. I do keep him updated (mainly through email and telephone messages). But he knows I am on top of my job. He is confident that I will take care of what needs to be done. That’s the best way to manage your boss!

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January 20, 2010 at 3:03 am, John said:

>>I have a dumb, stupid and lazy boss<< That's an employee with a reall bad attitude. This isn't your bosses issue. Why would you ever hire anyone that knows less than you? Why would you think your boss has to work harder than you do? Maybe you expect your boss to do your job and be better than you? That's embarrasing. I'm much better at technical things than my boss. That's why my boss trusts me. He's smarter at other things - that's why he's my boss. There's no respect in the original post, either way, obviously. Tasks get delegated. This doesn't mean your boss is lazy. If you think that, then you're used to mod teams and LAN parties, and don't understand the concept of business and work. Work for hire means someone (your boss) gives you money. Therefore, they expect you to do the work. Tom's boss was exactly correct to call him on the carpet. It's always going to be possible to demonstrate that you know something your boss doesn't know; so doing that to your bosses boss is showing that you are disrepectful toward your boss, and that you are withholding information. That's a setup. == John == P.S. I hate web sites that remove white space!

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January 21, 2010 at 7:54 am, Mark Feffer said:

Don’t hate us, John. We don’t mean it personally. And I’ll pass it on to the tech team.

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July 11, 2014 at 8:24 am, Take the Initiative and Keep Your Manager Informed - Dice News said:

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