Management Isn’t Just For Managers

In a cube farm, you typically hear the word manage when the boss comes around. The boss talks about needing to manage projects or employees or whatever else needs managing that day.

In many cases, you only see your boss when you fail to meet expectations, or they know that there is some deadline approaching. This also inspires fear in many employees because your manager only appears when something is wrong.

What if you had a different relationship? What about your peers? Do they know what to expect from you when you work together? All of these things require management. You need to manage your boss, your coworkers and your career.

Managing Your Boss

This may sound strange if you have never heard it before, but you need to manage your boss. Obviously, I do not mean telling them what tasks to do and when to get them done. I mean managing the relationship that the two of you have. There is no bullet-point guide or foolproof methods to managing your boss because they are all different people.

For example, a previous manager you had could have been more of a friend, telling you about their kids and asking you to work on various tasks. Your current manager may be one of those people screaming at their team that they are going to stay late until they get the project right.

Obviously, these two people cannot be managed in exactly the same way. However, there are some things you can do to manage many aspects of your relationship with your boss.

First, you need to let them know what you are doing at least once per day. If you manage your own deadlines, send them a quick status email to say that you should be done that high priority task by the end of the day. Managers may be continuously asking for status of tasks from their employees mainly because they have to report on the status of a project to their boss. B

y proactively giving them information before they ask for it, you make their job just a little bit easier and they will love you for it. Just do not go overboard and email them with every task you are completing. There is managing the status and there is “brown nosing”, learn the difference. This leads to my next point, you need to manage expectations.

Managing Expectations

There are a few things you can do to manage expectations. If you are good at your job, expectations will change without your knowledge. Are you comfortable with the higher expectations? In some cases, you may even get more responsibility. Some managers fully assume that when you are given new responsibilities that you will understand everything and be competent at your new job. In reality, we know that this is never true. There will always be tasks that you are not familiar with or even situations that you have never dealt with.

For example, in software development a senior level engineer will likely be named the team lead. This person is expected to manage the technical aspects of the projects as well as the daily work of each engineer on the team. If you are a new team lead and have never dealt with employee conflicts before, you need to ensure that your manager understands this and that you will ask for their help if something arises.

This is good for two reasons. First, it sets the expectations your manager will have. There are always some conflicts on a team, sometimes they are simple things and other times two people basically can not work together. If you have told your manager about your lack of experience, they will be glad to help you because they knew it would happen eventually.

The other side of this is you have given your manager time to prepare for a few things. They know a situation will arise, so they will watch for it. They also know that you are skilled at your job, but admitting your inexperience gives them time to move up the corporate ladder before you take their job. Yes, your boss is probably afraid of one of their competent employees taking their job. By admitting inexperience, you are basically saying that your boss is better at their job than you would be right now. Making sure your boss feels secure is something that can make your job a lot easier.

Managing Your Peers

When it comes to employees that are not your boss, you need to manage them as well. This is not about being their manager, but giving them an idea of who you are and whether you can be depended upon. With your peers, actions can carry a lot more weight than words.

Being someone that everyone knows will finish their work on time and do a good job is immensely important. If you can not do this, then your job needs more help than this post can provide. Is doing a good job enough? Absolutely not, you want to be awesome. So, if you are that person that everyone knows will do an excellent job, do not tell anyone how good you really are. Once you start talking about how good you are, you become a widely hated person, labeled as “arrogant” or even “not nearly as good as he thinks he is”.

Another important way you can manage your peers is by helping them. Helping others, even when the help is unsolicited, is seen as unselfish and for the good of the team. Helping also keeps you in good favor with your coworkers as long as you avoid arrogance. The flip side of this is that other people will be more willing to help you when the need arises.

Another point of note is distractions. If you can manage your peers correctly, they will learn when you are best interrupted and when you are not. For example, some people need to have a cup or two of coffee before they can be approached with a problem. People quickly learn when others do not want to be bothered. Sometimes, a well timed comment or email can set the boundaries. Something similar to, “I get so much work done in the morning before 9 because nobody is in the office”, will alert people to the fact that mornings are a bad time for interruptions.

Managing Perception

Disappointingly, your actions are not the entire story when it comes to your job. When salary or promotion reviews are being completed, opinions and perception rule. Actions definitely help in those cases, but only in determining people’s opinions. Managing other people’s perception of you is probably the most difficult task in this post. You want to talk about your successes throughout your job, but you can’t talk too much about it. You want to talk about how much you know, but you can’t talk too much about it.

So, how do you get your abilities known? First, by doing many of the things discussed above, you are taking the first steps in managing perceptions. Second, when people are talking about successful projects, make sure they know that you worked on that project as well. A simple comment about how hard the project looked at first, or a joke about how tight the deadlines were may get people asking you or other people how you were involved. More importantly, when it comes to perceptions, having other people speak on your behalf is a major benefit.

So, what are you doing reading this? You know what you should do. Go and manage your career for success.

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  1. Tanja on the 20th November

    Interesting article, thanks πŸ™‚

    I would like to add something to the point “helping your peers”:

    If someone asks me for an information I can give immediately or after just a moment of thinking – I’ll be happy to do so. But if I would have to search for the information myself, I just tell them where I would search or who I would ask, instead of just doing it for them.

    The important difference is:
    If I give an information or a useful hint which helps them to finish their job, I am know as a helpful coworker who likes to share her knowledge.
    But if I finish their job, chances are good that I am known as someone to who everybody can give their unloved tasks.

    Thus, better think about in which way you help, because there are good and bad kinds of help.

  2. Heather on the 20th November

    Interesting post as always πŸ™‚ Particularly liked the part about managing your relationship with your boss; it wasn’t something I’d really given much thought to before. Thank you ^_^

  3. Rob Diana on the 20th November


    You are correct in that there is a point where you need to draw the line. You don’t want to do other people’s work for them, you just want to help them get on the right track.

    In some cases, I have used a 2-minute rule. If I cannot help the person in 2 minutes, then it is obviously a bigger issue than a quick question. My current job requires some support for other groups, but we get to “charge” hours to their projects. In those cases, my hours are more expensive than theirs so they know to only ask questions to get them started. Budgets can help in your management of these types of situations as well.

  4. Yvonne Koh on the 24th November

    Good post! Most of the points captured in the post seems like common sense, but it’s amazing how many people are not aware of these workplace common sense. pointers Thanks for posting this! you’ve probably saved a lot of people a lot of heartaches…

  5. dMullins on the 4th May

    Unfortunately, I had to do this constantly at a previous job. Worst of all it wasn’t because they needed to know XYZ, it was most often because they DIDNT know ABC, literally. I was in a position where I was expected to perform at a high level for new services our company was pursuing, but no one had any clue about the technologies except me. Which meant a lot of micro-managing was going on by my managers. In the end, I had to leave that position because it became too much of a personality conflict.

    Having to over-manage your boss is a very obvious red flag that something is wrong behind the scenes. Move on as soon as possible.

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