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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Managing Your Boss Succesfully

Abd Rashid Jaafar
Ketua Penolong Pengarah
Pejabat Pendaftar
Akademi Percukaian Malaysia
Tel: 03-89243600 samb 3638 / 03-89243638


Managing your boss successfully is crucial in climbing up the corporate ladder. Your promotion, a decent salary increment or a favourable transfer almost always needs the endorsement of your immediate boss.

More careers have been damaged through poor working relationships with the boss than through a lack of job competence. According to Bob Me'zoff, President of ODT Associates, a US management consulting firm, "Only 10% of firings at the managerial level are due to technical incompetence. The other 90% are a result of failing to get along with others, especially boss." Hence, it is critical for you to start out on the right with your boss.


"Managing your boss" refers to the process of deliberately working with your boss to attain the best possible results for yourself, your boss and the organization. It does not involve apple-polishing, political manipulation, or selling your soul for attaining personal gains.


There are all kinds of bosses with different temperaments and managerial styles. Some bosses are a joy to work with due to their visionary leadership, emotional intelligence, competence, high integrity, decisiveness, open and honest communication, and recognition for quality work. Others are tyrannical, fickle-minded, incompetent, abrasive, unscrupulous, hot-tempered and exploitative.


1. No boss is perfect, for bosses are only human. All bosses have certain strengths and weaknesses.

2. You can't control your boss's personality; neither is it wise to reform him, for he is the boss. However, you can control the nature of your response to your boss's personality.

3. You don't have to love your boss to work successfully with him.

4. To get along well with your boss, you must learn to accept the way he is and strategize a sound working relationship that is mutually beneficial and productive.


1. Know your boss. Find out your boss's preferences and management style. Identify your boss's sensitivities and avoid them as much as possible. Adjust yourself to his way of doing things. How does your boss like a report to be done? Does he like to receive information through memos, phone calls, casual chats or formal meetings? What are his top three work priorities? Which is generally the best time of the day to approach him? Does he welcome constructive criticism?

2. Clarify your boss's expectations of you. Clarify with your boss his expectations of you in terms of the desired work outcomes and work attitudes. Focus on helping him meet the most important objectives. Don't hesitate to voice your views on unrealistically high standards.

3. Be reliable. Deliver what you promise and produce quality work within deadlines. Do your homework well before communicating with your boss. Ensure that facts are accurate and well-organized, especially if your boss is a stickler for accuracy. Follow through on tasks and be inquisitive about details. Avoid being a "clock watcher". If necessary, work longer hours or postpone your vacation to complete urgent and important tasks.

4. Be thoroughly loyal. Every boss expects his subordinates to be loyal followers. More importantly, loyalty breeds trust. Execute your boss's decisions. Defend your boss when his decisions are unjustly criticized by others. Maintain confidentiality. Do not misuse inside information given to you by your boss. Talk about the accomplishments of your department. During meetings, provide positive comments about your boss's proposals.

5. Demonstrate initiative. Anticipate your boss's needs and fulfil them on your own initiative. Look for problems to work on without being told formally to do so. Volunteer to undertake challenging assignments. Focus on preventive management.

6. Keep your boss informed. Keep your boss up-to-date with your current projects or work assignments. Work on the basis of "no surprises". Warn your boss of potential problems. Avoid covering up your mistakes as it betrays trust.

7. Provide, solutions, not problems. Your boss has enough problems of his own to solve. Hence, be a problem solver and not a problem carrier. State the problem clearly and recommend alternative solutions to it for his approval.

8. Help your boss to succeed. Help your boss to accomplish the department's mission and key objectives. Provide him work-related information and be a good team player. Help your boss look good his’ own boss. Point out his strengths to others. Let the boss do the talking at meetings.

9. Do not confront or embarrass your boss in public. Never act too smart to make your boss look stupid in public. Do not force your boss to admit an error; let your boss save face. Avoid complaining about your boss's shortcomings to others.

10. Disagree tactfully. If you are certain that your boss is wrong, you should voice your disagreement in a constructive and tactful manner. Avoid direct confrontation with your boss. Choose an appropriate time and place to voice your disagreement one-to-one. Disagree calmly and judiciously by stating the facts of a particular case and suggest alternatives for his consideration. Avoid fight starters such as "You're wrong" or "I disagree with you". Use communication helpers such as "In my opinion, it may be wise to consider ..." or "You may wish to view this problem from the perspective of ..." Never talk to your boss in anger. Respect your boss's views and accept his authority.

11. Praise your boss for excellent performance. Bosses often feel lonely at the top and they too need to know how well they are performing. Hence, you should praise your boss for excellent performance. Avoid giving superficial praise such as "You are the best boss in the world" for the boss knows when he is being conned. Praise should be sincere and specific, for example: "What I admire most about you as a boss is your practice of rewarding people based on merit". You could also organize festivities to celebrate your boss's accomplishments.

12. Maintain open and honest communication. State your views frankly. Avoid being a perpetual "yes-man" especially when your boss is emotionally secure and task-oriented. Don't hesitate to seek clarification if you are confused about a particular task.

13. Demonstrate your commitment to continuous improvement. Continually ask yourself, "How can I do things better?" Inform your boss periodically about steps that you have taken to improve work processes and, overall performance of your work unit. Accept constructive criticism. If you make mistake, admit it and take immediate corrective action. Avoid repeating similar mistakes. Don't hesitate to ask your boss how you can improve your job performance. Keep abreast of the latest developments in your professional or technical field.

14. Ensure your interactions with your boss are favourable. Listen when your boss talks. Accept his authority. Laugh at his jokes. Wherever possible, give your boss emotional support.

15. Maintain mutual respect and personal dignity. Avoid being too friendly with the boss. Voice your true feelings tactfully if you have been criticized unfairly by your boss or have not been amply rewarded for doing quality work. If your boss criticizes you in public, tell him that such behaviour bothers you as it is humiliating. Emphasize the fact that you are open to constructive criticism in private.

To summarize, your boss is the most important person your working life. Your career success is primary determined by how well you get along with him. Take concerted efforts to understand his management style and adjust your work style to meet his expectations. However if the differences between you and your boss are irreconcilable, get a transfer within the company or seek a new job in a different company. Life is too short to dream going to work every morning and to lose one's peace mind!

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