Your work is all about your manager

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Dec 18

ManagerMost employees think they are working for a company. Or a department in a company. Not so much.

When you work for a manager, you’re working for that person. Not for you, not for your team, not for your customer. You are working for your manager.

For all of the talk about flat organizations, 360-degree reviews, and wanting your input, the truth is you work for your manager.

Working for your manager has implications

You may have goals that you were assigned at the beginning of your review period that require work. And, even though those goals were assigned by your manager, your manager isn’t letting you work on the goals but on every emergency that comes up under the sun.

You may have a manager that changes the direction of your work — and disrupts your plan to build certain job skills.

You may want a position in a different department to advance your career. But your manager doesn’t think you are ready for the position just yet — or would hate to lose you because of all the emergencies under the sun given to you.

Or, you may have an incompetent — or worse — manager that doesn’t get what the group is trying to accomplish. And you have a tough time getting out because no one thinks you do good work because your manager’s work is so poor.

Bucking your manager usually doesn’t work

Unfortunately, your manager has too much power in the small work universe to have bucking your manager make good career sense. Too many ways to submarine you with other managers, discount good performance reporting by co-workers or dissing your work from other manager’s inquiries.

In short, there is an endless amount of possible conflict between what you want to do versus what your manager wants you to do.

You try and make it win-win, of course. And making your manager look good can go a long way to career disaster avoidance if not success.

But part of what makes a person working in a cube a Cubicle Warrior is the ability to assess their manager’s performance as well as their own. Then they decide if they can outlast the manager in a high-churn environment, can get out of the situation without a setback to their career, or decide it is time to leave the company and get a different job.

How do you evaluate if you have a good manager for your career?

  • Scot says:

    It’s like that old song…”I fought the law and the law won.”

    A manager has much too much power to fight in an organization by a cubicle warrior.

  • C2 says:

    Oh, Scot!

    You have turned on the lightbulb! It is wonderful to learn something new, especially when it cascades into every error I’ve done at my current company! Ha! This IS the root cause. We think we are fighting the greater good for our company, for our customers – but as I’ve experienced – WHACK – you are actually knocked down in the organization and minimized. Why? You fought the good fight… right…?

    No, you (I) fought my manager.


  • Scot says:

    Well, Jason, there are over 40 million knowledge workers in just the United States. What would you have them all do? The idea here is that if you are working in a cube, you should be able to thrive as best you can.

  • Jason says:

    Holy crap! Man, is this really what you wanted to do with your life?
    Be a Cubicle Warrior? Seriously?

  • I think the first step is to determine whether the problem lies with your manager or with your own personal life. If it’s with your manager, one key may be to manage expectations. Clear communication with your manager, setting clear, tangible goals and deadlines (and then meeting them consistently) can go a long way. And when working for good managers, I don’t know that there’s a lot of reflection on this topic, because evaluation and analysis typically comes when there’s a problem.

    • Scot says:

      Good points here.

      Aside from evaluating your manager, the point of the article is that people lose perspective about who they work for. Too many employees think they work for customers or their team or their company. They don’t. They work for a manager and making sure you are hitting the manager’s goals is important stuff for your career. Communications, good and bad managers and all that stuff is important. But if you don’t recognize that you are working for a manager, none of that will even get into play.

  • Dan Erwin says:

    Scott: How evaluate your manager? On the basis of work objectives? On the basis of career support? On basis of coaching/mentoring? Or, how?

    I’d be willing to bet that more than 50% of managers are good managers for your career, IF YOU KNOW HOW TO MANAGE THAT MANAGER. Following Kotter and Gabarro by enabling that manager to achieve his/her objectives–personally and organizationally–usually means that that manager will help you.

    I’ve seen some really smart people who had what anyone would call poor managers, do very well, because they knew how to manage their manager.

    And yeah, if you’re not going to support your manager because you think he’s a jerk, you may as well ask for your walking papers, because you’ll eventually walk–per your manager.

    • Scot says:

      Managing your manager is a key Cubicle Warrior skill. You can never have ultimate authority, of course, but a good relationship with your manager is almost a prerequisite for doing well in your job — you manager has too much control over your career to risk a poor relationship.

      My point is that you should be doing a report card on your manager just as your manager does a performance review of your work. We don’t pause and reflect on the good and bad about our manager. Doing so would give us perspective even if we don’t have control.

      As to how to evaluate your manager? Your points are good ones. But that’s another post!

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