2 reasons your manager is your most important customer

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

May 15

You read about it all the time — you have to take care of the customer. The customer is always right. Without customers, we have no business. What Cubicle Warriors know, however, it that the most important customer isn’t some vague person out there. They know the most important customer is their manager.

Yes, Your manager.

Sure, most people leave their job because of their manager. But if you talk with people who work in cubes about their customers, they talk about internal customers, external customers, “the business”, and almost never mention their manager.

Yet, your manager has the most direct control over your job satisfaction of any other person in the company.

Here’s why:

Your manager determines your tasks and potential accomplishments

Managers have business goals to reach and they reach those goals through their people doing the work. If you look at work this way, you’ll discover that managers want to hand out work based on who they think will get the work done so as to help them reach their goal.

Plum assignments going to someone else? Sure there are considerations, but the biggest one is that the manager thinks that person can take that assignment and succeed.

Do you get the crap assignments? Perhaps your manager doesn’t view that work as important to meeting their business goals so they give the work to someone where what they do with the work won’t matter. Ouch. Yes. Harsh.

The point, the selfish point, is this: you have to achieve tasks and goals to show your worth to hiring managers. And if you can’t get those accomplishments by getting the right kind of work from your current manager, your manager just submarined your career.

Yes, your performance counts. Your job skills count. But if you don’t treat your manager as your most important customer (even if you don’t have a great manager…), you won’t get the assignments that will help you shine to other hiring mangers.

Your manager supports your promotion or transfer. Or not.

When you apply for a position somewhere else in the company (even if it is a lateral move), do you think the manager ignores what your current manager thinks about you? Do you think the managers don’t talk?

Well, they do.

I’ve been in a position to influence those decisions. I’ve been asked multiple times about a person applying for a job in a different department. It’s like asking for a reference. When that happens, my integrity is on the line. I’m going to give a very balanced report on the person applying for the job.

Because I have a reputation for keeping confidences and telling truth, my word carries weight. When I say yes and provide the reasons, that person’s candidacy is increased. When I say no and provide the reasons, people rarely get an interview and never have gotten the job.

Your manager is the same, And, to be fair, even if they aren’t the greatest manager, the other manager has to live with the decision, so even bad managers carry a significant impact on a person getting a job.

Your manager is your most important customer. If your manager isn’t on board with what you are doing trying to get a promotion or a transfer, chances are you won’t get it.

Interestingly, some people continue to apply for jobs outside of their own area without their manager getting behind the move and they wonder why they don’t get interviews, much less the job. And I hope you can imagine what sort of reputation the person gets who constantly apply for other jobs — and then don’t get interviews, much less the job.

Your mindset needs changing

To go old school, the movie (and play) The Sound of Music featured a song title “What do you do with a problem like Maria?’ In our case, “What do you do with a problem like your manager?” Here, you need to take a look at your manager and understand what your manager needs — as your most important customer.

You have to figure out what that person views as a success. How that person thinks someone should accomplish their goals. You know and I know every manager is different and focuses on different things.

Our job as Cubicle Warriors is to figure how how to best mesh with our managers. Sometimes it works out great. Sometimes it grates on us daily. Sometimes, we need to grit our teeth, work with the manager, and have a strategy to get us the hell out of working for this person.

But all of it means you focus on one thing: your manager is your most important customer.