Talent Development

Starting Out With a Challenging Manager

By Natalie BarbaJuly 14, 2016

A great manager advocates for you, teaches you, challenges you, and motivates you. So the benefit of having a healthy, positive relationship with your manager is clear – it sets you up with a foundation for success.

A bad manager – someone who doesn’t provide helpful feedback, adds stress instead of helping relieve it, and isn’t focused on supporting his or her team reach personal development goals – stalls your professional growth.

When asked for tips on how to start off on the right foot with a manager who is known to micromanage and distrust their team, here’s what our community had to say:

Walk into the new relationship with an open mind

“Reputations and gossip can poison a promising start. The key issue is whether you mesh well with the new boss. If you do, then what other people do is irrelevant,” says Sharon Marsh Roberts, Tax Consultant at Marsh Roberts. She recommends joining the new team without paying much attention to what others are saying.  

Expanding on that, Andrew Howe, Sales Director at Teradata, adds you may not understand the full context behind your colleagues’ relationships with your new manager, “maybe the people accusing him of being a micromanager needed to be kept on a tight leash.” Keep in mind that relationships are not one-sided. Your colleagues may have been a part of the problem.

Your relationship with your manager is just that. Your relationship. Learn for yourself what working with your new manager will be like, don’t simply take what others have to say for granted.

Clarify and align with your manager’s goals

Howe suggests getting started by identifying how you can deliver the most value to your new team, “Developing a relationship with your new boss would be the same regardless of any rumours, namely find out what they need from you and deliver it.”

To take this idea a step further, Gerson Montenegro, Global Vice President, Strategy & Program Management at Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices, emphasizes the importance of clear communication in creating a sense of partnership, camaraderie, and trust. “Listening is always the best beginning of a relationship. Listen to his ideas and expectations and try to be empathic. Frequent communication and transparency always help in building trust, which is fundamental for a strong relationship.”

Reminding both yourself and your manager that you’re on the same team can go a long way; but don’t stop at verbally communicating this. Allow your actions to reinforce your words by contributing your best work.

Learn as much about your new manager and his or her working style as possible, early on

“A trait I value highly in my staff is them understanding what I have to deliver and being focused on helping me do that,” shares Howe. Again, it’s all about presenting a united front and tackling your team objectives together.

Adelaide Adams, Director at Alunas Consulting, shares that it’s important to understand that managers may not even be aware they’re being difficult to work with. Figuring out why they micromanage is a good place to start in order to address the issue. “Sometimes a micromanager could just be a person who doesn’t know how to hand work out – common problems for managers who used to be good engineers or expert technical staff.”

This manager does indeed care about your growth and development, but perhaps doesn’t have experience effectively managing teams yet. Clearly communicate how the relationship is affecting you and your work, and use that as a foundation to provide feedback on how your relationship, and therefore performance, can improve.

Finally, accept that establishing a meaningful relationship doesn’t happen overnight

When sharing about a similar personal experience, Patricia Shelton, Director of Finance at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, explains how she managed to nurture a good working relationship with her manager. “I found it important to be aware of what’s important to the manager, what motivates him/her, and recognize his/her strengths and weaknesses. Ask questions and make statements that are empowering.” She goes on to say, once you do establish a sense of trust, “honor it and make your manager proud.”

In the end, it’s only a matter of time before your performance proves you’re trustworthy. David Occhinero, Greenplum Data Architect at Apex Systems, suggests “the best way way to handle a micromanager is to develop trust. This involves setting expectations, finding out the major deliverables from the manager and then over delivering on time. After a couple of projects where you over deliver the manager should trust you and stop micromanaging.”

In summary:

  • Don’t let what others say carry too much weight. Allow yourself to develop your own opinion about and relationship with your new manager.
  • Clearly define your team’s objectives, identify the best way for you to contribute to their accomplishments, and follow through.
  • Allow your performance to speak for itself. While clear communication is key, nothing will foster a sense of trust more than delivering value.

Join the Everwise community as a mentor, and check out the full discussion here.

Natalie Barba

Natalie Barba

Community Operations

About the Author

As Associate Community Manager at Everwise, Natalie focuses on engaging with a global community of professionals and connecting them with one another. She’s passionate about working with children and supporting others’ growth.

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