Managers are PEOPLE too.
It seems obvious enough but here is why we often don’t view our managers as just people when we are young in our careers.
1. The directly influence our newly acquired livelihood
2. They have disproportionally more experience and often seem to have all the answers
3. They evaluate our performance
Every employee is different, every person is different, but these 3 factors are often the main lens that we use to view our managers early on. Which makes a lot of sense. This is a relationship that we shouldn’t take lightly. We all want to have a great start to our careers and often early managers serve as our guides. They often have huge impacts on how we show up as employees with both characteristics we admire and those we vow never to repeat. So, it’s little wonder that we often miss the PEOPLE in our managers.
What do we gain when we start to treat our managers as PEOPLE?
First of all, by people I mean, people. Someone that has good days and bad days. Someone that will be good at some things, and likely very bad at other things. Someone that might at times be selfish and uncaring as well as massively supportive. While I’m a huge champion of consistency, it’s important to remember that as people, we are not perfect and it’s reasonable to expect that we will have some off days, maybe even weeks. So, accepting that your manager is a person, means accepting all of those nuances.
Once you have accepted that your manager is a person, it opens you up to be a lot more objectivity in how you traverse that relationship. Here are the 5 secrets you’ll discover once you accepting that managers are PEOPLE too.
Managers Love Convenience
Some managers expect it. Ever put an invite on someone’s calendar that was a good time for you but a terrible time for them? How did you find their attitude in your meeting? Here’s the thing, we often feel like managers are supposed to know better. That yes, we may be interrupting something they have going on but it’s a part of the job. That may be true but you will get a lot more done if you act with their convenience in your mind over your own. If nothing else, the effort will be noticed, if not appreciated.
Managers Appreciate Appreciation
It is written in the non-existent book of decorum that managing others is a reward onto itself self and no thanks are required. In another more savage book it goes something like, managers are getting paid to manage so there is no need to say thank you. Both books are wrong. In theory, a manager's primary responsibility should be to develop their direct reports. But often, managers have to develop employees as well as execute several other functions in such a way that development often feels tacked on to their responsibilities as opposed to a core expectation. Showing gratitude feeds our wellbeing and that of those that we show it to. Gratitude also shows our recognition of the effort made by our managers as wells as empathy in how difficult that job can be.
Managers Get Hurt, Offended, Annoyed, Frustrated…
How rational are you when you’re upset? If you’re anything like most of us, once negative feelings start to crop up, it becomes very difficult to remain objective. Managers are no different. It’s often easy to spot when the telltale signs are involved - yelling, short temperament, uncharacteristically unreasonable. It can be a lot more difficult to spot in it’s more passive forms - dismissiveness, interruptions, uncharacteristic micro-management. The temptation is often to just give up or become defensive. But in these moments, recognizing that managers are also PEOPLE we can demonstrate empathy and try to add value. Present solutions where possible. Make ourselves available. Don’t get pulled into negativity. **
Managers Have Their “Ways”
There is no one right way to do anything. There is the way you’d do it. There is also the way your manager wants it to be done. It’s important to understand this discrepancy and be strategic about how to navigate it. For example, your manager might prefer to communicate over text than over the office messenger system. You can get similar results using either. If you find out that is their preference, use that information to your advantage instead of fighting against it. On the flip side, however, these discrepancies also provide an opportunity to show initiative and demonstrate your capability to get results outside of what your manger may have expected. In this scenario you have to make sure you deliver the goods otherwise, you’ll reinforce their views on what “should have” been done.
Managers Don’t Always Know What They’re Asking For
It would be convenient if our managers remembered everything that went into the work they ask of us that they are no longer doing. We all have that expectation that if our time, energy and efforts are being requested, it is with the understanding of the full scope of work involved. But that’s just not the case. Firstly, everyone approaches work differently and what might take your 2 hours may only take your manager 30 minutes or vice versa. Therefore, whenever you sense a disconnect with what is being requested of you, take the time to get clarity. Outline your general approach and thoughts around a deadline and get alignment. If there is still a discrepancy, make sure that the work involved is thoroughly captured. Provide updates and review your work with your manager when the task is completed.
I know it’s incredibly obvious that managers are PEOPLE too. However, the working environment often supplies us with expectations that make it difficult for us to be empathetic to their shortcomings. While criticism can be vital feedback, we gain a lot more from accepting flaws and navigating those relationships with openness. If we remain open and understanding of the talents and capabilities of our managers, as well as their limitations we can foster trust and leverage those relationships to be key contributors to our growth and development.
**Quick note, everyone has a bad day from time to time. However, there is never any excuse to be verbally or emotionally abused. Also, pay close attention to whether or not you’re in a toxic environment that encourages poor behavior. Lastly, feel empowered to debrief these incidents to set expectations for your interaction with your manager.