Managing your boss is an essential skill, and in some ways, it starts when you are first offered a job. Often we worry then about whether to accept the compensation package as a take-it-or-leave it proposition or whether we can negotiate for more. But two negotiation experts argue that is actually not the essential issue.
“Although reaching agreement on pay and benefits is important, failure to think more broadly about your career could mean losing valuable opportunities for advancement,” Hannah Riley Bowles, a senior lecturer in public policy and management at Harvard Kennedy School, and Bobbi Thomason, an assistant professor of applied behavioural science at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School, write in Harvard Business Review.
They note that women are increasingly urged to negotiate for higher pay as a way to close the gender wage gap. But studies suggest the difference in compensation is explained more by differences in men’s and women’s career trajectories, so according to their research, you would be wiser to negotiate the scope of your authority and your developmental opportunities in the new position. It also pays off to use the opportunity to negotiate your workload and the conditions that affect it, including your responsibilities, location and travel requirements, since those may be critical to moving forward professionally.
Approach this strategically. Keep your eye on the larger objectives and make sure you are talking to people who actually have control over what you are seeking.
More generally, First Round Review asked a host of sharp people their best tips for managing up. Their answers started with leaving your assumptions at the door and getting on your boss’s wavelength. “The biggest reason people suck at managing up is because they don’t actually understand their boss’s job – but almost always think they do,” Varun Srinivasan, former senior director of platform at cryptocurrency seller Coinbase, said. “Building context is hard to do, because you only see a small sliver of what your manager does, and each step of the management hierarchy brings different problems.” A tip offered by product designer Julie Zhuo is to make sure you and your boss agree on the answer to these two questions: What is success for me personally, and what is success for my manager’s team?
One common mistake is to save up your ammunition on something you want until you have got everything figured out, and then hit the boss with the Big Ask. Ralph Loura, senior vice-president of Lumentum, warns that anything worthwhile takes time to build. He shares The Rule of Seven Droppings: Anything sufficiently complex or abstract takes multiple exposures in order for someone to internalize the concept – arguably seven exposures according to the manager who explained the concept to him originally.
Don’t view your one-on-ones with your boss as obligatory wastes of time. They are a chance to find out what is on his or her mind and to set the tone for future relationships. If it’s a new boss, Dare Olonoh, vice-president of sales at Salesforce, recommends asking these five questions: What are the things you care most about and are trying to accomplish in your role? What are your biggest challenges? How would you describe my role and responsibilities? What are your pet peeves that I should avoid? Who is someone you had a great working relationship with that reported to you, and why did it work so well? If your boss is not new but you aren’t certain about the answers to those questions, it may be time to ask.
Managing your boss means managing those one-on-ones. Keep a shared document with an agenda, topics for discussion and links to relevant information, Brex engineering director Edwin Chau recommends.
Managing your boss is a never-ending task, but those tips may help.
- To avoid signing on with a nightmare boss, ask in the job interview: “Can you tell me about the most successful person you ever hired and what exactly they did to be successful?” Career coach J. T. O’Donnell says you can then compare that to their other statements in the interview, such as stressing allegiance to work-life balance but then citing a workaholic as their most successful hiring.
- When Zapier engineering manager Rebecca Ghazali turned off her Slack notifications last summer, nobody noticed. She believes that’s because she was still checking in daily and doing her work, so not responding to every message was fine. Could you do it?
- Legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi started every year’s training camp by holding up a football and announcing, “This is a football.” His players knew that, of course, but he was stressing the importance of basics. Leadership consultant Steve Keating warns, “Skipping the basics, or believing your skills are so advanced that the basics no longer apply to you, is one sure way to fall short of your potential.”
- The most important conversation is the conversation you have with yourself each day, argues writer James Clear.
- When spellchecking, Microsoft Word can alert you to a failure to use gender-specific words. To turn on this feature, techie Allen Wyatt advises displaying the Word Options dialogue box, clicking on proofing, and under the writing style settings, checking the appropriate box.
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