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Managing Your Boss
by John J. Gabarro and John P. Kotter

Harvard Business School Press, 64 pages, $8.95 ($6.50 for downloadable digital version in PDF)

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Even when you are a supervisor or manager, odds are there's a boss that you report to. In contrast to its provocative title, Managing Your Boss is actually a short guidebook designed to bring out the best in supervisor/employee relationships to ultimately help both excel in an organization. The text is culled from an article that originally ran in the Harvard Business Review by Gabarro and Kotter. The authors contend that for those in managerial roles, your relationship with your superior is crucial to building and sustaining a fulfilling career.

Managing your boss is defined as "the process of consciously working with your superior to obtain the best possible results for you, your boss, and the company." Aspects of the process include:

  • Clarifying both parties' strengths, weaknesses, and goals
  • Defining organizational priorities
  • Understanding your bosses' behavior and how your boss processes information and communicates it
  • Establishing a compatible work style

The authors give illustrative examples of situations where employees act as detectives examining clues that reveal what the bosses' true expectations are. Knowing this helps forge a relationship with your supervisor and also has practical applications like when you are trying to obtain resources or negotiating with a superior. Especially insightful is a section that cues workers in to the day to day pressures their bosses face so they can empathize with their situations.

Leaders in all capacities will find plenty of takeaways here that are different from top-down management primers. It's obvious that bosses need teamwork and reliability from their direct reports, but supervisors rely on their bosses for making vital inter-company connections and setting priorities. The upward relationship between a manager and boss is not a topic that gets its fair share of attention. Managing Your Boss will not show you how to be an "apple polisher" or a "yes man/woman" toward your boss. It will teach you how to eliminate potential problems, communicate better with your superiors, and be more productive in your position.

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