How to Manage Your Manager


Project managers have to answer to someone, too. Use your advantage of being skillful managers and know how to apply proven techniques to manage your manager, as Jennifer Bridges, PMP, shows in this short tutorial video.

In Review: How to Manage Your Manager

Jennifer spoke about the type of manager who is always hovering over you while you are working. Then you go to check in with them, but you can’t find them when you really need them.

You don’t need to be simply managed by your direct line manager. You can manage the situation, as well.

Jennifer has learned from experience how to effectively manage up by the application of these six simple rules:

  • Find out who they are
  • What makes them tick
  • How do they think and what do they mean
  • What you need and how they can support it
  • Bridge the gap and point out differences
  • Set expectations

Sometimes a very difficult or micro-managing personality can cause you to try avoiding them so they don’t get in your way of managing the project. Note that if you put a little work in the front end to set expectations and build up a relationship, you’ll find the return on your investment is great and with dividends on your project’s success, too.

Pro-Tip: No two managers are alike. Don’t stereotype your manager because it will paint an inaccurate picture of them. Do your due diligence first, find out what you can about the manager, and then you’ll be more successful in helping them manage their exceptions and yours, too.

Thanks for watching!


Hello. I’m Jennifer Bridges, Director of ProjectManager. Well, welcome to our whiteboard session today on how to manage your manager. It’s one of my most favorite topics, one of my biggest lesson learned. So, we’ve all been there, right? On our project, where we have the manager always hovering over us checking in, checking in, checking in, or that one who you can’t find them when you need them the most.

Well, I remember a story back when I first started working corporate America, and I had one of those managers who were always coming in every five minutes. So the work area that we were in, everyone in the office area, the manager would have to come by the secretary’s office, so we had secretaries in those days.

We had the secretary notify us by phone, by an intercom with the code word of “Duck on the pond”. “Duck on the pond” meant duck and run because here comes the manager, so we would all duck and run. So instead of using the duck and run and the code, I’m going to offer you six tips to manage up effectively.

One principle that I think that’s always important to remember is that no two managers are alike. We may think they are, we may try to stereotype managers in certain ways but truthfully every person, every manager is different. So, it’s good to do your due diligence on your manager to find out more about them so you can help manage their expectations through smart scheduling  and yours too.

So, here are six tips to manage up. Number one, find out who they are. Find out more about them. What’s their background? What’s their experience? What’s their training? What about their family and their work habits? I mean, after all, after you do your due diligence on that manager you may find out, number one, they have a lot of experience and expertise in the field that they’re in. They could be a manager who was maybe transitioned to your group and maybe they don’t know anything about your group, your project, your organization, and so it’s great to find out that information.

You can do that by Linked In. You can Google the person. Look on the intercompany intranet. Or take them out to coffee. Sit down and have coffee and say, “You know what? I’d like to learn more about you.” You can find out a lot by just sitting down, having an interaction. Ask them questions, see how they respond. See what’s important to them and what they ask you in return. What makes them tick? It’s important to know what makes them tick. Do they value certain holidays? Do they value sports? What gets them excited?

Number three, how they think and what they mean. For instance, when you’re working with your manager it’s going to vary depending on their thinking style. For instance, if they’re detailed oriented they may be more interested in reports and numbers. So, when you talk with them or they ask for certain information it’s great. They want numbers.

If they’re results oriented and they come to you for information they want to know action is happening. They want to see that deliverables are being produced. So, when they approach you and you prepare you have that information and that’s how you speak with them.

Number four, it’s important to let them know what you need and how they can help you. So, you may think a little bit differently. You may be an intuitive person. So, you really leverage your intuition and what’s important to you is trust, “Hey, I need you to trust me. I have a really strong gut feel. So, when I say I have a gut feeling about something I need you to trust me.”

You may be innovatively oriented where you need creative leeway. You may need that person, you may ask your manager, “I’m very creative and I’m always looking for new ways to do things.” Let them know why, I mean, because you may be doing that to gain efficiencies in the organization. So, that would be appealing to that person.

Once you know this when you find out how they think, how they approach things, what they’re looking for and compare that to you, you may see, “Wow, there’s a big gap there.” So, it’s important to bridge the gap and point out the differences. Sit down early on and let the person know how each of you are expecting to communicate and what you’re looking for. That goes a long way.

Then set expectations. I think it’s just important to say, “Hey, don’t be bugging me every five minutes. I can’t get things done when you’re bugging me every five minutes. It takes up my time. It gets me defocused and you send me off on some other task.” So, just let them know, like, “Trust me. I’ll get it done,” and agree on another way to keep them informed. Who knows? Maybe they’re bored.

Let them know if you need prep time, “If you need information, email me. Let me know what you need and give me some time to prepare a good solid answer for you.” Let them know if you prefer email or phone or texting. Let them know how it’s best to communicate with you. Because after all, I mean, they may legitimately need to know what’s happening on the project and how to reach you.

So let them know which means. I mean, I’m constantly out of my office, so sometimes if I’m between meetings and meetings or buildings or traveling, it’s hard for me to get access to my email. So I may ask people to phone me or text me. That may be the quickest way. But it’s important for you to know how it’s best to communicate with you.

Let them know about changing priorities and projects and results. We’ve all had those managers who have switched us around on different projects, back and forth, and come by with some drive-bys and changing priorities, or maybe things that they need us to work on. So that doesn’t lend us to our best efficiencies. So the whole goal is communicating, understanding what they need so you can provide information to them. So you can let them know, and also letting them know what you need to succeed.

So that’s the way I found, the best way to manage up, and instead of screaming, “Duck on the pond!” and everybody ducking and running, I found these things more effective, and I built a better and stronger relationship with my managers. So instead of yelling, “Duck on the pond!” for your project and your organization and you’re looking for tips, tools, and techniques to manage your manager more effectively, then visit us at ProjectManager.