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Managing Up and Down - 3/15/2011 -

Part One
Here’s advice on how to cultivate a positive relationship with your boss and member volunteers.

By Liz Griffin

Dr. Miranda Bailey, the boss to the residents of Seattle Grace Hospital on the popular TV show Grey’s Anatomy and her boss, Dr. Webber, the chief of surgery, illustrate a work team with a healthy, positive relationship.Tiffani Alexander, an avid fan of the series, used the show's relationships to help illustrate how to manage people above and below you at a Feb. 25th Association Media & Publishing Lunch & Learn.

Alexander, who is managing editor of ACC Docket, used the Grey’s Anatomy team, as well as her own work experience, to define key aspects, attitudes, and practices to cultivate better working relationships. Joining her in the presentation was Cynthia Connor, vice president of professional resources at the American Health Lawyers Association.

Managers and staff must cooperate, rely on each other, and communicate honestly for the work to go smoothly and to accomplish goals, said Alexander. Give credit to your boss and demonstrate loyalty. Here are a few tips:

  1. Research your boss. Just as you would research a company you are interested in working for, getting to know your boss requires study. Facebook and LinkedIn are good starting points, as is reviewing anything the boss has written. Alexander has learned a lot about her boss’s priorities and expectations by observing and listening carefully when her boss interacts with others.
  2. Cultivate an ongoing relationship. Any relationship takes effort to be maintained, and your relationship with your boss is no different. Alexander keeps connected with her boss by reading her boss’s monthly blog and catching up on what’s happening outside of work during weekly production meetings. On the days her boss telecommutes, Alexander regularly "tweets” her boss. Even though you are not likely best friends with your boss, Alexander recommended that you "invest in her life."
  3. Know your boss’s work style. Does your boss want a formal meeting to talk, or is stopping by the office okay? Is his preferred style to communicate face to face, voice mail, or e-mail? Is it better to connect at the start of the day/week, over lunch, or quarterly? Part of getting to know your boss requires learning these things as well as how hands-on or hands-off he is when it comes to decisions and how much detail he wishes to have on progress. Alexander suggested that direct reports not shower their bosses with detail.
  4. Give bad news as soon as you know it. A boss hates surprises such as learning from his boss that a member called enraged about a mistake in the magazine or unhappy that her article was not selected for publication. Give the boss a heads up when things go awry so she is not blindsided, and be honest if the error was your own. But be proactive in solving problems or suggesting solutions, Alexander said. A boss has hired you to do a job, and part of that job is to solve problems that come your way; you want to build trust with your boss that you are competent to make decisions.
  5. Bring a good attitude to work. Understanding how to make your boss more comfortable in your relationship with one another is important. Examine what attitude you bring to your relationship. Is it respectful and supportive? Are you loyal? Do you show your boss that you trust her? Be an advocate for your boss and make him or her look good, just as you would hope your boss would be an advocate for you.

The next edition of Final Proof will highlight tips from the session on working with volunteers.

Liz Griffin is managing editor for the American Association of School Administrators. 


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