Adapt to Their Management Style

5 minutes


Updated August 7, 2023

Everyone works differently. There’s no single way to maximize your productivity that works for everyone, and everyone has their own way that works for them when they need to get things done. This is especially true when it comes to managing people and projects.

Different managers have different management styles, so when it comes to working well with your manager, you’ll need to figure out what style they prefer. You’ll need to consider the following questions when determining how your boss prefers to work:

  • How do they prefer to communicate?

    • Email

    • Asynchronous chat

    • Voice or video chat

    • Face-to-face conversations

  • How often do they expect updates from you?

    • Once a day

    • Once a week

    • As needed

  • What time of day are they usually available?

    • Mornings

    • Midday

    • Evening

  • Do they prefer if you provide them with objective analysis for each option, or do they prefer to hear your personal judgment when making difficult decisions?

Although these aren’t things you need to think about often, knowing the answers to these questions can make your life easier during high-stress situations like production incidents or tight deadlines. When you understand your manager’s preferred way to work, you’re less likely to make costly errors due to miscommunication.

Similar to how trust is a two-way street, a healthy relationship with your manager takes two people to make work. Treat your relationship with your boss as a partnership—you both share a responsibility to make it work. Unfortunately, part of that working relationship is out of your control; you can’t control your boss, after all, but at least you can do your part to uphold your end of the deal. As long as you’re making an honest effort to adapt to your manager’s work style, they can’t hold that against you when it comes time to conduct your performance review. However, if you don’t make any effort to work well with your boss, they may use that against you.

So, what do you do if you’re not sure what your manager’s management style is?

Ask them.

It may be awkward, especially if you’ve been working with them for a while now, but it’s an important conversation to have, and being both aligned on what you should be doing will help you in the long run.

During your next one-on-one, ask them how you two can work better together. It’s important to be open and honest here, even though it may be a bit embarrassing because it’s such a trivial question to ask. If possible, try to communicate your preferred style so they get an idea of how they can work better with you.

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Honesty will always contribute to a better working relationship with your boss. The conversations may be uncomfortable or difficult, but they are worth it to build trust and respect. Your ultimate goal is to find the right balance when it comes to communicating with your manager.

Think of communication as a spectrum—one where you want to avoid the two extremes:

  • Under-communication: Solving problems completely by yourself and not even telling your boss.

  • Over-communication: Asking for help, guidance, or approval on every detail.

Neither extreme is right, and they will hinder your ability to build trust with your manager. The goal is to balance how much time and attention you demand from your manager when giving visibility or getting help, direction, or input.

It’s a balancing act, and as a junior or mid-level software engineer, it’s your job to figure out how to make it work. At the very least, try to build a habit of asking your manager for help only after you have at least one potential solution. This shows that you’re not just dumping the problem in their lap, but instead asking for their help in refining the potential solution you already have. If you ask for their assistance empty-handed, it signals to your manager that you’re not putting in the work before coming to them for help.

Learn to Manage Up

Having a healthy relationship with your boss makes your job easier, but there will be times when the two of you aren’t on the same page. If your boss is overcommitted, overwhelmed, or even if they’re not the best in a certain area of expertise, you need to learn how to manage up in order to make the relationship work.

To start, you need to recognize the situation you’re dealing with. Perhaps you’re dealing with:

  • A boss that has been at the company for years while you’re just starting.

  • You’re reading a preview of an online book. Buy it now for lifetime access to expert knowledge, including future updates.
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