Until recently, I’d never had a truly great manager. Decent managers? Yes. Straight up bad managers? Also yes. But great ones? Not so much.
Having a truly exceptional boss changes everything–how you feel about your day-to-day responsibilities, your ability to manage the challenges you face, and the progress you can make toward your long-term goals. Researchers have even found that employees’ relationships with managers is one of the most decisive factors in the decision to look for another job versus stay put.
So when you finally do get that kind of support, it’s important to reflect on the new type of relationship it leads to–and decide whether your old working habits may need a rethink. With the newfound trust and security your manager has gifted you, you may find it’s time to scrap some of the hacks and workarounds you’d devised for dealing with a less-than-stellar manager.
Here are four habits to break when you finally get a really effective boss. Some of your coping mechanisms will be obvious and easy to brush off, but others may be subconscious and take a little more time and introspection to unravel for good.
You know that coworker you were having trouble with? That project you faced a technical challenge on? That presentation you were nervous about giving? If you’re coming off a string of bad or just okay managers, you may be used to never or rarely getting follow-ups to make sure things went okay. So it may surprise you to learn that great managers proactively check in to help whenever they can–not just when your performance is slipping.
Effective managers know that they can’t sit on information or advice until it’s convenient to their schedule. If a manager checks in outside of your normally scheduled one-on-one meeting, relax. Don’t automatically assume the worst and put your guard up. Consider the possibility that rather than trying to micromanage, your new boss may be trying to find ways to help, so be more receptive.
I once had a manager who believed that depending on your seniority, asking certain questions was not allowed. We were discouraged from asking questions that were considered “too junior” for a given level. The result? Everyone wound up too scared or embarrassed to ask anything at all, and learned instead to troubleshoot with our peers instead of our manager.
The best bosses know that no question is dumb, and if you’re asking it, there’s a reason, and it’s best to work on it together. They appreciate questions as a way to get to know you and your strengths and weaknesses better–all of which will help them to help you, in both the short and long term.
If it’s your first time working with a collaborative manager, it can feel uncomfortable to admit you don’t have all the answers and to ask for help. Remind yourself that it’s okay to be vulnerable, and start with smaller questions if you’re afraid to dive into meatier ones right away. The more support and collaboration you get from your manager, the more confidence you’ll gain in asking questions more regularly.
Bad managers take all the credit for your work. Decent managers don’t take the credit directly but don’t encourage you to represent it, either. Great managers not only find ways to share your great work to others but also empower you to talk about your accomplishments and share the results at every level of the company.
They rightfully insist on giving you agency to represent your work, rather than taking the mic themselves. In this new arrangement, you’re an agent of your own destiny, and that can be unsettling. The best antidote is just to become a little more proactive than you’re used to, and start sharing and speaking to your own work.
That means not waiting for your manager to provide the cue or assuming that they will offer an appropriate summary of your work. Instead, take the initiative to represent yourself–not only among your peers, but among leadership as well–knowing you’ll have a boss who’s proud of you and has got your back when you do.
Working for a less than effective manager, you may get into the habit of never calling in sick, or calling in sick and still working from home. Or maybe you’ve always just hesitated to take vacations.
We’ve all been there–napping a cold off but setting an alarm clock to dial into a “can’t-miss” meeting, or going on vacation but continuing to check email “just in case” your manager needs you while you’re off in Europe, on a road trip, or on a remote island where you’re supposed to be unplugging. When you’re used to having managers who make you feel like you can never take a day off no matter how sick you are or how much you need a vacation, you get used to never truly taking time away when you really need it.
So it may surprise you to finally have a manager who encourages you to stay home when you’re feeling under the weather, and to actually cancel all your meetings so you can fully rest and recover. It may shock you to see your manager not only encourage vacations, but take vacations themselves–even long ones! The best way to fight the urge to keep working? Take their lead. Listen to your manager, and listen to your body. The best managers know that time away from work is not only okay but actually good for you, and therefore good for the company.
As humans, we’re remarkably adaptable creatures. Many of us are capable of getting on just fine under less-than-perfect managers. But when we’re finally lucky enough to work for a great one, many of us face an unfamiliar task of self-management: Learning to undo the habits that have gotten us by this far. But if you can kick these four, you’ll be well on your way.