How can I get my manager to change?

Getting my Manager to Change…


Dear Jeanne,

My manager doesn’t listen. She is stubborn and bossy. I never seem to do anything right. I don’t like working with her. How can I get her to change?



…and my response:


Dear Janet,

I once had someone say that about me. For the sake of this email exchange, let’s call her Hannah. Hannah made the mistake of sharing her thoughts with another employee, Lee, who had a very different perspective of my management style. Lee and I had developed a strong working relationship and because she was quite concerned about what Hannah was saying, she shared the information with me. Learning this information provided an opportunity for me to try and figure out what was going on. I thought I was a pretty strong manager who came across with a friendly and inclusive style. Something was amiss here and I wanted to improve it.

Obviously, there is something amiss between you and your manager. The question I will ask you is: do you want to take responsibility for improving this relationship or do you want to wait until someone tells your manager what you think so she can begin to work on improving it?

It’s easy to complain about another person. I have certainly been guilty of that behavior. Over time, however, I have come to realize that complaining never changed anything about the situation. I needed to find solutions to my complaints and work with the person I was complaining about to improve the situation.


So let’s come up with a few ideas as to how you can “get” your manager to change.


  • Move your focus from what your manager needs to do to what you need to do to improve the situation. In order to do this you will need to initiate a conversation with your manager.


  • Make your initial meeting with your manager meaningful. Your first meeting will set the tone. Are you looking to dump your complaints in her lap or are looking to improve the situation? Let’s assume that you really do want a better work environment, which is what you will get if you improve your relationship with your manager. If you present yourself as an angry employee, you will find a defensive manager. If you present yourself as an employee who wants to resolve an issue, you will more likely have a responsive manager.


  • Be prepared for your meeting. Have a short list of concerns. You don’t need to go through every little detail of what made you mad here or there. Go big – “Hey manager, I would like to take some time to discuss my performance with you.” Or, “Hey manager, when we meet, you seem angry with me and I wonder if I can speak with you about that?”


  • Now here is the key: Listen to her. Actively listen to your manager. Be open to her input and ask open ended follow up questions, such as “Can you be more specific?” Or “Am I understanding this right…?” If you spend your time during this part of the meeting thinking about how you will respond to her, you are not actively listening. Active listening to your manager will help you prepare your reply after she is finished speaking. Get all of the information first.


  • Offer solutions. Ask for her solutions or guidance. Complaining without having solutions is like trying to sail a boat without a sail. You will go nowhere.


  • After you both find common ground and solutions that are productive, ask for follow up. “Can we meet again in a week to make sure things are going well?”


  • Thank your manager for her time.


Now I know you are probably thinking that the manager should be taking the initiative to reach out to you. That’s true. But, she isn’t. So here is your time to lead. You can decide to take her behavior personally, lick your wounds and continue to complain. Or you can effect change. Change takes time. Many of us resist change – some more than others. There is no guarantee you will have a completely comfortable relationship with your manager, but it’s worth trying.


[message type=”success”]Give your manager time and an open mind. You might be pleasantly surprised.[/message]




More news