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A slight incapable manager - suggestions ?

Hi everyone

 I understand that incapable is a strong word but I might have expected a bit more . During my time at work I find that ( which is being found gradually ) , that my manager struggles to understand what I meant sometimes , for example, Often I provide more complex ideas but she would expected much more straightforward answers,  If I wanted to combine everything into one large file onto Excel, it’s too much for her so she wanted a simple version ( ie different tab) but for me, I would find it easier to comprehend. I mean my managers definitely have her strengths which I can learn it from, but so much time being spent on things she might not find it understanding. If she gives me a task, we are going back and forth back and forth to work something because the initial instruction was not strong. She was  my role before, therefore it might be a steep learning curve  and also, with greatest respect( and I am certainly not being arrogant) , I came from a masters economics background, she is 15 years older than me, however only has An a level degree, I think for me the company has a lot to Learn from, but the manager was not up to my standard.  Any tips on improving the working relationship ? 

Many thanks in advance 

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  • The organisation has promoted her. The organisation has chosen her to lead. They may have made a mistake but it’s their choice I would step back and see what I could do to adapt my style to serve her better.

    It may well be that in time you can develop a better understanding with her and move her more towards you. But you aren’t delivering what she needs at the moment which ultimately will affect you more than her.

    Btw I would drop the thoughts about your relative academic qualifications - you are right it sounds arrogant.
  • In reply to Keith:

    Thanks for the prompt reply Keith! Useful tips. Regarding the qualification, it’s the gap between the level of understanding , not bringing this in to act patronising, this isn’t my first job , my previous bosses comprehend slightly better and quicker. But you are right ,I guess I will be patient.
  • Hi, I think I agree with Keith, you need to work with your manager to develop a better working relationship. I think you need to understand your LM needs and what she is trying to achieve and asking you do, so maybe you can adapt your working style in the first instance. of course you may have better ways of presenting the evidence, but you are going to have to learn her/his way of working and then engage with her/him to demonstrate how something can be changed for the better. With regards to qualifications, it is an excellent achievement for you completing your masters, but your LM may not have had the chance to study to this advance level does not make her any less experience or unable to do the job. She has practical work experience and has learnt/built her career in this way. Theory and learning is fantastic but sometimes practical skills/ experience teach us lessons that cannot be learnt in a textbook.
  • In reply to Hawabibi:

    Thank you , this is very insightful!
  • I have something like this, I tend to overthink/overcomplicate things because sometimes, I can't believe that I'm actually being asked to do something fairly straightforward! this is a bit of a hang up from working with a manager who would task me with something that sounded straightforward but I was actually supposed to invoke my mind reading superpowers and completely disregard the original instruction to produce a basic absence report and create a full on pivot tabled, look-up'd, nested forumula'd MS Excel work of art.

    Nowadays I will repeat the instruction back......"ok so you want to see an absence management report, is this just names, dates and so on or do we want to add a BF scoring tab......and do we want any charts on there or.......?" and that helps to confirm what I need to do beforehand and dig a bit deeper.

    Age and qualifications have absolutely zero relevance and there is a slight hint of arrogance about your post if im honest (although I do think arrogance if it's actually confidence can be a good thing!) but I think if this is potentially coming across then that might need to be dialled back a little as that might put a strain on the relationship.
  • For much of my career I've worked in a role where I have been a knowledge specialist in my organisation - my area of focus is HR Analysis and Information Systems, so I have been in a position where I'm the only one in the organisation with that in depth knowledge and skill set. This means I've been in a position of knowing more about my specialism than my line manager most of the time. However I see my job as supporting my line manager and delivering what they need in order for them to do their job well. They have knowledge, skills and experience that I don't have so we need to work together to complement each other and deliver a good service. There are things I can learn from them as well as things I can show them.

    So my advice is to consider how you can use your skills and knowledge to work with your manager so that the two of you, working as a team, deliver the best service for your organisation. I'm sure that your manager has a wealth of experience you can learn from but to a certain extent she is your boss and you need to do things the way she asks for them - there's no point spending hours on something clever and complicated if she just wants some simple information. By all means, make suggestions about how to improve things, but take it one step at a time rather than changing things all at once. Once you establish your credibility with her and show that your changes improve the service you are delivering, she will probably give you more freedom to do things your way, but for now focus on building that trust and relationship with her.
  • In reply to Hawabibi:

    Absolutely this! Practical skills and experience beat a textbook I'm afraid. Mingchun, what do you think your manager has been doing for 15 years? Learning a lot more even if she hasn't been in a classroom for that time. And could it be you're overcomplicating things to show off what you're capable of rather than what you've been asked for? I appreciate your situation may be frustrating but as Keith says if you don't do what's asked it will affect you more than her.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    14 Jul, 2020 16:20

    In reply to Hawabibi:

    Great first post, Hawabibi. Welcome :)
  • Thank you Steve
  • Hi, I don't have anything new to add, but want to echo and support what others have said. I love working with data and in my current role I frequently present data (whether requested or I've initiated it). However, what I have learned is know your audience. If the audience isn't interested in all the data, they won't gain anything from it. My LM prefers key headlines and actions, with data there to support, which she can analyse in her own time if needed. If your LM has given you a task, I certainly recommend clarifying exactly the purpose and information needed. This reduces your workload and ensures you are focused on the correct data. I have found this works better for me and we understand each other much better now.
  • Some very god advice and observations above (and welcome to Communities Hawabibi)

    I think the only thing I can add is that whether this manager is good at their job or not, or suitably qualified or not, the way to work with anyone is to appreciate their strengths, and support their weaknesses. Working with people is not a competition (and should never turn into one, because if it does you are not working efficiently, you are focussing on them, not on your own job). Ability is not established by qualifications, they only measure parameters of knowledge and understanding, or limited application on the examined task. they do not measure issues such as adaptability, or the ability to interface with others' knowledge to focus on a problem, or a newly significant objective.

    Learn from her what she can teach you of her way of doing things, and use that to expand your own adaptability, rather then seeing her ways as inferior or "old fashioned". Pass on what knowledge you have that is of use to her when the opportunity presents itself, freely. If it helps her: Great! If not then what have you lost?

    As I often used to say to managers regarding presentation-skills: "Use Powerpoint if it shows what you want to show clearly, but if it's easier and more effective to demonstrate using a whiteboard and marker, use that instead!"

    The same applies to all methods of working, and managing, and being managed.

    P