HomeAboutusEditorial BoardCurrent issuearchivesSearch articlesInstructions for authorsSubscription detailsAdvertise

  Login  | Users online: 923

   Ahead of print articles    Bookmark this page Print this page Email this page Small font sizeDefault font size Increase font size  

 Table of Contents    
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 40  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 14-18

Managing bosses and peers

1 Executive Director, National Health Systems Resource Centre, National Health Mission, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, Campus, Munirka, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Community Health Administration, National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi, India
3 Research Officer, The International Clinical Epidemiology Network, Trust, Executive Office, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission02-Nov-2014
Date of Acceptance27-Nov-2014
Date of Web Publication13-Jan-2015

Correspondence Address:
Sanjiv Kumar
Executive Director, National Health Systems Resource Centre, National Health Mission, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, National Institute of Health and Family Welfare Campus, Baba Gangnath Marg, Munirka, New Delhi - 110 067
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-0218.149263

Rights and Permissions


How to cite this article:
Kumar S, Adhish VS, Chauhan A. Managing bosses and peers. Indian J Community Med 2015;40:14-8

How to cite this URL:
Kumar S, Adhish VS, Chauhan A. Managing bosses and peers. Indian J Community Med [serial online] 2015 [cited 2021 Sep 29];40:14-8. Available from: https://www.ijcm.org.in/text.asp?2015/40/1/14/149263

   Introduction Top

Successful leaders and managers manage in all three directions at the same time; downwards-their subordinates, upwards-their bosses, and horizontally-their peers. To become a successful leader, the skills of managing self and managing a team [1],[2],[3],[4] are to be complemented by skills of managing bosses and peers, an overlooked aspect of leadership.

Managing bosses and peers is referred to as managing up (bosses) and across (peers) in literature. One always has a boss or bosses at every level of one's work from entry upto the top. At the top level, boss may be a bureaucrat or a minister or a chair of the governing board. One needs to deal with their expectations, needs, and demands. Managing up is the process of consciously working with your boss to obtain the best possible results for you, your boss, and your organization. This is not political maneuvering, kissing up, avoiding work, rebelling, or trying to turn the tables on a higher level official. [5] Rather, it is a deliberate effort to bring understanding and cooperation to a relationship between individuals who often have different perspectives. It is understanding your boss's position and requirements and making yourself known as a stellar employee by exceeding her expectations and needs.

Failure to manage the boss often results in misunderstandings, wastage of time and efforts, inability to convert one's ideas into action, lack of promotion, and reduced influence within and outside the organization.

One often hears from employees that boss is "difficult." However, achievement and recognition of what we do professionally often depends on the ability to manage our boss. A rebellious behavior with the boss neither helps in one's growth, the progress of the project or the organization. [6]

Building Sybiotic Relationship with Your Boss

It is not uncommon to see the boss and subordinate working at cross purpose. Adversely affecting the outcome for themselves, the project, and the organization. Common reasons include lack of clarity on common goals and objectives due to inadequate communication between them, resulting in misunderstanding of expectations and roles. When each does not know the other's strengths and weakness, they cannot support the other to optimize their strengths and cover up the weaknesses.

The first step in dealing with your boss is to "know him." One needs to observe the boss's way of working, behavior, and communication and understand what is expected of oneself and what one whould expect if one is in the boss's position. The following points summarize the approach to manage the boss for a win-win situation for self, the boss, and the organization.

Know your boss and build on to complement his/her skills

Know boss's priorities

0It is critical to meeting boss's needs. Priorities change and it is important to talk to the boss regularly. The boss will be glad that you are interested in his/her priorities and might ask for your support in achieving these.

Know boss's strengths/weakenesses to build on

If you are aware of the strengths and weakenesses of the boss, you can tap into the strengths for your benefit and parallel work toward to benefitting the boss by supporting the weasknesses.

Know your boss's reputation

In your organization and sector: If the boss manages up well, he/she is well-regarded. You can build this reputation to achieve team objectives.

Effective communication with your boss

Know the boss's preferred way to receive information. Some prefer to read and others hear. If the boss prefers reading, write an e mail or a formal letter as the situation demands. If the boss prefers to hear, then go prepared for a brief chat. In both the cases, if the boss is analytical, substantiate your arguments with evidence (facts and figures). Keep the following in mind:

Keep the boss briefed on your activities

Keep the boss always updated on the activities you are handling and major events in your work or your department/team so that there are no surprises.

Request feedback on the activities you are involved in.

Complement flagging problems with solutions for porblem solving

When problems arise, it is good to flag them. However, do the ground work and suggest solutions to address the problems.

Look at issues from boss's point of view

Imagine yourself in the boss's shoes when you think about issues you want to flag with the boss.

Provide feedback

It is a difficult task. As one moves up, honest feedback becomes rare, hence it will help the boss, if you can provide an honest feedback. It is important to avoid unsolicited feedback.

Remember that bullies get their power from those who are afraid

If your boss is a yeller, a criticizer, or a judge, stand firm. Ask questions, seek to understand, and work toward defusing a difficult situation. It takes practice but the results are worth it.

Be an effective member of your boss's team

Keep a good attitude

Stay upbeat and engaged. You never know who is watching or listening. Don't get caught bad-mouthing your boss.

Do the best job you can

Keep your mind and efforts focused on top performance.

Be honest and trustworthy while dealing with your boss.

Seek new responsibilities

Boss will consider this as your ability to do more than your job, provided you do it well and appreciate it.

Keep learning

Keep asking relevant questions, if something is not clear. This is refreshing to the team and makes you more interesting to work with. Your boss will enjoy having you on the team and feel like it improves everyone's work.

   Managing and Working with Peers Top

Managing peers is important in today's world. One needs to collaborate with peers to get work done and remain effective in an organization. Managing across in the organization is important to increase your power in your organization. It tests your ability to build trust and to influence organizational power with your colleagues. Everyone's had a taste of managing across while working in groups but this skill becomes essential when you are part of a management team. The success of an organization depends on how well the management team works together or in other words, how well it manages across. [7] The ways to manage peers are different from the ones used for your supervisees and supervisors. These include setting mutually beneficial goals; establishing ones credibility, persuasion skills, and the ability to tap into ones network. The skill needed to strengthen managing across is emotional intelligence: Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. This will help better understand ones own-and others-priorities, pressures, and work styles. [8]

The following help in improving effectiveness of managing across in the organization:

Identify centers of power and influence in the organization and associate with them to increase sphere of ones own influence.

Maximize team efficiency with colleagues of similar rank in your institution.

Seek out information about the goals and pressures of the individuals you have identified in the first two activities.

Manage and lead more fluidly and efficiently across departments, across divisions, and across sister institutions.

   To Complement Better with Your Boss and Peers, Improve Your Self-Awareness Top

Self-awareness helps you in identifying your strengths and weaknesses. This helps in dealing with peers and bosses and strengthening professional relationship with them. To further strengthen this, seek feedback from your peers/boss; take up self-learning courses and new assignments to improve/acquire skills. Although no one enjoys being criticized, we should try to view criticisms as useful feedback and use it to improve personally and professionally. One needs to learn about habits or traits that one needs to change.

   Skills Common to Strengthen Managing Bosses and Peers Top

These skills include

Effectively deal with disagreements and conflict

Conflict and disagreement is inevitable when you work in a team. People have different viewpoints, and openness to accept different viewpoints adds value to the team's work. Whenever there is a sense of disagreement, one can choose to ignore it, complain about it, blame someone for it, or try to deal with it through hints and suggestions; or you can be direct, clarify what is going on, and attempt to reach a resolution through techniques like negotiation or compromise. If this situation is not handled properly by the supervisor and supervisee, constructively, the differences may escalate leading to a larger conflict. However, the supervisee needs to remember that the task in question has to be carried out whole-heartedly as assigned by supervisor as supervisor's perspective is often more holistic and strategic. Understanding and appreciating the various viewpoints involved in conflict are key factors in its prevention and resolution. If the conflict with peers and superviser cannot be addressed by parties concerned it may need a third party to intervene. It is important to decide between the conflicting parties to agree when to referee. An important aspect to understand is to ensure that affected persons get the chance to present their side of the story. Active listening is an important skill in addressing conflicts for a leader and a referee in conflict resolution.

Dealing with disagreements professionally

Disagreements encountered at work are common and not necessarily bad and if dealt properly can lead to prolific gains and solutions. Key is to focus on the issue rather than on personalities involved. Try to view your position not as "your" position, but merely "a" position. In the same way, if you have an issue with someone else's position, make clear that your concern is with the issue, not with the person. Treating people with respect, even those with whom you disagree can earn you respect in return and gives you trustworthiness. [9]

Make your enemies your allies [10]

There is always some degree of rivalry at work place. It needs to be handled carefully. A good leader often turns rivals into collaborators. This could be attained by strengthening one's positions, networks, and careers in the process. It could be achieved through three "R"s:


The prime step of reversing rivalry is redirecting the rival's anti-emotions away from you. One common redirection ploy is to introduce things you and your rival agree on, since everyone is encouraged to see synergic opportunities from a reasoned viewpoint.


The timing and reason always matters for any alliance. you can present favors before you expect from others. One act of cooperation calls further acts of cooperation. Once you build a strong relationship based on give and take, opportunities abound.


To end a rivalry and blossom a partnership, a leader needs to necessarily use rationality. To drive your competitor into pondering from a reasoned outlook, fully assimilating the expectations and gains out of the bond, and recognizing the opportunity that could be lost.


Accept that your team members are people with strengths and limitations just like you. Overcome differences between you and others so you work together effectively-even when you don't like each other. It's a far more productive approach to build on strengths, than trying remedying situations. If that's good advice for managing your own staff, its good advice when trying to manage your boss. Ensure that you meet regularly with your boss and try to develop a professional relationship based on mutual trust and respect. In primary healthcare scenario also, it is observed that the introduction or expansion of such collaborations would enhance the effectiveness of primary care teams. [11]

Take initiative

Search for opportunities to contribute to problem solving and innovation within the team/organization. Remember that paradigm shifts are often made by individuals who are not directly involved with the problem or necessarily having subject expertise. Volunteer to lead a project or participate on a task force particularly if it provides visibility in the organization. Never underestimate the power of relationships. Leading and taking initiatives in the field of public health is required to tackle new and old problems at the individual, community, national, and global levels. [12]

Be a player for all season, especially hard times

Demonstrate positive behaviors even during hard times. Building trust is a tool of high priority that serves you in good times and in bad. It's not just what you do when your boss is looking which builds reputation, but it's how and what you do when he' s not looking that builds your character.

Manage your boss like he's your most important client

This may ultimately mean communicating with your boss to learn, understand, and better appreciate his strategic objectives. Your job is to align with boss's interests, not the other way around.

Dealing with workplace politics

Political environment and office politics is an event or culture which is faced by each and every organization with no exceptions. One must be able to function in such a situation by actively engaging others, whether you like them or not. This could be easily achieved without self-interested tactics.

Focus on good of the enterprise and information sharing

Recognize the interdependence with other units, and consider how your goals align with theirs. When it comes to information, one gets what one shares and what information you are having depends on who you know. You should encourage team members to share information. Emphasize the importance of each team member's contribution and demonstrate how all of their jobs operate together to move the team closer to its goal. Also, understand what information is and is not confidential, and the need in some circumstances to make a judgement about whether confidential information can be shared, in the public interest, without consent. [13]

Connect and collaborate

It is becoming increasingly important in today's world to focus on the relationship's which serves both the partners involved. For example, while working on as assignment in the field of public health research, we need an expertise in epidemiology, biostatistics, and qualitative research on the same platform. If the organization or department lacks the specialization in any one of the above, situation can only be addressed through collaboration and mutually benefiting through inter organizational or departmental collaborations. In a health care system in which disease complexity, outcome indicators, and informed families are representative of current reality, an interdisciplinary approach to care is crucial. [14]

Strengthen your network at workplace

Following are the four ways to make an effective and efficient network.


Make a list of the people in your organization including your team and other departments. Next, its important to figure out the benefits your interactions with them provide. Then, classify your relationships by the benefits they provide. Generally, benefits fall into one of six basic categories: Information, political support and influence, personal development, personal support and energy, a sense of purpose or worth, and work/life balance. It is always better to have people of different kinds in any network.


Once you have done the the network analysis, take harsh decision by minimizing contact with people who promote harmful behaviors. This could be achieved without disrupting the relationships and reshaping your role to avoid them, devoting less time to them or reframing your reactions so that you do not dwell on the interactions. The next step is to ask yourself which of the six categories have too many people in them.


Now that you've created room in your network, you need to fill it with the right people. Simple tools like work sheets can help you get started, for example, you might make a list of the six categories of relationships and think about colleagues who could fill the holes you have in each. Remember to focus on positive, energetic, selfless people, and be sure to ask people inside and outside your network for recommendations. you should also think about how you could connect your network to your professional and personal goals.


Effective and efficient use of people in your network is the main purpose of forming a network. Start using your network. Researches demonstrated that high performers and successful leaders at all levels tend to use their contacts to gain other benefits, such as new ideas.

   Conclusion Top

Managing peers and bosses is equally important if not more to managing a team. Inability to manage bosses and peers effectively results in loss of influence within the organization, frustration, may cost promotions and opportunities. The good relationship between superviser and supervisees can be described as symbiotic which benefits both.Unfortunately this important aspect of leadership and management does not receive the attention it deserves. For managing bosses, it is not only important to know the boss's strengths and weaknesses but also be aware of one's own. The goals and objectives of the superviser and supervisees need to overlap with that of the organization. An effective and good relationship with peers is very important to achieve goals and to get work done effectively within the organization. It is important for successful managers to understand it, have the required skills and effectively use these to achieve self, team, and organizational goals through building a good network within the organization. The focus in building good network with peers and superviser is to achieve results for everyone including that of the organization.

   Acknowledgement Top

The authors of this article thankfully acknowledge the usefulness of the book "HBR Guide to Managing Up and Across.HBR Press. Boston 2013." This article used it at many places and quoted from it.

   References Top

Kumar S, Adhish VS, Deoki N. Introduction to strategic management and leadership for health professionals. Indian J Community Med 2014;39:13-6.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Kumar S, Adhish VS, Deoki N. Making sense of theories of leadership for capacity building. Indian J Community Med 2014;39:82-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Kumar S, Adhish VS, Chauhan A. Managing self for leadership. Indian J Community Med 2014;39:138-42.  Back to cited text no. 3
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Kumar S, Deshmukh V, Adhish VS. Building and leading teams. Indian J Community Med 2014;39:208-13.  Back to cited text no. 4
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Beverly D. Flaxington: Understand Other People, The Basics on Managing Up: [Published on 2013 Apr 29].  Back to cited text no. 6
Available from: http://www.stratfordmanagers.com/blog/1261/three-management-skills [Last accessed on 2014 Jul 30].  Back to cited text no. 7
Harvard Business Review Section 2. Managing Across. HBR Guide to Managing Up and Across. Boston: HBR Press; 2013.  Back to cited text no. 8
Weinberg G. The Psychology of Computer Programming. Dorset House Publishing Co Inc.,U.S.; 2 Silver anniversary ed. [Last accessed on 1998 Apr 29].  Back to cited text no. 9
Cross R, Thomas R. Managing yourself: A smarter way to network, Harward Business Review July August 2011 http://hbr.org/2011/07/managing-yourself-a-smarter-way-to-network [Last accessed on 2014 Jul 30].  Back to cited text no. 10
Bennett-Emslie G, McIntosh J. Promoting collaboration in the primary care team - the role of the practice meeting. J Interprof Care 1995;9:251-6.  Back to cited text no. 11
Fried LP, Piot P, Frenk JJ, Flahault A, Parker R. Global public health leadership for the twenty-first century: Towards improved health of all populations. Glob Public Health 2014;7: S5-15.  Back to cited text no. 12
Yeager S. Interdisciplinary collaboration: The heart and soul of health care. Crit Care Nurs Clin North Am 2005;17: 143-8.  Back to cited text no. 14

This article has been cited by
1 Leadership through the eyes of a public health professional: A journey of 43 years
Sanjiv Kumar
Indian Journal of Public Health. 2020; 64(3): 209
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Print this article  Email this article


    Similar in PUBMED
    Search Pubmed for
    Search in Google Scholar for
    Article in PDF (393 KB)
    Citation Manager
    Access Statistics
    Reader Comments
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

    Managing and Wor...
    To Complement Be...
    Skills Common to...

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded458    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 1    

Recommend this journal

  Sitemap | What's New | Feedback | Copyright and Disclaimer
  2007 - Indian Journal of Community Medicine | Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow
  Online since 15th September, 2007