Different Management Styles and How to Manage Up

We have our first ever two-time guest blogger today!  Stephanie R, brings her expertise on working with different types of managers to the table.  In case you missed it, her first post, titled "How to Deal with a Tough Manager with 4 Simple Tips" can be found here.


Just like college where you have different types of professors, the work force is no different, except with managers instead of professors. I’ve had three managers in the last three years and none of them were the same. While they had similar qualities, since I look for those qualities in my managers in identifying an opportunity, they all had differences. Each manager brings their own management style.  Typically a manager does not fall into just one type of management style, with good managers showing the ability to adapt depending on the employee.  Here is a list of six different types of management styles:  

  1. Micro-Manager
    The Micro-Manager is just that: a Micro-Manager. Rather than telling you what the task is and when it should be completed, this person will watch your steps closely and provide input along the way. The term “Micro-Manager” usually has a negative connotation in the work place. Managers like this typically have issues trusting their employees.  This may be a result of the employee’s style or because the employee has yet to prove themselves trustworthy. 
  • Pro: Thorough understanding of how to do a task/project and help along the way
  • Con: Little room to incorporate personal thought and work style
  1. Best Friend/“Cool Mom”
    Sometimes your manager becomes your best friend or what some refer to as the “Cool Mom.” This manager is usually focused on making your day brighter/happier and asking you more about your personal life. This manager may not meet with you as frequently to discuss your work or when they do it maybe hard to constraint on work.  While getting the job done is important, this manager’s largest concern is getting their employees to like them. 
  • Pro: Always have a friend at work
  • Con: Work conversations may not be as efficient/effective
  1. Coach/Advocate
    This manager is always focused on you and what they can do to help. They often ask you how you feel about your projects, work load, and the atmosphere they are providing at work. They will look for opportunities to help you shine and advance your career.
  • Pro: Always have someone to speak highly of you on your behalf and provide you with the right opportunities for you to excel
  • Con: They may provide more guidance/help than is needed, interfering with your ability to learn along the way. While their intentions are good, the outcome may not be in your best interest
  1. Politician
    This type of manager is very focused on appearances. This person may take a very political approach to new projects/ideas, thinking about how these projects/ideas will be perceived by other parties, especially upper management. This is the type of manager that requires their approval, and possibly that of upper management, every step of the way.
  • Pro: All ideas/projects are well thought out and vetted
  • Con: Too many hoops to jump through to get something started
  1. Absent
    The Absent manager is not around when you need them. They maybe difficult to get a hold of to answer questions or discuss ideas. This could be for a number of reasons, but, at the end of the day, this type of manager is not giving the type of support to you that you need. This support could be in the form of physical presence, project support, and more.
  • Pro: Don’t need to worry about impressing your manager 24/7 because they aren’t around!
  • Con: You will find yourself lost at times
  1. Proactive
    The Proactive manager is proactive in understanding how you like to be managed and what they can do for you. Think a mix between the Best Friend, Coach/Advocate, and the Politician. They want to make your work life easy so they will act like your best friend and show a genuine interest in your life outside of work. They will play the Coach/Advocate in order to identify opportunities and the right work for you. This manager will play the Politician in order to ensure what the team is doing aligns with the goals of management. 
  • Pro: Adapts to you and your style.
  • Con: If you don’t know how to ask the right questions or what you need this manager may have a hard time helping you out

What can you do to manage up A.K.A. learn to manage different types of managers?

  1. Ask what they like and don’t like
    Ask your manager how they like to be communicated too, what level of involvement they need to have in certain projects, and how they like to receive information. Be open with your manager.
  2. When choosing roles, get to know the manager well during the interview process
    Most roles look great on paper, but after you apply make sure you ask questions about the person you will be reporting to. Most times this person will play a role in the hiring process and you will likely meet them. Take that time to express interest in their management style, decision making preferences and communication preferences. The more you know the better you can make a decision about the role. Never choose a role exclusively for a manager, though, as that manager may only be in their role for another month.
  3. Adapt
    The most important skill you can have as a young professional is the ability to adapt. If your manager comments on your long e-mails that are hard for he/she to read, shorten them. If your manager comments that usually there is a specific project plan for new ideas, find it and use it. As you make observations or learn things about your manager, adapt.
  4. Set up 30 minutes a month to make your development a priority
    It’s easy for your personal development to get lost in the corporate world. Depending on what type of manager you have, your development may or may not be a priority for them. Set up 30 minutes or a lunch with your manager monthly and ask for development feedback – how can you improve? What can you do to make their life easier?