Managing Your Boss’s Boss

Can you walk a mile in a manager’s shoes? You’ve often told your colleagues, “If those guys upstairs knew what we know down here, they’d do things completely differently.” Now here’s your chance. Your boss brings you to a meeting with a bunch of C-level executives. Instead of just throwing you a technical question or […]

Can you walk a mile in a manager’s shoes? You’ve often told your colleagues, “If those guys upstairs knew what we know down here, they’d do things completely differently.” Now here’s your chance. Your boss brings you to a meeting with a bunch of C-level executives. Instead of just throwing you a technical question or two, the executives ask you to tell them what you think, their questions moving further and further from your areas of expertise. The CEO is listening to you attentively, your boss is watching you warily, but all you can think about is the bead of sweat forming on your forehead. Your dream moment is about to turn into your worst nightmare. What should you do?


Unfortunately, you should have taken a moment beforehand to consider things from management’s perspective. Let’s do that right now, shall we?


If talking to the boss is hard, remember that the feeling is mutual. In fact, talking to engineers is one of the biggest challenges a boss faces. Engineers know important things beyond the boss’s ken; at the same time, the boss sees the big picture. As an engineer, you have a different perspective, and so you have to work to discern what management wants. That task involves taking into account profitability, long-term company objectives, and—finally—corporate politics.


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Article taken from February 2009 issue of Spectrum magazine published by the IEEE