I was just wondering what is the best way to manage a manager who is not officially your manager. 

I guess I am confused because I have an assigned manager. My assigned manager doesn't have the same kind of technical expertise that I bring to the team, but oversees my projects. I don't do O3s with her because she is so busy overseeing the whole team.

Someone else on my team who does have technical expertise is hosting weekly O3's with me, and sometimes seems to overexert influence, especially when we are in actual meetings with the person who is actually my manager.

I feel a bit micromanaged, and a little bit as if I'm being "blocked" from getting visibility with my manager. I don't think it's intentional, it's probably a manner of style but I'm not sure how to broach the subject with this other person who has a lot of influence and is also helpful in guiding me in my projects. 

Also should I try to do "updates" with my manager? I feel like that is the person who should be really aware of what I'm doing.

Thanks for your thoughts.

mattpalmer's picture

First off, please get away from the idea that you can, in any way, "manage" your manager (or your pseudo-manager).  The dangers of thinking like that is that you end up producing all sorts of Machiavellian schemes to try and get your way.  It just doesn't work.  Instead, think about it in terms of "keeping your manager informed" -- doing them a favour, practically.

I'm assuming here that your "assigned manager" (who you never see) writes your reviews and decides your pay rises, has a say in promotions, and that sort of thing.  If that's the case, then welcome to the world of matrix management, where the person who knows the least about you is the one who has the most influence over your career (catchy slogan, huh?)  Yes, you definitely want to improve your visibility with that person, because if they don't know what you do, you're not going to get both the recognition for good work, and the feedback for bad work.

Since you're not going to be able to change your boss' mind about doing O3s, you need to change tack a little.  There is a podcast somewhere (sorry, not online at the moment to check) about "regular update meetings" with your boss, for when you're not able to do "full" O3s.  It'll give you the insight into both how to bring the subject up, as well as how to make them effective.

The charge that your pseudo-boss is "overexerting influence in meetings", that's a problem for your boss and pseudo-boss to work out amongst themselves.  The only time you should need to worry about it is when you're being asked to go against something your boss has said, or you truly believe that you're being asked to do something "wrong" (either in the legal, moral, or technical domains).  In that case, the solution is to go to your boss and ask for clarity.  "Hey Diane, I just wanted to run something past you that Fred just asked me to do, to make sure I'm on the right page..."

As far as "feel[ing] a bit micromanaged", well, your feelings are your own problem.  The important thing is, *are* you being micromanaged?  Does your boss (or pseudo-boss) tell you what to do, how to do it, closely supervises you while you do it, constantly adjust your activity, and finally take it over when you're not doing it to standard?  If not, they're not micromanaging you.  Whether they are or they aren't though, you don't *have* to feel micromanaged, and if you *are* being micromanaged, you can take steps to try and reduce it from happening.  However, throwing the word "micromanagement" around willy-nilly *destroys* credibility, because (a) most people have *never* really been micromanaged; (b) those who really *have* been micromanaged know it's something else entirely; and (c) the accusation of being a micromanager is made by those who want to avoid accountability and responsibility far more often than by those who are truly being micromanaged, so overall you just look like a work-shy slacker, not someone whose soul is being crushed under the weight of a pedantic twat's desire for control and superiority.


svibanez's picture

I believe this is the podcast Matt recommended.  You can find it at


DiSC 7114

leanne's picture
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Here's another cast that might help you. It's a Career Tools cast, from the perspective of the managed rather than the manager:

There are some from-the-manager's-perspective ones that might help also, though I wouldn't swear to that; they're in Manager Tools.


mfculbert's picture

I work in a semi-matrix organization. When a direct of mine is working under somebody else's lead, I require them to CC me on all important communications. I also require them to give me every "Do X by DATE to Z standard" they receive. I encourage it for the project leads but seldom hear from them.

You can report to your true manager in a similar manner. Your true manager will do your evaluation and argue for your pay raise as appropriate.