This article offers advice on the best way of managing your relationship with your line manager or mentor. I have experienced managers with many different styles and led teams of colleagues myself, so I can appreciate best practice for working with supervisors.
Be selective about what you ask for
Sometimes if you are in a new role it is tempting to over-rely on your supervisor, line manager or mentor for advice and support. However, you must not overuse this resource, partly because you will annoy the person who probably has several staff members to supervise, but also because you want to seem independent and self-motivated. If you have a number of issues to discuss, write these down and pick the most important two or three. You will then get immediate answers to these and will hopefully be able to find the answers to others elsewhere.
Cultivate other avenues of support
Use your line manager or mentor to understand about how the structure of your organisation works so that you know where to find help on a particular subject. You will then have a support network within the organisation who can advise you on a range of matters. However, it’s also important to develop networks of support outside your immediate working circle, within other departments of your institution or in different workplaces. You will get a fruitful second opinion, but also will boost your work reputation by becoming known as a hard worker outside your own working environment. Sometimes it works well to have the support of other senior colleagues, so develop a number of contacts rather than relying on one individual.
Keep regular meetings and record them
Having said that, your line manager or mentor has been assigned to you for a reason, so use them! Ask if you can have regular meetings (say, once a month) to discuss your progress and to solve any concerns. This is especially important during your probationary period when your work will be monitored closely. In this challenging period, you need to know what is required of you. Although it is important to develop a positive relationship with your line manager, it is also important to be formal and professional. So, make sure you record details of the feedback and advice you get from your line manager. If anything goes wrong you will have proof of your conversation.
Appreciate his/her managerial style
Each line manager has a different approach to their responsibilities. There are two distinct ‘camps’: the proactive and the reactive. Proactive managers tend to instigate regular meetings with their staff, be a visible presence among the team and become involved in advising and supporting without first having to be asked. Reactive managers tend to assume that staff want to be autonomous and independent and so they hold back, preferring to be available when approached but without forcing their presence or ideas on their staff. Your response to these managerial types will depend on your own personality. If you are stuck with a line manager whose approach you do not feel comfortable with, try to remember that there are positives to both approaches and both allow you to develop as a staff member in different ways.