How to stand up to your line manager

Career masterclass: Feeling put upon by your line manager? Courage, mon brave! Here's how to go from doormat to canny diplomat.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Stand tall. In a world of endless collaboration and consensus-building, brave leaders inspire followers through decisive action. Whether it's doing away with an unproductive weekly meeting or dropping an impossible client, offer clear direction to your team.

Own up. If you've made a mistake and angered a client, don't pass the buck. Take responsibility for finding a solution and keep communicating with the client until things are resolved. Knowing someone senior is involved will soothe all but the most irate.

Stay stable. Courage takes emotional stability, which means neither suppressing our feelings nor letting them flood us. Yale psychologist Susan David recommends 'going to, and going through' emotions, recognising which we can use to our advantage and which are holding us back. For a quick rebalancing fix, take a walk outside or chat to a friend.

Speak up. McKinsey founder Marvin Bower once told a CEO he was consulting for: 'The problem, as I see it, is you'. The company didn't give McKinsey any work for the next two years, but when the difficult CEO left, his successor hired Bower immediately. Take a deep breath and say it like it is.

Challenge the norms. Are you using rules to let yourself off the hook? Just because your company 'doesn't do' process changes doesn't mean you shouldn't overhaul your procedures. Question every rule, then break the ones you need to.

Pick your battles. Sometimes it's best to give way, especially if it will help you achieve a longer-term goal. Been fighting against outsourcing your tech support? Swallow your pride and think of what the company could do with the savings.

Let your principles guide you. Courage means standing by our decisions, whatever the consequences - take the Mid Staffs whistleblowers who stood firm in the face of physical intimidation. Imagine fighting for your cause then imagine letting the moment pass. In which picture do you feel most proud?

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