7 Senior Management Fears and how to Address them

Someone suggested I write about this topic so here goes. What can I share from my own observations as food for thought that could help someone else deal with their fear of senior managers? I myself have had the fortune of learning from some brilliant and encouraging managers who I have respected and admired. However, that can be a rarity. Whether you’re an introvert or a perfectionist who doesn’t take well to criticism, or you’re just starting off, the good news is that you will grow to learn a lot about conducting yourself with upper management. Perhaps the following scenarios are a good starting point.

Fear # 1:  I am not high enough in the food chain to be taken seriously by a senior manager

➡️ Everyone starts at the bottom. Do your research, know what you’re talking about and deliver with confidence. Let your work get you noticed. Also, good reviews travel through the grapevine.

Fear # 2: Senior management sits on a different floor behind closed doors – I can’t just walk up to them

➡️ That could be especially if your company has a hierarchical culture. Find out who their assistant or right hand is, get that meeting in the calendar and make sure the manager has a clear picture of your motivation and intended outcomes. Try and try until you get your meeting and when you get it, please oh please don’t be late and remember to thank them for their time.

Fear # 3: A senior manager has a reputation of being intimidating and difficult

➡️ Good news! You know this already and uncalled for behavior is less likely to throw you off in your interaction. Knowledge is power. Prepare yourself mentally and proceed with caution.

Fear # 4: I can’t say no to or disagree with a senior manager

➡️ It’s acceptable to disagree as long as you deliver your message with professionalism and have solid facts to support your argument. After this, be prepared to respect the manager’s decision.  They are the boss after all. Some managers actually prefer to build teams who challenge them. Figure out who you’re dealing with.

Fear # 5: I am maxed out but don’t want to appear like I am not dedicated to my job

➡️ Only you know your limits. It’s better to take a step back early and explain your reasons with supporting facts than to overstretch yourself and become a burden to the manager (and yourself) when you burn out.

Fear # 6: If I am too friendly to a senior manager s/he may question my motives

➡️ Friendly and agreeable go a long way. Ingenuity or a lack of effort to have a smile on your face will probably get your equally qualified or even less-qualified-but cheerful colleague a seat on an exciting new team over you.

Fear # 7: I am afraid to ask for a promotion or pay rise

➡️ Who isn’t! If you’re female, hundreds and thousands of articles, books and research will reassure you that this is common i.e: women are more likely to undersell themselves than their male counterparts in the workplace. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. These articles might help:

How to ask for a pay raise and get it [You may need to subscribe]

Why women don’t negotiate salary and what to do about it

 Why women and men need to negotiate pay rises differently

What’s your path? 10 lessons from mine to yours

I vividly remember the excitement and pressure of making that single, well-informed move in my graduating year. After earning two Masters degrees from reputable universities, I [felt that I] was expected to know exactly what the right next move was, which companies I needed to apply to and the job title I had to show off as testament to the value I was bringing to the job market. What made it slightly more challenging for me was that I had a dual background in Business and Journalism. Was I going to dedicate the next 5-10 years of my life as a Marketer at a multinational or would I become a writer at a publishing house?

Today, I am proud to say that my route the last decade has been dramatically different to my peers and while not without struggle, it taught me a LOT and exposed me to different countries, unique company cultures and various personality types. It also allowed me to cleverly blend my skills in ways I couldn’t have planned.

So what was my path?

My path wasn’t as straightforward as study hard, graduate, get a job offer and stroll into a well established corporation. For starters, I graduated from my second masters at the peak of 2008’s recession (Note to self: Recessions don’t care about qualifications and degrees). Secondly, being a native English speaker, my opportunity pool in The Netherlands was much, much smaller. And third, I simply didn’t know that I was expected to think competitively with a clear picture of at least the next five years at the get go.

I must admit that I was also naive. For example, to this day I’m appalled that at the time, an internship to me meant just that: 3 – 6 months of work experience. I didn’t have the foresight to realize that an internship was a foot in the door to my future at a company. Similarly, I didn’t pursue a traineeship. I realized much later that traineeships carry more promise. An intern is more likely to be underpaid or not paid at all. Under a traineeship, an employer has a vested interest in you and is seeing you as a value add to their future equity.

In 2009, after a series of internships and freelance work in what seemed like the longest year amid a recession, I took a risk and relocated to London not knowing anyone and to no job waiting for me. Within a month, I had secured a job and was a happy Londoner, moving as fast as the pace of the city. I spent five years building my CV and credentials. In late 2014, I decided to move back home to Amsterdam, bringing with me a wealth of international experience that I wouldn’t have had if all had been dandy five years earlier.

So what is your path? Here’s sharing 10 lessons from my own journey:-

  1. It’s OK to not know your next step all the time. I have pushed myself and grown the most in times of uncertainty.
  2. Don’t be fazed by the rat race. Everyone has their own path. Remember Aesop’s Fables’ The Tortoise and the Hare?
  3. Everyone struggles. Some do at 20, others win hard until they burn out even harder at 30 or 40 only to start all over again.
  4. Make an effort to consistently learn and better yourself on the job and outside. The skills will help you somehow, somewhere, sometime.
  5. Success and failure are inevitable. They don’t define you. Accept them with a pinch of salt and keep looking ahead.
  6. Identify a mentor who has done the time and encourages you to reach your full potential. Brilliant mentors are rare – don’t take them for granted.
  7. Be aware of the naysayers because a rose wouldn’t be a rose without some thorns. See them as your call to aim higher.
  8. Recognize opportunities and work hard in every role within every team under every manager at every company. Reputation management is critical to sustain.
  9. Do your very own SWOT analysis and ask your colleagues for feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. The exercise can prove to be very insightful.
  10. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. You define the shades of green in your path.