Yes, this is a real thing - and yes, you should know how to manage your boss. Not in the manipulative, self-seeking kind of way -- more in the how-do-we-make-the-best-of-this-relationship sort of way.
I read the "On Managing Your Boss" chapter in the Harvard Business Review On Managing People as a second year fellow. And I almost cried! Both out of frustration - and a bit of humor. I had worked with some attendings during my first year of fellowship where we "divided and conquered", where I learned a ton and improved my abilities. And others where - well, it sucked so bad! We were both miserable by the end of the week. And while I knew it was partly my fault when things went poorly - it wasn't until I read this book that I understood WHY!
I am using the term "boss" loosely here - in academic medicine, this could be anyone who is superior to you - which then depends on where you are in training/out of training, etc.
It is imperative to remember that you and your "boss" are in a mutually dependent relationship - you need each other. So... 1) You should have a good understanding of your boss (strengths, weaknesses, work styles, etc) and 2) Use this info to navigate a healthy working relationship.
Your best chance at working effectively with your boss is to seek out info about your boss's goals, problems, and pressures. This isn't a one time thing either - it is on a continual basis - because priorities and concerns change over time!
Then know how your boss functions:
Are they a "Reader" or a "Listener"? - If they are a reader, then have a report/update on your projects written up and turned in before you meet. If they are a listener, brief them first in person, then follow-up with a summary memo (we all need written reminders sometimes).
What is your boss's decision-making style? - If they are "high-involvement style" then they will want to be kept abreast of all decisions/problems - so do that! If they are "delegators" - then only go to them with major issues or inform them on big outcomes/changes.
But to manage your boss, you must also manage yourself- aka) know yourself! Know how you respond to others - whether you are prone to lashing out against people who try to control you or if you back down easily and become over-dependent on your bosses. Be aware of these reactions, and learn self-management strategies to counteract the non-productive reactions. Be dependable and honest - consistently provide them with the important information - remember that trust is usually built.
This is a MUST READ for learners! How has your approach or interactions with bosses changed after reading this?