These are the important elements of a healthy Boss-Manager relationship. All partners in the relationship should strive to build these as the ultimate goal.
Personal Experience in a Boss-Manager Relationship
The key to a successful Boss-Manager relationship is easily said than done. This is true especially in Chinese family owned organization. Managing up without politics is probably the difficult part of the game. In an organization where nepotism is a fact of life managing up becomes even more difficult. This subset of the problem is not studied in the HBR article.
It is not difficult to image that if nepotism exists in an organization the Manager is automatically labeled to be member of a “gang” led by the Boss (or the Boss’s Boss) that he/she is serving. Having a good relationship or his/her attempt to build a good relationship with the Boss will be seen as mere survival act or described as dirty politics. These Managers will be seen by the competing team/gang or peers of the organization as incapable Managers and a target to discredit attack or destroy etc. You may be lucky if your Boss is of a type with strong character self-confidence and competent at work. What if he/she is an accidental manager who arrived at where he/she is purely by relationship and luck?
There are people who are inherently inert when dealing with subordinates. They are either not good at expressing their feelings or deliberately isolate themselves to demonstrate their superiority. If you unfortunately come across someone like that as your new boss you may face a stone wall in your attempt to understand him/her. Your only chance may only be social events after work where you may be able get more contacts and understand him/her more. It will then be an ethical issue as to whether one should give up their own social life in order to “penetrate” into his/her boss’s social life in an attempt to understand more. Your act of managing upward will easily be labeled as political maneuvering or apple polishing (in Chinese shoe shining). That may also involve sacrifices such as participating in happy hour drinks, “mahong”, golfing, karaoke, expensive club activities and other things that one may think ethically difficult.