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how do I convince my manager I'm professional

How Do I Convince My Manager I’m a Professional?

by | May 8, 2018 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning |

“Why does my manager care if I go directly to his boss with an idea? Good ideas are good ideas, right?”

“Customers don’t need all that formality. They’re chill. Why can’t I just show up and give them an update?”

“When the CEO ran into me in the hallway and asked “What’s going on?” I told him. Now my manager is “coaching” me to be more strategic in what I choose to share.

“I can’t help it if I get fired up, it means I care!”

“WTF I’m killing myself here, and now my boss tells me I’m not ready for the next level until I have better ‘executive presence.’ ”

Great results are more than half the battle. But professionalism matters too. Every day, I hear from high-performers frustrated that their results do not seem to be enough for their boss.  The tragedy is, it’s likely small stuff that’s distracting you both from what matters most.

Six Ways to Convince Your Manager You’re a Professional

Here are six easy(ish) ways to show up more professionally.

1. Get a Grip on Your Emotions

You’re fired up. You’re angry. You can’t believe Joe missed the deadline, or Cindy talked to a customer that way… again.  YES! That means you care. YES! that means you know what must be done.  But even if you see executives flying off the handle, it doesn’t mean you should too. Keep the passion, lose the drama.  Take a step back to breathe and consider the most effective words and tone before communicating.

2. Focus on What Matters Most

When you try to do everything, it’s hard to do the most important things well. If you want to be taken more seriously, pick a few strategic priorities that will make the biggest impact and build a strong plan to execute elegantly on those things first. Be sure that you spend time every day working on those priorities.

3. Build Some White Space Into Your Calendar

When you over-book your calendar, you’re more likely to find yourself racing late into meetings, disheveled and under-prepared. Try leaving yourself a few minutes between appointments so you have time to gather your thoughts, connect with key stakeholders before the meeting starts, and consider how you can bring the most value to the table. A little white space will also help you resist the urge to multi-task with your phone under the table while “no one is looking.” (BTW–someone is always looking.)

4. Streamline Your Communication

Before speaking, consider your audience. When the CEO “casually” asks, “How’s it going?” be ready to tell her something substantial. When your boss asks for an update, don’t come in spewing all the details; bring a bulleted list of what you’ve done and what you need. Our free MIT huddle planner works well for this. Consider who you’re speaking to and how your communication can serve them well.

5. Develop Upwards Empathy

Before you write your boss off as a witch, consider the pressure she’s under and how you can help. Professionalism requires perspective.

6.  Stop Talking Trash

You don’t have to convince me, I’m sure you’ve got some peers that would be better off being “promoted to customer.” AND, nobody likes a whiner. Take the high road at work when it comes to talking ABOUT folks. It’s not as fun, but much more classy.

Your turn. What’s your best advice for managers looking to show up more professionally?

See also: our Fast Company Article– 10 Common Excuses That Silently Damage Manager’s Careers.

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Fred Schrader

    For two years, I was the CEO of a startup in the games industry and – as you can imagine – things were very casual and laid-back there. Now, after reading this list, I wish every employee would read and bookmark it. Even if you’re in a startup, even if you’re in the tech biz – you should always maintain a certain level of professionalism.

    Thanks for sharing, Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      Fred, Thanks so much for expanding the conversation! We truly appreciate your insights and sharing your experience.

  2. Very Worried

    I am slowly feeling isolated in my job. I work for an upper level manager, but reside in a department that is not under their authority. How do you recommend dealing with a manager who after perceiving I may have done something wrong, goes behind my back and starts demanding of these people not in his chain that they talk about me? I’m frustrated, but right now need to stay in my present job.

    • David Dye

      Hello Very Worried,

      Thank you for sharing what is obviously a distressing situation. How you might respond depends a bit more on some of the details. In general, I would recommend that you initiate a conversation with your manager. If you think you did (or may have) done something wrong, address it directly. eg: “I’m concerned that I may have made a mistake here and I’d like your input and advice.” If to the best of your knowledge, you didn’t do something wrong, you might start by saying: “I understand you may have some concerns about my performance and I would value any feedback you can share with me.” This approach simultaneously requests their feedback and makes clear that you want to do well, while subtly alerting them that you’ve heard the concerns second hand.

  3. Karin Hurt

    HI, Very Worried. Hang in there! We all hit tricky points in our career. It will get better. I would agree with everything David said below. I also find it helpful to see out other perspectives during this time (not sharing that you are having issues with your manager… and certainly not complaining about them.. that will only make matters worse). But instead using this as a time to really invest in getting some 360 feedback. Here’s an “easy” way to do that (without a formal tool) https://letsgrowleaders.com/2014/08/20/a-360-feedback-tool-you-can-do-yourself/

    It can also be a good time to seek out a mentor if you don’t currently have one. https://letsgrowleaders.com/2017/07/18/how-do-i-find-a-great-mentor/


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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