Your tech career: How to cope with an unsupportive boss

You're ready to advance, but your manager is asleep at the switch. Here's how to get ahead without a boost from your boss.

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"When you define those [strengths], then you can look out to your peers and boss and ask, 'What are your needs and how can I apply my value to help you?'" Ehling says. "Being seen as helpful is going to get you projects and promotions. And in no way will you be seen as going around, over or behind your boss, because all you're doing is serving needs."

Ask for what you want

Even if your manager hasn't been supportive so far, you should still sit down for a face-to-face chat, says Thuy Sindell, vice president of client services at Mariposa Leadership Inc., a San Francisco-based leadership coaching service, and co-author of The End of Work As You Know It: 8 Strategies to Redefine Work On Your Own Terms.

"Let him know that you need him to be more of an advocate," says Sindell. But -- and this is a big but -- don't start and end the conversation there. "It's got to be framed in the positive, in the form of a request," she explains. "Then you have to ask, 'Is there anything I've been doing that has prevented you from being an advocate for me?' because there could be a whole laundry list."

Be ready to listen to what your boss needs from you, and be ready to articulate what you can do for him and how your skills can help the organization. Your boss is more likely to be your advocate if you can consistently deliver what's needed.

Commit to your boss's success

It may sound counterintuitive if you're saddled with a sad-sack manager, but if you want to succeed, first make sure your boss does, says Ehling.

He says that workers should set their minds on being "100% committed to the boss's success," which he acknowledges can be a difficult task if you believe your boss makes mistakes. If you're committed to her success, however, then it becomes part of your job to point out land mines to her -- be they political ramifications or vendor problems or a technical glitch -- and offer possible ways around them.

Once you've made that commitment, the next step is to figure out what will make your boss successful. Find out what her personal and organizational goals are. Ehling suggests meeting with your boss to ask about those goals and to let her know you're committed to helping her get those organizational and personal wins.

Make connections

If you build relationships throughout your organization, you'll be better positioned to be considered for opportunities or open positions, says Kimberly Douglas, president of FireFly Facilitation Inc. in Atlanta and author of The FireFly Effect: Build Teams That Capture Creativity and Catapult Results.

"Take a pay-it-forward mentality. Make this about contributing to the organization's success," Douglas says.

Don't start by looking out for your best interests, but rather, set out to learn more about others in the organization, she explains. Get together for lunch with someone you've met but don't know well. Think of a person you hear mentioned around the office who you'd like to meet, then find a mutual connection to make the introduction.

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