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Numerous readers asked me to do a follow-up piece to my article, “What Makes A Manager Most,” in which I outlined the key foundational characteristics of an exceptional manager: fairness, listening, clarity, and feedback.

The first article was primarily written from the viewpoint of a manager, while this article is more from the viewpoint of a direct report who is attempting to get their manager to consistently perform the different characteristics.

The premise underpinning my recommendations/questions is that direct reports can only ultimately control their own actions, and not necessarily their manager's behavior directly (some say you can shape behavior via behavioral psychology principles, which is true to an extent).

As I stated in my previous article about these behavioral characteristics, there are no silver bullets when it comes to dealing with dysfunctional manager-direct report relationships. But like most things, there are a number of questions you can use in attempting to create insight and action plans that can help to repair the working relationship.

I am also quite cognizant, however, that many direct reports feel -- and often are -- more expendable than their managers, and thus the issue of whether to pursue a potentially career limiting discussion/action must be thought about with care, especially understanding the pragmatics and options available in a given organization, field, and job market.


It is quite difficult to have someone act fair if there are no repercussions or consequences to acting unfair or partisan. Many people discount our legal system because of the ostensible lack of justice, fairness, and punishments to match the crime.

With that said, without an organizational system that promotes managerial fairness and transparency, and that punishes unjust and capricious actions, getting your manager to act fairly is an uphill climb. Also, fairness can be in the eye of the beholder, so it is important to make sure you have definitional alignment around this abstract term.

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Michael L. Perla is a principal consultant at a sales and marketing consulting firm. He can be reached at michaelperla@bellsouth.net.