I've had seven different jobs with ten different managers in my career.
If a manager doesn't like you, It doesn't matter how good your work is.
Whether you get a promotion, a raise, that new project, or laid off - only your manager decides.
Your manager is a human. Humans have feelings.
Many times we don’t remember what happens to us, but we do always remember how we feel about what happens to us.
Your manager may not remember what you’ve done, but they will remember how they feel about what you’ve done.
They have a curve to grade you to. Their direct reports won’t fit the curve and they’ll have to make decisions.
Based on how they feel about you.
The quality of your work is 20% of your job - tops.
I've had an “exceeds expectations” performance rating before and been laid off shortly after somebody I didn't get along with became my manager.
One time it was three weeks later. One time it was two days later.
It always came with hush money.
“Here’s $X since we are laying you off for discretionary reasons. We are paying you because we don’t think this will hold up in court.
The only condition is you can never talk about it with anyone, ever.”
Earlier in my career, I truly believed that the value of your work was irrefutable. The impact that it had was inherent. Through experience, I realized it’s only a small part.
If keeping your job is the goal, it’s far superior to be liked by your manager and produce mediocre work.
Think about it - your job is literally full of people like this. One standard deviation away from the mean in both directions. It’s called “meeting expectations”.
Good managers will like you for the value you add. Bad managers won’t like you because you didn’t kiss their ass.
Many times bad managers also don’t have a great grasp on what adds value. They’ll have you wasting time going down rabbit holes.
You have to figure out how to make your manager like you.
If you like what you’re working on and your manager likes you, that’s called a great fit.
These will be the best career growth stretches of your career.
I had this and went from a mid-level engineer to principal engineer in a 3 year span. I liked growing pie and my manager liked that about me. It helped him do his job more effectively too.
If what you like to working on is not what your manager likes for you to work on - you have 2 options
- Focus on the positives of the job and de-prioritize your intellectual satisfaction
- Find a new manager (either internally or externally)
For entry and mid level engineers, it is significantly easier to find a new manager externally.
A coworker of mine said recently the best piece of career advice he ever got was to “choose your manager”. He’s right.
Whatever you do, don’t keep doing whatever makes your manager not like you.
Otherwise you’re only tackling 20% of your job - tops.