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How To

Managing Up: 4 Tips To Do It Correctly

Andrew Langat
June 29, 2022
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To an uninitiated person, how to manage up can be misconstrued as assisting a manager or boss in understanding their roles. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If your goal is to create a good rapport with your managers or bosses, then you need to make it a priority and part of your job to learn how to manage up effectively. It will assist you in effectively managing your workplace relationships and becoming a rock-star team member, increasing your chances of success.

Managing up is about creating a symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationship with your boss or manager. Your manager manages you, yes, but management is not only a top-down approach but also a bottom-up approach designed to effectively manage many employees.

It would be a mistake to leave the success of your relationship solely up to your manager or organization, as not everyone may be on the same page as you. Moreover, rising above the ranks is more than letting your work speak for your competency.

It is also important to note that managing up applies to anyone who wants to boost his or her success in an organization. It is not meant for people who have bad bosses, or it does not in any way suggest insubordination, an attempt to try to manage your manager's time.

The first step to managing up effectively is understanding that your boss's success directly impacts you as a team member. As such, it is imperative to go beyond your job description and build rapport with your direct manager or higher-up in your organization.

This calls for a well-thought-out plan to ensure that you build a positive relationship that is vital for professional development and becoming a dependable team player imperative in climbing the corporate ladder and career development.

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Why is it Important to Manage Up?

Managing up helps you be on the same page with your superiors, make your job more satisfying, and win approval from your higher-ups.

Managing up in the workplace derives benefits such as:

  • Strengthen the relationships between you and your manager
  • Promotes open communication and diminishes lost productivity
  • Develop empathy in the workplace
  • Foster richer and more meaningful relationship
  • It helps you move the career ladder as your boss builds more confidence in your initiatives
  • As an assistant, it aligns your boss's communication style with yours
  • You will be able to communicate openly with your boss
  • When you offer solutions, it makes you dependable and reliable
  • Make you a go-to person for your boss.
  • It makes goal setting easy to formulate
  • Assist your manager in managing other core business areas, such as product insights and performance reviews.
  • Enhance your direct report engagement with your superiors
  • Increases chances of enhanced networking through special event invites.
  • Enable you to avoid the pet peeves that can lead to a collision with your boss.
  • Unknowingly, you are always interviewing, which pays off in the long-term.

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Tips For Managing Up

Developing positive relationships with management is a positive step towards managing up. This ongoing process should be executed appropriately to avoid unwanted surprises. These great tips can broadly be categorized as Goals, your manager's style, communication, and mutual respect.

To manage effectively, it is essential to know the right strategies to put in place. In that spirit, we’ve put together a few tips for managing your manager-managee relationship.

On Goals: 

‍1. Understand Your Manager’s Goals, Objectives, and Problems 

The foundation for success here is empathy which is an excellent foundation for building and managing a great working relationship with your manager. You will be able to create that healthy relationship with your manager if you can understand her – her goals, objectives, and perhaps most importantly, her problems. This creates a win-win relationship.

For example, what keeps your manager up at night?

What process does she need improvement in?

How does she want bad news delivered?

Do they prefer direct reports or through their executive assistant?

What is the pain point, and how can you reduce your manager's stress?

Understanding these things about your manager will allow you to anticipate his/her needs and proactively suggest solutions to her problems, ultimately enhancing your manager's strengths. Employees are, after all, hired to solve problems for their employers, right? So, work to understand your manager’s problems and then focus on solving them. Make that your North Star. 

Align Your Goals with Your Manager’s and Company’s 

Resist thinking about managing up solely as a way to further your career goals. Take the concept of empathy a step further and consider the goals and objectives of your company at large.

Everything you do should ladder up to your manager’s objectives, then her manager’s objectives, and so forth until you reach the top of the pyramid, i.e., the CEO who’s setting the overarching goals and vision. 

Ultimately, it’s about aligning your goals with your manager’s and the organization’s – to always be in tune with how your work contributes to the larger success. If you can consistently operate in that way, the support you’re seeking as an individual will naturally follow. 

‍On Your Manager’s Style

‍1. How Does Your Manager Absorb Information?  

You’ve heard of the different learning styles, yes? Visual, auditory, and tactile. It’s the same for listening – we all have our way of listening and absorbing information. Some listen more actively than others; others are more easily distracted.

Figure out how your manager best absorbs information:
Is it via Slack?
Is it through a particular way of talking to her?
Emails in bullet form? Prefer in-person communication?

Pay attention to the best way to keep your manager’s attention and communicate with her so she retains what you want her to retain. To paraphrase a quote from the book seven Habits of Highly Effective People, listen to understand and not with the intent of replying.

Moreover, Learn to change and experiment with your messaging so the priorities you’re communicating foster a good relationship.

Adjusting to Management Style  

Just as you should adjust your communication style to your manager’s listening style, you can also calibrate her management style. Some managers micromanage, some are entirely hands-off, and many fall in between.

Find out how your manager likes to manage and adjust accordingly when possible. This will set you on the right foot in strengthening work ties.

For instance, if your boss prefers to manage hands-off, you might want to supplement your regular check-ins with periodic updates to keep her in the loop. 

All that said, it’s also important for your manager to understand how you like to be managed. Give her feedback about what works best for you, too – regular reminders, weekly 1:1s, etc. 

On Communication 

Communicate Early and Often 

There is (almost) no such thing as over-communication – it is a way to be proactive, a trait almost any manager or boss will appreciate. At the very least, it’s better to start over-communicating with your manager, particularly early on in your relationship, and then adjust from there.

A great manager will tell you if your level of communication is too little, too much, etc. 

When such feedback is offered, it is your job to act on it immediately, as it enables you to be on the same page with your boss and enhances good relationships.

Leave a Breadcrumb Trail 

Let’s say you’ve got a big idea or a big ask for your manager. It’s generally not advisable to simply drop it all on her at once. You’ll hardly ever get anything across by saying it only once. Many managers will not appreciate this approach, and it is certainly not a recommended way how to manage up.

Drop some snippets of information casually first before following up with more details later in a one-on-one meeting. Make sure whatever you’re working on, you’re constantly mentioning those things, whether it’s in small chunks or big chunks, to make sure you’re keeping them top of mind. 

Start With a 10,000-ft. View

Sometimes there is a tendency to get into the weeds with your manager, but that’s not always effective or preferred from your manager’s perspective. The more tedious you are in the weeds, the less your manager might think of you as strategic or consistent with her level. 

This is not a good way of fostering a good relationship and may inadvertently make your attempt to manage up effectively difficult.

Instead, take an inverted pyramid approach. Start with a high-level view of what needs to be done and then drill down into specifics as your manager sees fit. This way, you can figure out what needs to be examined further or what your manager requires more detail about.

Starting high-level with your manager allows you to cover more ground in your one-on-one meeting. If she has key questions, she’ll ask. 

A manager conducting a training session

O‍n Mutual Respect 

Set and Maintain Boundaries

Respectfully setting and maintaining boundaries is essential in all aspects of your professional life, perhaps most notably in your relationship with your boss. Your boss sets the tone for how you should be working with her, so you should also set the tone for how you want your manager to work with you, especially in the beginning.

That might mean being forward about when you answer emails, how often or if you respond on the weekends, or anything else that might improve how you work together. 

Start Building Your Relationship Early   

You want a solid relationship with your manager based on trust, constructive feedback, and respect. Not only will that make your working relationship productive and harmonious, but it will also help your manager become your ally – someone who has your back when you need a raise, performance reviews, a switch to a different team, etc.,

Of course, getting to know your manager and building that relationship takes time. Lay the groundwork early on by trying to get to know her and watch for the first sign of progress. Ask questions about her personal life and background, but take care not to dive too deep too quickly.

These questions should be carefully framed to ensure that you start on the right foot

Ask how her weekend was, the book there are readings, etc. – those types of surface-level questions, dropped here and there, can help build your relationship over time. 

Avoid personal or sensitive questions that are awkward to answer, especially if rapport has not been established.

Remember, managing is a two-way street. Managing up simply means doing your part to ensure you and your manager have an efficient relationship that benefits you and ensures your team and company become successful.

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Andrew Langat
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Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.