Managing Up in the Workplace

The desire to manage up is often perceived as an act of political maneuvering or brown-nosing, however, many fail to realize what managing up actually is and how it can revolutionize a workplace environment. Job satisfaction has less to do with salary and benefits but more to do with bosses. A study found that 65% of workers would prefer a new boss over a pay raise, this exemplifies the need for teaching employees how to practice leadership competencies and understand what it means to manage up. According to Idealist Careers, managing up is not about manipulation it's about a system of career development that’s based on mutual benefit for yourself and your boss. Using these tips to conquer any perplexing challenges in the workplaces can help build a complementary relationship with you and your boss while you manage up. 

Recognizing differences in responses: bosses rarely tell you how they prefer to communicate, which makes sense because strong communication regardless of style should be expected between an employer and employee. However, in a leader/follower relationship a follower should always strive to communicate in a manner that is most efficient for the exchange of information. This is why it’s important to recognize how you communicate with your employer can make a difference in the output of your interactions. Some employers respond better to asking questions and providing options for answers, some employers like open-ended questions while some are highly communicative and specifically outline their desires so there is no need for asking questions. From learning how your boss prefers to communicate, you can successfully agree on the best way to update them on your work.

Learning about them: Regardless of our roles in a company, every individual is there for the same reason— to do their job. Doing your job successfully makes your bosses job easier, it gives your boss more breathing room. For these reasons, the interactions you have with your boss are extremely important. Learning about your boss can improve your interactions with them which can ultimately make doing your own job easier because you’ll work to meet their needs according to their style. Understanding their strengths and weaknesses will allow you to have a healthy working relationship with them which will allow you to work more efficiently in a manner that is compatible with all parties.  

Ask questions: Never stop asking questions about things you don’t know about—as long as they are meaningful and relevant. Inquire about what ‘success’ means for your boss. Ask them how they approach conflict and how they manage any challenges they encounter. Ask about what motivates them and excites them in order to learn about ways to develop. Collaborate with your team while asking questions if you think others can benefit from the answers as well. 

Do your job well and over-communicate: Doing your job well makes things easier for your boss. If you think you’ll need more time in a meeting with your boss, let them know in advance. Use your strengths – just because you have taken the time to learn about your boss doesn’t mean that they have taken the time to learn about you. This is why it’s important to communicate what your strengths are and advise your boss on how to best utilize your strengths. Know what their goals are so you can learn to work with them not against them. If you know trouble might be brewing but you’re not exactly sure if they need to be looped in or not, it’s often best to loop them in so they’re not blindsided in the event that you do need their assistance in completing a task. Once you have the strong communication skills needed to do your job well you will eventually learn to anticipate the needs of your boss and demonstrate your understanding of them.

The idea behind managing up serves to reframe what it means to be a follower. We are often so focused on being a leader we forget how to be good followers, knowing how to work with your boss can make you become a more active willing learner. Although these tips will not make you love your boss, they will certainly make you more empathetic and compassionate towards them which can help improve how you get along with them.