What is managing up?

One of the things people complain about is bosses. We all have them, some good and others bad. The good news is that with really bad bosses, the chances are good that you can help yourself by using “managing up.”

What is managing up? It is a process which employees use to help their boss by prioritizing their goals and needs. The result in many cases is promotions and a better work environment.

Managing up is how some people work their way up in their careers. It is not what some people might call brown-nosing or sucking up, but it is understanding your boss’s expectations and taking it one step further. This could be done by thinking down the line and fixing something or stopping something that might happen because you thought ahead. This could also be adding that extra line on a spreadsheet that allows for better tracking. There are many ways people can manage up without being too obnoxious.  

Managing up doesn’t mean taking it to the next level while not enjoying it. Most people like to please their bosses, and so this usually comes naturally. Effective communication and a good workflow allow us to feel accomplished in our lives. Not only that, a happy boss usually takes notice as to how well the team as a whole is doing. Sometimes it is just the little things that help in a big way.

Learn Your Boss’ Style

The first thing to learn while managing up is discovering your boss’ style. Yes, this will take a bit of time if you are new to the job or company. However, with just a little bit of paying attention, you will quickly learn their preferences. These are things such as:

  • What role do they envision for you?
  • How has their past molded how they do things now?
  • Note their particular style. How do they prefer to communicate, for example? Some people prefer conversations in person, and others like paper trails and emails.
  • What do they value the most, both in their careers and home life?
  • What are they trying to achieve within the company?

Observe or Ask What They Prefer

You will learn some of these answers in observation and some you might have to ask. They will be impressed that you took the time to find such information out, and these questions might even intrigue them as well. If you strike up this conversation, have your answers ready to the same questions to help carry the conversation and not make it seem like an interview.  

Asking things such as, what works best for you? Do you prefer an email weekly or daily or a conversation once a month? Some boss’ is very detailed oriented and like to micromanage, while others do not. Finding out this style will certainly help with your managing up.  

Be Prepared to Help

Another part of managing up is being prepared to help when something has taken precedence. This could be seeing them struggle with something and offering to help them by either working together or doing it for them. Everyone has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. If you spot something they do every week but struggle, or it takes a lot longer than you think it would for you, offer you help. They might not take you up on it, but they know you are eager to step in and be a team player. This is an essential step in managing up.  

When looking at managing up, remember you were hired to do this job under this boss for a reason. Maybe you feel you are more talented and better than the boss but never let them think that. They, most likely, hired you, and they hire people they believe will do a stellar job for the position and make their team look amazing. So, glow in your own time. You were hired to be under that boss. However, this doesn’t mean that you will stay in that position forever. That’s the point of managing up.

Managing Up Don’ts

While there are many things you can do to assist in managing up, there are also some that you should do. This is about integrity and honesty, so you shouldn’t manipulate the situation or be the ‘Yes” person. While you want to help your boss out, you don’t want to take on so much extra that you cannot do a great job and fail. The point of managing up is to be a good support person that your boss knows they can count on at the time of need.  

We all make mistakes. However, what we do with those mistakes is a problem. Own up to your mistakes and shortcomings, and don’t make excuses. Knowing the issues will help them come up with solutions faster. They, in the end, will appreciate your honesty. You want to be trusted and looked at in a trustworthy manner, then state what happened and offer help fixing the problem if you can. If you dropped the ball due to you not knowing how to do something, let them know that as well. A good boss will want to give you things that you can handle but also train you, should you need more training in certain areas. The more training and skills you have, the better you will manage up.

Stay out of office politics. Yes, you see these people every day, and it is hard not to get involved. You want to keep your personal life out of your professional life as much as possible. However, you will catch yourself in conversations that lead to more about your personal life. Try to avoid those as much as possible. Check your personal baggage at the door. This goes for having issues with daycare or marital problems. Everything from home should stay at home, and your boss will appreciate that.

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Joy Pace

Joy is passionate about business and technology. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and worked in the private sector for 20 years before finding her passion for research and writing. For the last five years, Joy has written about breaking trends in business and tech. She covers both business and technology for ConsultanHub.com. Contact her at [email protected]

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