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Working Capital - Mission Blog

<<Mission Blog Home Posted: 11-09-2018

The Art of Managing Up

In a perfect world we are all treated equally and judged by our performance and ability. This may come as a newsflash but we do not live in a perfect world.

Regardless of the work environment, how we are seen by our peers and superiors if often a subjective exercise. Often, the process is more important than the results. Part of this process is managing up.

What is “managing up”? According to Rosanne Badowski in the book Managing up: How To Forge An Effective Relationship With Those Above You managing up is defined as: “…stretching yourself. Going above and beyond the tasks assigned to you so that you can enhance your manager’s work.”

This is an art form. Effective upward management benefits the employee, the supervisor and the operation as a whole. Managing up is not to be confused with manipulation. Manipulating a situation suggests a less than honest approach that leaves your motives in doubt. Managing up is also not to be confused with “kissing up.” Apple polishing is shallow and self-centered. Simply stroking your boss’ ego is a short term fix that can reverse itself when a better polisher comes along.

To truly manage up you need to have a few intrinsic qualities:

  • Concern. Of course you care about your career path and upward mobility. However, if you do not also have a concern for the success of the organization you will eventually be seen as something other than a team player. Supervisors like team players. So do teammates.
  • Transparency. The ultimate goal is what matters. It should never be “she who has the best idea wins” but “the best idea is the best solution.”
  • Maintain a positive outlook. No path is smooth. Make sure you are ready for the inevitable pitfalls.

There are many types of bosses each with his or her own idiosyncrasies. The art of managing up starts with knowing what kind of person your supervisor is. From there you should incorporate the following guidelines:

  • Good communication, no surprises. As the adage goes, “sometimes the best laid plans…”  When expectations are set and plans evolve things will change. Keep your supervisor in the loop on how the process is unfolding – especially when encountering an unexpected change. Good bosses know that when you shine, they look good. They also know that your problems reflect on them as well. Make sure your boss knows how things are progressing and you’ll earn his or her respect. Of course, there is an art in this, as well. Do not bombard your boss with daily e-mails about the incremental progress of your project (unless he wants that). Do plan on regular updates with a newsflash when the unexpected develops (either good or bad).
  • Provide solutions, not situations.  You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution – be the latter. As stated previously – work is hard. Don’t complain about how much extra work this will involve or throw up negatives that are perceived as roadblocks. This will be interpreted as complaining. Solve the problem. Your boss will appreciate (and remember) you. Also, keep in mind that your boss is juggling many balls and you are merely one of them.
  • Be honest, trustworthy and loyal. We’re not suggesting you become a lap dog. Nor do you need to be a Boy Scout. People – especially your boss – need to know that you will deliver on what you say, that you have no hidden agendas and that you are as transparent as possible during the process.
  • Understand your boss’ perspective, agenda and preferences. Many things happen in an organization that are above your pay grade. What you are charged to do may be part of a bigger picture. Understand that your boss has his own boss who judges him separately from you. Sometimes it helps to ask the question – what is the goal of this plan? Having a better understanding of the reasons behind the operation will help you deliver what your boss is looking for.  Know how your boss wants to be updated – e-mails, texts, face-to-face? Deliver on his or her expectations and he or she will be much happier. We all like happy bosses.

As the title of this blog says – managing up in any organization is an art. There are many ways to do it “correctly”. As long as your motives are honest, managing up is a valuable workplace tool in any career.

How does your boss like to be “managed”?

To learn more about “managing up” check out these articles:

The Art of Managing Up

The Delicate Art of Managing Both Your Boss and Your Employees

Working Capital, Goodwill mission blog author
This article was written by: Steve Allan

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