Join Britt Andreatta for an in-depth discussion in this video Managing up, part of Management Foundations.
- When you hear the phrase "managing up," what do you think of? It probably depends on your manager. If you have a competent boss who's a good leader, you probably see managing up as a positive way to align with them, so that you both achieve more. And if you're under a boss who has some professional or personal dysfunction, you probably see managing up as trying to minimize the impact that dysfunction has on you. No matter which situation you're in, here's some strategies you can use to work the most effectively with your manager. The first strategy is to gather information.
You already have a lot of information about your manager that will guide your choices and actions. Think over the past few months and the different kinds of interactions you've had with your boss, like one-on-one meetings and conversations, department or team meetings, emails and phone calls and documents such as reports and presentations. Next, use this information to determine your manager's priorities. How do they communicate their priorities through their words and actions? Where do they focus their time and energy? Think about the position they hold, and how it relates to the organization's success.
What are their top five goals, and how is their success being measured? Also look at the org chart. Who does your boss report to? What do you know about their relationship? Is is positive and supportive or critical and demanding? Make a list of the priorities and pressures your boss is likely dealing with. Given the context and culture they work in, see if you can identify their fears and concerns. All of this gives you the big picture of your boss's work-life. Now, let's see how yours relates to theirs. Look over your own tasks and priorities.
How does your work align with your boss's priorities? Where and how can you contribute to your boss achieving their goals? And how might you be able to support them by alleviating their fears and concerns? You may not be able to solve all these issues, but you certainly don't want to be making them worse. Use their priorities to guide how you determine yours. That way, you won't be working at cross purposes. Third, match their communication style. We all process information differently, but it's imperative that you match your communication style to your boss's.
You can learn about their style by reviewing how they communicate with you and others. Here are some questions to consider. How often do they communicate, and do they prefer written communication or face-to-face conversations? How does your boss make a decision? Do they follow a linear step-by-step process focusing on what's logical, or do they take a more values-based approach that takes into account how people might feel? What kind of data does your boss prefer? Do they like data that's verifiable facts and concrete details, or do they prefer data that's conceptual and theoretical? The goal here is to match your boss's communication style and give them information that matches their preferences for data and decision making.
Also consider things like how they communicate in one-on-one settings through email and at meetings. This is not likely to change, so consider how you can ask questions, or use additional sources of information to give you what you need to be successful in your work. Fourth, consider how your boss garners power. Garnering power is how we navigate the often unpredictable landscapes of our workplaces. All of us garner power in some way. Some of us do it through building relationships based on trust and respect, others garner power by controlling the flow of information or holding onto decision making power.
Your goal here is to make sure that you're not inadvertently threatening your boss's power. Fifth, seek help if you're seriously concerned. If you feel that your boss's behavior is doing harm to your organization, you need to speak up. It's always a good idea to broach the subject first with your boss, expressing your concerns as clearly as you can. If they don't respond, then you may need to take further action. This might include talking with someone in HR, or talking with your boss's supervisor. And many organizations have a process for reporting concerns through a whistleblower policy.
You may even be protected by government regulations. Learn more at whistleblowers.gov. Your focus should be what is in the best interest of your organization. Finally, and most importantly, be someone your boss can count on. Ultimately to manage up effectively, you need to establish trust with your boss. Have integrity with your words and actions. Step up with solutions not just problems, and support their success in all that you do. As you build trust, your boss will be more likely to seek your input and consider you for other opportunities.
You will also create an environment where they're more likely to hear constructive feedback from you, and respect your needs and requests. Managing up takes time, but in the long run, it will benefit not only your current professional role, but your career, as well.
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- Choosing a management style
- Hiring employees
- Coaching employees
- Managing team performance
- Establishing trust
- Motivating and engaging others
- Delegating responsibilities
- Avoiding micromanagement
- Managing remote employees
- Knowing HR regulations<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.