How to Manage Up
No matter how smart they are, dedicated to their job, and eager to be a great manager, bosses are regular people—which means they’re fallible.
Even if you’ve got a fantastic boss, you need to know how to “manage up.” And if you’ve got an average or even objectively bad manager? Well, you really need to know how to manage up.
But what does managing up really mean? It might be easier to start with the concept of “managing down,” one that most of us are familiar with. Managing down means the manager sets the tone of the relationship, creates most of or all of the processes, and proactively addresses issues.
So, managing up means that’s happening in reverse. You’re taking the initiative and making your relationship with your superior as effective and healthy as possible. Ultimately, everyone benefits: your career, your boss, your team, and the entire company.
To reap this value, however, you need specific, proven techniques. Managing up can be a tricky strategy to get right—you don’t want to overstep your boundaries, and you also don’t want to accidentally make your manager’s life harder. Here are our top strategies.
1. Identify their goals
Can you explain your manager’s top three priorities or objectives? If not, learn them immediately. The better you understand what they’re trying to accomplish, the easier it will be to support them.
We recommend scheduling a quick meeting (20 minutes should be plenty) so you can “get a sense of their top-of-mind goals.”
Start the conversation by asking, “I realized I couldn’t articulate what your primary goals are right now. I’d love to know those so I can prioritize my own projects and objectives.”
Most managers will be impressed by your initiative and happy to share this information.
2. Learn their weaknesses
Everyone has at least one professional Achilles’ heel. Once you know what your manager’s is, you can figure out a solution.
For example, maybe your boss is always coming up with awesome ideas, but struggles to follow through. Knowing they’re not the best at committing to a project lets you take the lead—you might ask to design the roadmap or action plan for future projects. Or perhaps they’re not the best communicator. To make sure you’re always in the loop, you could propose a daily five-minute check-in or send them a message each morning asking, “What happened yesterday that I should know about?”
Putting safety nets in place to compensate for your boss’s weaknesses will not only make them more successful, it’ll also help you do your best work.
3. Be patient
Most important of all: be understanding. We understand how frustrating it can be when the person above you makes mistakes. Letting yourself get annoyed over this won’t do any good. The reality is, you’re probably managing in some way that’s not ideal for your coworkers or reports—it’s life (of course, speak up if your manager’s behavior or work style is outside the norm). Yet if you’re just dealing with typical inefficiency, take a deep breath, let it go, and look for a workaround. This reaction will serve you well over your career.
About Signature Consultants, LLC
Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Signature Consultants was established in 1997 with a singular focus: to provide clients and consultants with superior staffing solutions. For the ninth consecutive year, Signature was voted as one of the “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” and is named the 15th Largest IT Staffing Firm in the United States (source: Staffing Industry Analysts). With 28 locations throughout North America, Signature annually deploys thousands of consultants to support, run, and manage their clients’ technology needs. Signature offers IT staffing, consulting, managed solutions, and direct placement services. For more information on the company, please visit https://www.sigconsult.com. Signature Consultants is the parent company to Hunter Hollis and Madison Gunn.