What you need to know about managing up: do’s and don’ts

managing up at work dos and donts

Managing up is all about building positive working relationships that will benefit you, your managers and your organisation.

A female manager speaking with a member of her team

In this article, we’ve put together practical strategies you can implement to keep your working relationships positive and productive.

Offer solutions. But don’t argue.

DO bring your boss solutions (not just problems)

Showing that you respect your manager’s time and have an awareness of their workload is key to effective upward management.

When an issue arises, don’t wait for your manager to take action. Come prepared with a set of viable solutions and you’ll be taking a weight of the boss’s shoulders, as well as showcasing your problem-solving talents.

DON’T argue with your boss

Every healthy working relationship relies on mutual respect. And this means respecting your manager’s decision as final, even when it’s not one you agree with.

You might already have a plan of action in mind but it’s important to offer your manager alternative solutions and to be prepared to go with their preference. This will show that you’re able to think strategically and prioritise the needs of the organisation above your personal goals – a must if you want to climb the corporate ladder.

Give your boss the client treatment. But don’t be a pushover.


DO treat your boss like a client

Imagine you’re a freelance consultant and your boss is your most valued customer. Think about all the time you spend getting to know your clients, identifying their specific needs and working out how to help them achieve their business goals.

What does their workload look like? What are their short and long-term goals – and how do these fit together? What obstacles are preventing them from being productive? Are they missing out on opportunities for growth?

Changing your perception of the boss-employee dynamic can help you see your manager –and their professional worries – in a different light. Instead of working for (or against) your manager, consider their business needs and prioritise your workload accordingly. Just like you would for a client.

DON’T be a pushover

When you’re constantly problem-solving in the workplace, it can be easy for your manager to start taking you for granted. Especially when you’re not shouting about your successes.

But an effective consultant knows how to serve their clients without underselling their value. Present your analysis, your solutions and project successes, in terms of value added to the company. Don’t be so modest that your accomplishments go unnoticed. Confidence (without arrogance) plays a major role in conveying value.

A manager managing Up

DO build your confidence by:

• Reporting regularly to your manager – with a quick weekly email summarising your team’s completed projects or within your performance review

• Support your colleagues – be the first to give credit where it’s due and encourage a culture of accountability across your team

• Become a mentor – offer a less experienced colleague a role in a project that will help build their skill set or offer to train a new member of staff on the company IT system

Be a perceptive communicator. But don’t go overboard.

DO communicate effectively

We all have our preferred working styles and it’s important to know how your manager likes to operate. But building an effective working relationship doesn’t mean you have to be best friends.

How does your manager like to communicate? Will they answer an email rather than a phone call? Do they find meetings disruptive? Or do they like talking face-to-face?

Paying attention to your manager’s preferred communication style shows that you are perceptive and practical, without being nosey or overbearing.

DON’T schedule meetings or calls when a brief email will do

Even managers who prefer face to face meetings can be irritated by a drop-in visit on a busy day. Schedule meetings in advance and only when they’re needed. If your manager thinks you’re initiating unnecessary downtime, they might perceive this as a lack of focus – or worse, a lack of confidence in your own ability.

Employee managing up

Become a resource of knowledge. But don’t be a know it all.

DO understand your industry

Where does your company sit in the marketplace? Is your organisation taking into account industry trends, or better, are you setting them?

Developing an industry awareness that goes beyond the scope of your own job title will place you as someone who prioritises company growth and not just your personal career advancement. Your knowledge base will also help you to think strategically when you face challenges in your own work.

When promotion time comes around, having added value to the company and shown you can focus on the ‘bigger picture’ will stand you in good stead for a senior role.

Know who your real boss is. But manage the others carefully.

DO know who your boss is

If you regularly juggle multiple projects, you may have several managers to report to. This can be tricky to navigate, especially when each boss expects you to prioritise their project above the rest of your workload.

But the person who reviews your salary and who is responsible for reviewing your performance is your real boss. Make an effort to schedule regular reviews with them and ask for guidance in dealing with your other managers.

Business Colleagues Speaking With Their Manager

DON’T try to be everything to everyone

Instead, be upfront about your workload and make sure everyone is aware of your schedule.

Project management apps like Basecamp and Asana can help you manage ongoing projects more effectively. These apps will give your managers a real-time picture of your workload and allow them to track the progress of their own projects, without interrupting your work.

Enjoyed this article? Be sure to check out the rest of the SEFE Marketing & Trading blog for more guides and features on excelling in the workplace. For information on careers and opportunities at SEFE Marketing & Trading, visit our recruitment portal.

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