How to Manage Up

I thought it would be beneficial to share an article I came across the other day, “How to Manage Up” by Dan McCarthy, a Management and Leadership Consultant. The article, which was published on August 13, 2014, in Smart Brief on Leadership, is well formulated and concise. This issue, of not managing up, is one we see at Miles LeHane time and time again in our coaching practice. I trust you will share with others (please note: the article has been summarized).


How to Manage Up

By Dan McCarthy

Management & Leadership Expert

Published 8/9/2014

What is “managing up” and why is it so important? Managing up means establishing and maintaining a positive and productive relationship with you manager so that your manager’s needs are met and you get what you need from your manager.

For some people, “getting what you need” means keeping your boss off your back so that you have the autonomy to do your job. For others, it means support and recognition, or getting the resources needed to achieve your goals.

Those that can’t seem to manage up will always end up in jobs where they are at odds with their bosses. Everyone gets a bad boss at some point in their careers. However, if someone has a continuous pattern of one “bad boss” after another, then perhaps it’s time to take a look in the mirror and learn how to proactively manage up.

Here’s how:

1. Find out what’s important to your boss. It’s important to find this out early in the reporting relationship. A lot of managers won’t come out and tell you – so don’t try to guess or wait and learn the hard way – proactively ask! Ask what drives them nuts, how they prefer to stay informed, how often they need to meet with you, and anything else that’s important to them.

2. Let your boss know what’s important to you. Again, why have your boss guess how to manage and motivate you? Give them the “you owner’s manual”. Just keep in mind that if your boss needs weekly status reports, and you hate doing weekly status reports, then you’ll just need to suck it up and get used to doing status reports. Just let it go and do it.

3. Deliver on results and make your boss look good. This is by far the number one way to manage up – don’t give your boss any reason to need to “manage” you. When you are hitting your numbers, or goals, your boss will leave you alone and turn his/her attention to more urgent matters (your peers who are not performing).

4. Respond promptly to all emails, requests for information, etc… As a manager, it made me CRAZY when I would ask for something from my employees and the same ones would always seem to “forget” or “be too busy” to respond.

5. Establish trust. Let your boss know that you can be trusted to watch their back and that you trust them to do the same for you. While it may be early in the reporting relationship, it’s better to establish trust as an expectation instead of having to “earn it” over time.

6. Reinforce desired behavior. If your boss does something that meets your needs (because they are attempting to follow “the book of you”), then let them know how much you appreciate it.

7. Let your boss know about anything that could possibly come back and bite them. Don’t let your boss hear about a problem or sensitive issue before they hear about it from you. Give them an early warning “heads up”, and if you made a mistake, own up to it.

8. Proactively address anything that really bothers you. Don’t let it fester. Your boss may not even have a clue. If something’s that important to you, discuss it with your boss in a respectful, constructive way.

9. If you bring a problem to your boss, always have a recommended solution. Yes, while it may be a tired cliché, it’s still true.

10. Talk about your boss behind their backs. That is, be supportive of your boss in front of others, especially your bosses’ boss.

Follow these 10 tips and you’ll increase your chances of having a positive, trusting, and productive relationship with your boss.

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