“Managing up” is a popular term thrown around in the corporate world.
However, all too often, it’s misunderstood. For those who misinterpret the mandate to “manage up,” the consequences can be dire.
To be clear, managing up is not about manipulation, control or insubordination. It’s not some political weapon designed to circumvent or disrespect the organizational hierarchy. Some professionals fall victim to the belief that managing up means aggressively pushing themselves and their ideas on the people above them. Others simply use it as an excuse to work around their superiors, taking decisions into their own hands and sidestepping authority.
Used in this way, managing up disrupts the chain of command and can damage your reputation and relationships in the workplace.
In reality, “managing up,” is a strategy that encourages individuals to take a more assertive, managerial-style approach with the person or people above them. At times it means using your influence to sway someone who has authority over you. But in its simplest form, managing up is about helping your workplace superiors be more successful.
To effectively manage up, consider the following strategies.
The best managers are exceptional listeners. You can’t take a managerial approach with your boss if you don’t first know what he or she is facing. By understanding his/her priorities and goals, you’ll be better positioned to offer the assistance necessary to achieve them.
Volunteer Your Services
In order to manage up successfully, you need to leverage your skills and expertise in service of your boss’s goals (and the greater goals of your team and the organization). Don’t let your leader get tangled up in the weeds; take care of the things you can so he/she can keep their focus on the big picture.
Be vocal about what you can do and don’t be afraid to jump in. Step up and volunteer yourself or—even better—assertively say, “I’ll handle that.” The more you can take off your boss’s plate, the more you free him/her up to focus on bigger objectives.
Offer Advice and Solutions
Great managers are problem-solvers. If you want to manage up, help your boss solve his or her biggest problems. Share well-thought-out perspectives and options for resolution. Don’t merely complain about obstacles you see. Instead, offer a path for overcoming them. Likewise, don’t merely spout off about your ideas and opinions; frame them first as opportunities for solving problems and meeting the demands of the business. This will position you as a trusted partner and an influential part of the inner circle.
Managing up is simply about embracing the qualities of a great manager and using them to better serve your business leaders. It’s a role reversal, but don’t get carried away. Remember that organizational hierarchy serves a purpose. Your goal is not to disrupt that, but rather, to make those at the top more effective—just as they endeavor to make you more effective.