Have you ever walked in the door of your home grumpy because your boss spoke to you in a condescending manner or didn't think to include you in a meeting or assigned someone else a key project you wanted to be part of? We all bring our work aggravation home, it's just what we do.
Most of us realize our relationship with our boss can be critical to our sanity, our income, our advancement, and our work life balance. That's why managing up is a workplace skill. It can make us more valued or appreciated by even the most demanding boss.
What exactly is managing up? It's not the same as sucking up.
Managing up is good communication, says Jay Starkman, CEO of Engage PEO, a Fort Lauderdale HR services provider. “It’s making sure that your manager is getting from you what they need in order to do their job and look good to their boss.” By managing up, you deliver information in the style and manner your manager prefers, “not the way you would want it if you were in their position.”
Starkman encourages his staffers to manage up by sending him regular emails. If there are problems, he wants his employees to communicate them but also include solutions. He believes people who manage up are more effective, and happier in their jobs, because they are working as a team with their boss.
Managing up is thinking ahead and responding to the boss's needs before he has to ask for something. It's bringing a problem to his attention with a solution. It's going beyond the tasks your manager has assigned to you so that you can enhance his work.
Even if you have a difficult boss, you still can manage up.
With a difficult manager, learn his pet peeves or preferences: “You need to ask: What are expectations? What do you think I can do to set myself up for more success?” explains Marla Grant, a Miami certified coach, strategic advisor and professional speaker. Employees who make the effort can change the dynamics of a troubled relationship: “It doesn’t happen overnight,” Grant says. “But you can create room for a shift if your boss sees you as valuable to them or someone who makes them look good."
Along with advancement, managing up can lead to better work/life balance. Sandra Fine, vice president at RBB Public Relations in Miami, has reports and a boss. As a manager, she appreciates when her staff manages up by communicating when they will be out for a while and how they have covered their accounts. “I’m an email person, a much better reader than listener. I like knowing the details are taken care of and my employee is not leaving things on my plate to figure out.”
If you’ve built a relationship and good communication, a manager will give you leeway when you need to work from home, or turn down a promotion, or trust you when you take a new approach with a client,” Grant says. “If don’t have that, a boss will be more judgmental. That’s what managing up is about.”