Strategies for Managing Up

African American woman and Caucasian women sitting across from each other at an office desk

Managing up sometimes gets a bad rap. You’re not in elementary school anymore where you might have been made fun of, called a “suck up” or the “Teacher’s Pet.” This is a critical skill set in the corporate world and important to your career and job satisfaction. Whether you have the best manager in the world or one that has a few flaws, it’s important to find a way to work together successfully, and learning the skills of managing up will help your relationship.

The more skillful you become at helping your manager to plan and organize activities, the more valuable you become to them. You hopefully will be happier and more productive at work as well. Managing up starts with paying attention to your own performance. If you consistently meet and exceed expectations, your manager will be more likely to value your feedback and trust you with greater responsibility.

Use these strategies for your performance:

  1. Clarify priorities. Understand your manager’s priorities. Ask questions to make sure you are clear on what their expectations are, so you’ll know where to devote your time and efforts. A good tip is to start your day by blocking out time for your most urgent and important tasks.
  2. Fulfill commitments. Deliver what you promise. Meet deadlines and complete projects, especially when your work affects what your manager and colleagues are trying to accomplish.
  3. Do your job well. When you do your job well, your manager doesn’t have to worry about your performance. It allows them to speak about you in a positive way and provides professional capital.
  4. Stay open to new opportunities. Be the first to raise your hand when your manager is asking for a volunteer for a new project or opportunity. This not only lets your manager know you are willing to help them out, it also allows you to be exposed to new learnings and skills which is always helpful to your growth.
  5. Add value. Evaluate your performance on a regular basis so you can track your accomplishments and share them with your manager. Set ambitious goals and find areas of your job where you can excel.

Use these strategies for interactions with your manager:

  1. Adapt to their style. It’s up to you to adjust to your manager’s habits and preferences. Observe how they communicate with others and notice the differences between you. You may want to practice acting like them in minor ways until it feels more natural.
  2. Be supportive. Remember that your manager is human and you’re on the same team. Empathize with the pressures they face. Focus on finding ways to make them look good and make their job easier.
  3. Provide updates. Keep your manager informed about what you’re doing. Let them know when you’re making progress. If you need to report a setback, be prepared with at least one proposal for how to fix the issue.
  4. Respect their time. Show your manager that you value their time. Write up an agenda before you meet with them and sent them a list of action items afterward.
  5. Anticipate their needs. Try to provide your manager with answers before they have to ask the question. Monitor the company calendar and their schedule to see what meetings and events they have coming up. Be proactive about collecting and creating relevant information and reports.

Managing up is just as important as managing down and a skill set that will do you well in your career and life. Ultimately managing up successfully benefits not only you, it brings the best possible benefits for your manger and your company.