Your Guide to Mastering Managing Up & Creating Win-Wins

October 5, 2023
9 mins

Managing up is a fairly new term but can work wonders for you.

Imagine you're working hard on a project, putting in a lot of effort. You feel proud of what you've done and think it's really good. But when you show it to your boss, they tell you things that are a bit confusing. It's not that they didn't like your work, but they wanted something different. You start to wonder, "Could I have done better?"

That's where "managing up" comes in. Managing up is like finding a middle way between what you want and what your boss wants. It's about understanding how your boss works, what they care about, and how they talk. By doing this, we can build a better employee connection in the workplace. Managing up is a skill that can help you do well in your job and also make your workplace friendlier.

But managing up isn't about fixing a lousy boss or playing tricks, instead, managing up means using the good parts of good bosses to do better at your job. When you do it right, managing up helps both you and your boss work better. It's about talking and working together in a way that's good for both you and your boss.

In this article, we'll learn what managing up is and how we can do it effectively.

Understanding Managing Up

Managing up isn't about outsmarting your boss or becoming a mind reader. It's more like finding the best path to collaborate and thrive in your work environment. It's about understanding your boss's style, preferences, and goals, and using that knowledge to create a smoother, more productive relationship.

Why Managing Up Matters

So, here's the deal. Managing up isn't just a fancy skill for the elite. It's something that can help anyone, no matter their position. Why? Well, when you get where your boss is coming from, you can work together better. And when you work better together, you're not only helping yourself shine, but you're also making your workplace a better, more effective space.

Remember, managing up is not the same as managing your manager. It's not about taking their job or telling them what to do. It's about aligning your goals with theirs, making their life a bit easier, and in the process, making your own work-life smoother too.

The Core Principles of Managing Up

Now, let's get into the heart of managing up – the fundamental principles that lay the groundwork for a successful partnership between you and your boss.

1. Understanding: 

At its core, managing up is about getting to know your boss's style and preferences. This means grasping how they work, what they value, and how they prefer to communicate. This understanding allows you to adapt and interact in ways that resonate with them.

2. Communication: 

Effective communication acts like a bridge that connects your thoughts and ideas with your boss's. By fostering clear, transparent, and open conversations, you create a pathway for exchanging insights, seeking guidance, and addressing concerns.

3. Collaboration: 

Think of collaboration as a team effort. By aligning your efforts with your boss's goals, you create a seamless partnership. Just like harmonizing instruments in a symphony, working together creates a rhythm that boosts productivity.

4. Alignment: 

When you and your boss are aligned, it's like reading from the same page of a book. Shared goals, expectations, and priorities reduce friction and misunderstandings. This alignment keeps everyone moving in sync towards the same objectives.

These principles serve as the foundation for effective managing up. They empower you to foster a strong rapport with your boss, leading to smoother interactions and enhanced collaboration.

The Benefits of Managing Up

The benefits aren’t just limited to you. Managing up has a lot of advantages and they ripple through the workplace, influencing relationships and outcomes.

1. Better Communication: 

Imagine talking with your boss without any confusion. When you're skilled at managing up, your conversations become clear and easy. This means you both understand what's needed, which makes work go smoother.

2. Happier at Work: 

Think about feeling satisfied with your job, like when you finish a puzzle and it all fits perfectly. When you manage up well, you feel good because you're working together with your boss towards the same goals.

3. Helping the Team: 

Just like when everyone works well together in a game, managing up helps your team succeed. When you collaborate effectively with your boss, the whole team benefits. This can lead to getting things done faster and better.

4. Stronger Bonds: 

Think of your relationship with your boss like a strong rope. When you manage up, that rope becomes even stronger. This strong connection makes working together easier and more enjoyable.

Enticing, isn’t it?

Strategies for Effective Managing Up

Now that you have a clear picture of what managing up is, let me help you with some strategies that can turn out to be fruitful for you and your manager.

1. Knowing Your Boss's Goals and What They Want:

Imagine you're in a team, and everyone's got their own goals. Your boss is the captain of the team, and they have specific targets too. Have a chat with your boss about what they're trying to achieve. Maybe they're aiming to finish a big project or make customers happier. When you know what they're aiming for, you can adjust your work to help them reach those goals.

2. Being Friendly and Helpful:

Think of your boss as a friend in a game you both play – work! Just like you enjoy playing with friends, a good relationship with your boss makes your work better. Share a smile, have small chats about interests outside of work, and show that you're there to help. When you're friendly and helpful, working together becomes much more enjoyable.

3. Talking Their Way:

Imagine your boss speaks a certain language when it comes to work. It's like they prefer quick sentences, while you use long paragraphs. To avoid misunderstandings, try speaking in their language. If they like quick messages, keep your emails short and to the point. If they prefer talking face-to-face, have those discussions. By communicating the way they like, you make sure your ideas come across clearly.

4. Being One Step Ahead and Offering Help:

Think of your boss as someone juggling multiple things at once. You can be the person who hands them something they need just when they need it. Notice what tasks they're handling and see if there's a way you can help. Maybe they always need certain information for meetings – offer to gather that info ahead of time. By anticipating their needs, you show that you're a reliable team player.

5. Sharing Ideas and Ways to Improve:

Imagine you're in a brainstorming session with friends. You all share ideas to make things more fun or exciting, right? Apply the same to your boss. If you've got an idea to make a process better or a suggestion to enhance a project, don't hesitate to share. Your input can lead to better solutions and a more efficient team.

6. Showing You Care:

Think of your boss as someone who has good days and tough days, just like everyone else. Showing that you care can brighten their tough days. If they seem stressed or overwhelmed, a simple "Is there anything I can do to help?" can make a big difference. Being supportive and understanding creates a positive atmosphere in the workplace.

Remember, these strategies are tools you can use to improve your work dynamics. As you apply these strategies in your daily interactions, you'll find that managing up becomes second nature, benefiting both you and your boss in the process.

Overcoming Challenges in Managing Up

As easy as it sounds, managing up might not turn out to be a piece of cake. Like any path, there can be bumps along the way. Communication might become tricky, causing misunderstandings. Conflicts might arise when you and your boss don't see eye to eye. And much more. 

But here’s what you can do:

1. Addressing Conflicts: 

When disagreements arise, it's important to handle them calmly. Express your thoughts respectfully, and be open to hearing your boss's viewpoint. Finding common ground can lead to solutions.

2. Managing Differing Priorities: 

Sometimes, your goals and your boss's goals might not align. In such cases, discuss your priorities openly. Understanding each other's perspectives can lead to compromises that benefit both sides.

3. Dealing with Resistance: 

If your ideas meet resistance, don't be discouraged. Present your points and explain their advantages. Persistence and patience can help you overcome resistance over time.

While managing up can have its challenges, facing them head-on is the best thing you can try. And as they say, practice makes it perfect!

Developing Your Managing Up Skills

Now that you're familiar with managing up, let's find out how you can keep improving your skills in this area. Continuous growth is like watering a plant – it helps your skills flourish over time. Here are some tips to help you become even better at managing up:

1. Practicing Active Listening and Empathy:

Conversations are a two-way street. When you actively listen, it's like paving the road for effective communication. Put your focus on what your boss is saying, and try to understand their perspective. Being empathetic – understanding and considering their feelings – helps you connect on a deeper level.

2. Reflecting on Your Communication Style and Preferences:

Imagine having a mirror that shows you how you talk and interact. Reflecting on your communication style helps you identify areas for improvement. Consider whether you're clear and concise or if there's room for enhancement. Being aware of your preferences and adjusting them accordingly can make a significant difference.

3. Learning from Experiences and Adjusting Strategies:

Just like learning from your wins and losses in a game, learning from your managing up experiences helps you grow. If a strategy works well, use it again. If something doesn't go as planned, adjust your approach and try something different next time.

Remember, developing your managing up skills is an ongoing journey. By embracing these tips, you're setting yourself up for continuous improvement.

The Evolving Role of Managing Up

With remote work or hybrid workspaces becoming more common, virtual teams connecting from different places, and organizations changing how they work, managing up is taking on a new look.

When being physically close isn't always possible, managing up becomes more important. Communication might happen mostly online, so it's important to be clear and focused when you talk with your boss. Instead of talking by the coffee machine, you might be sending messages or joining video meetings. Managing up now means finding ways to stay connected and understood, even if you're not in the same room.

Virtual teams made up of people from different places and backgrounds, add another layer of challenge. Managing up in these teams means understanding not only what your boss wants but also how your team works together. It's about respecting different ways of working and making sure everyone feels heard and valued.

As organizations change how they're structured, with less focus on traditional hierarchies and more on working together across teams, managing up becomes a way to make sure everyone is on the same page. Think of your boss as a bridge between different teams. By managing up well, you help make sure information flows smoothly between teams and that everyone is working towards the same goals.

This is important because it creates an environment where everyone's voice matters and diverse perspectives are welcomed.

When it comes to promoting inclusivity and diversity, managing up has a big role to play. By understanding your boss's goals and advocating for different viewpoints, you contribute to a workplace where people from all backgrounds feel like they belong. This helps spark new ideas and makes your team and organization more creative and competitive.

This means everyone can join forces and work better as a team. So, managing up isn't just about your boss anymore – it's also about creating a place where everyone gets a chance to shine and work together.

The Bottom Line

So, there you have it! Managing up helps us understand bosses, collaborate better, and create a friendlier workplace. By learning, listening, and caring, we make our jobs and teams even better. So, let's keep managing up and making work a win-win for all.

Bigfish Editorial Team

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