How to Manage Up Your Boss to Get What You Need

Do you feel like you’re always working with one arm tied behind your back? Do you wonder how much more productive you could be with the right resources or supportto do your job?


If so, a concept known as managing up may help.


What is Managing Up?

The phrase “managing up” was popularized in 2008 thanks to a book titled Managing Up, An Overlooked Factor in Career Success. Managing up is defined as a style of working that focuses on the relationship between you and your boss. By doing this, the book explains, “employees can obtain better outcomes for both themselves and their companies.”


After the book’s release, the phrase caught on quickly. Media outlets made managing up a trending topic, and the Wall Street Journal wrote an influential Q&A article about what it means to manage up.



What Does the Relationship with Your Boss Have to do with Managing Up?

The whole philosophy of managing up centers around building a certain type of relationship with your boss. This requires finding out what type of manager you have — their management style — and adapting your work habits. This primarily centers around two factors:


  • Understand how they best communicate: Pay close attention to your supervisor’s communication style, and mimic it. Some people are visual. Others prefer numbers and figures. Some want bullet points, while others love details.


  • Know their priorities: Before you can work to meet your supervisor’s needs, you have to know how to make yourself useful. Ask your boss about their business objectives and find out what’s valuable to them. Understanding your boss’ objectives will help you prioritize the important tasks while on the clock.



How Can You Ask for What You Need?

Go into your conversation prepared to outline exactly what you need to do your job properly, whether that is regular feedback, training on specific topics or necessary tools. Don’t forget to ask about your supervisor’s needs and how you can help them meet their goals as well.


When you feel like you are not getting what you need, it is easy to grow angry and resentful. You may already be disenchanted and cynical. Trying to do a demanding job without the right resources or support would leave anyone irritated and annoyed. These emotions are difficult to hide, so you will need to be sure to identify what you need and focus on it rather than your frustration.


What are Other Tips for Managing Up?

Managing up can be the key to career success if you can make the tenets of the concept a habit. Consider these tips:

  • Stop blaming others, and commit to being proactive instead
  • Define role, set goals and know your boss’s’ expectations, then exceed them
  • Ask for feedback regularly
  • Focus on the goals you have in common with your boss, as well as other team leads
  • Brainstorm ways to make your supervisor’s job easier
  • Keep a positive, upbeat attitude

Many employees struggle to get the resources they need to excel in their job. Managing up, however, empowers you to ask for the tools and support you need, and even increases your chances of career advancement.

Managing Up FAQs

How Do I Find Out What My Boss Needs From Me To Perform Effectively?

Gaining insight into your boss’s requirements for effective performance involves identifying their strengths and how these can be utilized to benefit your organization’s objectives. It’s also useful to discern their preferred mode of communication, whether they prefer listening or reading, to tailor your interactions accordingly.

How Can I Become Indispensable To My Boss?

To become a key asset to your boss, focus on consistently demonstrating your value. This can be achieved by clearly communicating your achievements and ensuring your boss is informed about the positive impact you bring to the team.

What If My Relationship With My Boss Isn’t Strong?

In cases where the relationship with your boss is not robust, adapting your communication style to match theirs may prove beneficial. It is also important to have a clear understanding of their expectations and the key deliverables, especially in remote work settings.

How Important Is Excelling In My Job When Managing Up?

Performing at a high level is a critical aspect of managing up. High performance not only eases your boss’s responsibilities but also fosters trust and supports your efforts in managing up.

What Is The Best Way To Communicate Effectively With My Boss?

Effective communication with your boss often involves aligning with their preferred style of communication. Being proactive in understanding their thought processes and decision-making habits can be advantageous. Tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator may provide insights into their preferences.

How Can I Anticipate My Boss’s Needs?

Anticipating your boss’s needs typically includes understanding their objectives and preemptively addressing potential challenges. Leveraging your resources and network, both within and outside your organization, can aid in this endeavor.

How Do I Embrace The Mission Of Managing Up?

Embracing the concept of managing up encompasses actions aimed at supporting your boss’s success, fostering a positive rapport with them, and aligning your efforts with their goals and objectives. This approach focuses on enhancing their reputation as well as the success of the team.

What Role Does Empathy Play In Managing Up?

Empathy plays a significant role in managing up as it entails comprehending the viewpoints and challenges faced by your boss. By being aware of their daily pressures, concerns, and stressors, you can offer more effective support and better align your work with their requirements.

What Questions Should I Ask To Manage Up Effectively?

Effective management up involves inquiring about your manager’s objectives, priorities, preferred working styles, and ways you can contribute to their success. Regular individual meetings are an effective platform for such discussions.

How Can I Celebrate My Manager’s Successes In The Context Of Managing Up?

Recognizing and celebrating your manager’s achievements can involve highlighting their successes and acknowledging their role in the team’s accomplishments. This not only strengthens your relationship but also showcases your support for their leadership.

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