Managing your relationship with your boss

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.

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