The term ‘managing up’ might easily be taken the wrong way. To be clear, it doesn’t mean your manager’s lacking and it’s up to you to do their job, nor is it the go ahead to try and manipulate them in some covert way. Managing up is actually a collaborative, productive way of working with benefits for both of you.
Simply put, managing up is a relational model between manager and employee where both parties put in equal effort to help one another perform their roles in the best way possible. More so than the traditional one-sided ‘power’ dynamic, (manager manages employee) it’s likely to yield positive results such as mutual trust and respect, efficient problem-solving, more productivity, shared learning and ultimately, growth.
Take time to better understand how your manager thinks, feels, and operates at work. This information can inform your goals and strategies and offer insight into how you can better support your manager, as well as help you manage your own daily efforts and make your work experience smoother and more effective.
What systems or plans could make their job easier? What work-related stressors keep them up at night? What project is taking up most of their time? How do they measure success and what strategies do they employ to reach their goals?
What does your upcoming schedule look like? What can I take off your plate/help with? Which current project is of most concern to you? What is the best way I could be of support right now?
How do my goals support yours?
Getting the most useful answers to your questions depends on how well you and your manager communicate with each other. As in all relationships, open and honest communication is everything, but we all have different communication styles and preferences. A little thinking ahead and planning should result in more engaged, productive discussions.
How do you prefer us to discuss things and catch up? (In person, on the phone, on Teams/Zoom)
When and how often is best? (Regularly scheduled or ad-hoc, every morning or once a week).
When is your manager most open and responsive and when should you avoid disturbing them? Be mindful of their current workload, take note of their mood and/or body language and learn to read their cues.
Recognising that it can’t always be easy being in the driver’s seat, let your manager know that you understand their stress-points and that you care.
I’m aware there’s a busy month ahead – is there anything you’d like me to reschedule or prioritise that might help? Would you prefer a written update from me this week rather than a meeting, to free up your diary? I know it’s a hectic time right now.
Are there any upcoming potential issues that you know your manager would consider problematic? Bringing it to their attention before it develops may help alleviate stress and allow them to intervene in a timely fashion. If you can think of a viable solution to suggest that would also demonstrate that you’re willing to help and are capable of problem-solving.
Actually, there’s a lot in it for you!