How Do You ‘Manage Up’ in the Workplace? 7 Practical Tips to Excel

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What is managing up in the workplace? Does it mean managing managers? Kind of, but it works most effectively through the lens of empathy. Managing up focuses on building a strong 1-to-1 relationship with your boss. You need to understand their goals and pain points for their company. Managing down, in contrast, is your typical definition of leadership: to lead your subordinates.

When you manage up, sometimes you’ll need to be on your toes to take on additional responsibilities outside of your job description to ensure work processes progress smoothly. Your manager’s duties can be shared with you to ease their workload. However, boundaries are crucial to ensure you avoid the sneaky trap of burnout. What good is it to be a stellar employee if your physical or mental health is on the line?

Forbes shared some excellent ground rules on managing up. You’ll get to help bring out the best in your managers and propel your company’s long-term strategies. By managing up, employees can ensure that their goals and expectations are aligned with those of their managers and the organization as a whole. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives.

So, how do you manage up in the workplace efficiently and effectively?

Let’s take a look at 7 practical strategies to cultivate a strong working relationship with your manager and truly excel in your role.

1. Identify Their DISC Communication Style

Do your DISC communication types align? Perhaps your boss prefers the DC style, whereas you may speak the ID style. The DC style wants only the facts, and is comfortable with quick decision-making. In contrast, the ID style wants to establish a connection with the other party first, and focus more on how decisions impact other people. There are similarities, yet glaring differences. The success is in how you understand and empathize with their style. Do they focus on tasks over people? Do they prefer long or short meetings?

2. Ask and Give Feedback Regularly

How can a partnership of two grow without constructive feedback? The important part is to be able to know how to receive and dish it to your manager. As mentioned in our first point, communication is the key for growth. The more you two are able to talk openly and freely, the more your professional relationship can grow and thrive. Who knows—during your conversations, you two may even find many commonalities!

3. Build a Genuine Connection

Yes, you may have witnessed bootlicking. You know—the people who are only nice to their higher-ups to “get on their good side” and win promotions. The ones who are only in it for the status or paycheck. However, surface-level compliments (and connections) can only go so far. When you build a genuine connection, you’ll be on your manager’s team, and help the company as a whole. This way, everybody wins.

4. Master Your Emotional Intelligence

How do you learn to recognize when your boss is ticked off or tired, even though they may still muster a bright smile on their face? High emotional intelligence is the number one predictive factor in promotions and job satisfaction. There are a variety of online courses you can take to learn the ropes of a universal skill—for better mental health, and stronger friendships! It’s an easy skill to practice, yet a hard one to master. Take your time in learning the ropes.

5. Have a Solutions-Oriented Mindset

Problems and issues will arise out of nowhere at times. The golden ticket is how you handle it. By demonstrating to your manager that you have a range of solutions for roadblocks that pop up, your credibility and reliablity will skyrocket. The ability to solve problems and keep your calm is useful even outside of the office. Managers appreciate calm and collected colleagues who can spot and put out fires, rather than start or escalate them.

6. Ask Questions Often

Any question can be a good question when it leads to better understanding. Many business articles put a lot of pressure to ask “smart” or “big” questions…sometimes it’s best to simply start with what’s on your mind. This will lead you to a greater awareness of any situation you come across and help you navigate the ebb and flows of your business. If tend to forget easily, carry a small pocket notebook with you to jot down any ideas that cross your mind.

7. Start Each Day with a Vision or Mission

Step up your work ethic with some big picture thinking or a mission statement. Why did you want to embark on the journey of managing up in the first place? Right—to help the company run as smoothly as possible. There will be days when you have zero clue on what you’re doing, and that’s okay! Ask questions, be curious, and be willing to learn (and listen) from your manager. A growth-oriented mindset and positive attitude goes a long way in every organization.

Final Thoughts: Managing Up in the Workplace

Managing up is anything but a walk in the park. It requires hours upon hours of dedication to fostering a genuine relationship with your manager. There will inevitably be times where both parties misunderstand each other, which can lead to confusion and frustration. As you work through these hiccups, you’ll emerge as a more confident and kind professional with your company’s best interests at heart.

You’ll need to sharpen everything in your soft skill toolbox foom emotional intelligence to a strong work ethic. Managing up is a valuable skill that can benefit both employees and their organizations. By building strong relationships, aligning goals and expectations, and focusing on career development, you can create a more positive and supportive work environment, improve job satisfaction, and enhance performance. 

While managing up can be challenging at times, it is well worth the effort to develop this skill and build stronger relationships with managers and colleagues. What are some other tips you may know for managing up? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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