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Your relationship with your manager goes a long way towards determining how happy and successful you’ll be in your job. So it only makes sense to do your best to develop that relationship in positive and productive ways. That’s what managing up is all about. Read on to discover how you can leverage your communication skills to help both yourself and your manager reach new heights.
What is managing up?
Managing up is a professional technique that revolves around nurturing a constructive and efficient working relationship with your boss. It does not involve trying to change, supervise, or challenge your manager. Instead, managing up acknowledges the significance of two-way communication and feedback to fostering a productive and collaborative workspace. Employees who manage up seek to address the needs and expectations of supervisors while clearly communicating their own goals and preferences.
Employees who manage up work to build positive, transparent relationships with their managers. When providing feedback, they present solutions rather than simply highlighting problems. This showcases their critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities, along with their commitment to organizational success. With a mutual understanding of priorities and work styles, managers and their direct reports can both adapt to more effectively achieve their organization’s objectives.
What are the benefits of managing up?
Managing up offers several benefits that individuals can realize by implementing this approach within the workplace:
- Enhanced communication. Managing up encourages open and transparent communication between employees and their superiors. This leads to better understanding of expectations, goals, and priorities, reducing ambiguity and heading off potential conflicts.
- Improved engagement. Leaders often play a decisive role when it comes to employee engagement. It’s much easier to stay motivated when you feel that your manager understands your needs and truly empowers you to succeed.
- Better performance. Regular communication and increased alignment helps employees better meet managerial expectations and improve their performance on the job.
- Personal development. Two-way feedback forms the foundation of managing up, providing both employees and managers with valuable insights into how they can improve professionally. These new opportunities for growth benefit both the individual and the organization.
Managing up risks to watch out for
Effectively managing up while remaining within the limits of your current role can be difficult. Let’s look at a few risks that come with managing up and some ways to mitigate them:
- Perceived manipulation. If not approached authentically and transparently, managing up might be perceived as manipulation. Always remember that the goal of managing up is to help your manager, yourself, and your organization as a whole thrive, not to flatter or control for personal gain.
- Overstepping boundaries. Being too assertive in managing up can come across as overstepping boundaries or challenging a manager’s authority. Remain positive and focused on how to improve work performance for everyone’s benefit, rather than insisting that your own preferences be adopted unilaterally.
- Misalignment with organizational goals. Focusing solely on your manager’s priorities may lead to misalignment with broader organizational goals. Striking a balance between the two — and doing what you can to ensure your manager follows suit — is essential for sustained professional success.
- Dependency. Managing up is not a substitute for hard work and personal talent. An excessive reliance on managing up makes an employee heavily dependent on their relationship with their manager, rather than their individual capabilities and efforts.
5 tips for managing up
If you’re looking to build a genuine connection with your manager and foster an atmosphere of mutual respect and collaboration, try these five strategies for managing up successfully.
1. Understand your manager’s style and preferences
Managing up is not a one-size-fits-all practice. Take the time to understand your manager’s unique communication style, work preferences, and decision-making processes. Observe how they prefer to receive information, whether through detailed reports, short summaries, face-to-face discussions, or a combination of these and other methods. Tailor your work and communication practices to match their preferences, and you’ll likely find your relationship growing in new and productive ways.
2. Prioritize active listening
Active listening is a cornerstone of managing up. When in conversations with your manager, focus on understanding their current perspective and concerns. Ask thoughtful questions, repeat back key points, and acknowledge their input. This not only demonstrates your respect for their opinions but also improves your grasp on their expectations and priorities.
3. Align your goals with your manager’s
Aligning your goals with those of your manager — and those of your organization — is a core part of managing up. Make time to discuss your individual goals with your supervisor, identifying areas where your objectives and theirs intersect. You can then contribute meaningfully to the team’s success while advancing your own career goals.
4. Be solution-oriented
When facing challenges or presenting ideas, focus on offering solutions rather than dwelling solely on problems. Managers appreciate employees who take initiative and think critically to solve issues. Present well-thought-out options and describe the potential impact of each to demonstrate that you’re a perceptive and effective problem solver. If your organization has adopted an employee engagement platform, you can leverage its feedback channels to provide additional constructive input on key issues and challenges.
5. Seek feedback and guidance
Demonstrate your commitment to growth by actively seeking feedback and guidance from your manager. Regularly inquire about your performance, areas for improvement, and potential development opportunities. This shows your willingness to learn and evolve while also strengthening your relationship with your supervisor.
How leaders should respond to managing up
A leader’s response to an employee’s attempts to manage up can set the tone for an effective, long-lasting working relationship — or lead to disgruntlement and increased turnover. If you’re a manager yourself, start by acknowledging that you appreciate your subordinate’s proactive approach, recognizing their commitment to enhancing communication and alignment. Emphasize that you value their insights, feedback, and suggestions to foster an environment of trust and transparency. This reinforces the idea that managing up is a collaborative effort benefiting both parties and encourages them to continue to provide useful input.
Take the time to clarify your expectations and objectives so your subordinate understands how their contributions fit into the larger picture. You should also empower them to succeed by providing guidance on navigating challenges, offering resources for skill enhancement, and identifying opportunities for advancement. Finally, offer balanced feedback on their progress and performance, highlighting both strengths and potential areas for improvement.
Enable managing up by giving all employees a real voice
Today’s workplaces are increasingly remote — and even those that remain partially or wholly in-office often lack significant opportunities for employees to connect with managers one-on-one. To ensure that every employee has the ability to further develop their relationship with their manager through managing up, look for an employee engagement platform that lets team members provide feedback anytime, anywhere. It should also provide people leaders with the tools they need to analyze and act on that feedback before it’s too late to make a positive impact.
You’ll get that and more with the Achievers Employee Experience Platform. It features Achievers Listen, a science-driven employee engagement solution dedicated to supporting the voice of the employee. And it also includes Achievers Recognize, a recognition and rewards tool that empowers all team members to show appreciation for every instance of great communication and teamwork.
If you’re ready to foster positive, mutually beneficial relationships throughout your company, try a free demo of the Achievers Employee Experience Platform today.
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