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Managing Up

Posted Date: 2013-07-17

I talk with a lot of people about their work, their organisations and their manager. I am always intrigued and even surprised at the number of people who don’t know what I am talking about when I ask them about managing up. Why I am surprised? I am surprised because in my experience managing up is one of the most important skills for surviving and thriving in organisations.

What do I mean by managing up? I am referring to your ability to manage your boss. Often we think it is only managers who need to manager people but the reality is we all need to manage people in the workplace – upwards, downwards and even sideways.
Managing up is important because our own manager can have a huge influence on our working life - from simple things like agreeing to leave requests through to more important things like supporting our application for a promotion.

Here are some tips for managing up

  • Understand your manager

An important component of managing up is having some insight into your manager. What are they like, what’s their style, how do they like to process information, what don’t they like, what are their hot buttons, what’s their MBTI etc.

Knowing a little more about your manager will improve your understanding of them and in turn, your ability to manage the relationship better.

  • Understand your manager’s role.

You really need to know what your manager’s role is and what they are trying to achieve. Once you have this information, you can then ask how you can help. It is also important to gain some understanding into the pressures and workload of your manager. Some questions to consider include…

Ask yourself this question… what will make my manager’s life easy?

  • Do your own job!

Ultimately you are employed to do your job, so do your job well. Doing your job well is one of the best ways to manage up.

  • Demonstrate Initiative

Be on the lookout for opportunities to demonstrate your initiative and resourcefulness. Be sure to remember that often it is ok to seek forgiveness not permission! Whilst this adage may oversimplify things, it does have a powerful message ie don’t be frightened to take initiative. The trick is to balance initiative with good judgment!

  • Keep you manager updated

You need to keep your manager informed about the progress of your work. Obviously, you don’t need to provide the nitty gritty detail but you do need to keep them updated of the key issues and successes.


Stick to these points and you will be well on your way to managing up.