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Managing up

The ins and outs of managing up

Managing up may sound like a strange concept, mainly because people are typically used to being managed, but the term does not imply that you should attempt to counter your manager’s managing activities with some management strategies of your own.  It simply refers to techniques you can employ to improve the working relationship between you and your boss.

Why should you care about managing up?  Because job satisfaction cannot be achieved in the absence of a good relationship with the person you report to.  It’s what makes everything flow, ensuring a mutually beneficial relationship that supports a productive, collaborate and supportive work environment.

Here’s what you can do from your side:

  • Make an effort to understand their vision, mission, goals and objectives
    At the end of the day, you have to care about the things your boss cares about.  If you don’t, you’re not in a position to help them achieve their goals and objectives which will reflect poorly on both of you while also potentially negatively affecting the company.  Your goals have to be aligned with their goals, which have to be aligned with the company’s goals – otherwise nobody’s adding any real value.
  • Get to know them on a personal level
    Now we’re not saying pry into their personal affairs, the professional line still needs to remain, but it does help to get an understanding of what they’re passionate about, their loves/hates, their hobbies and/or interests.  This type of information makes it easier to build a relationship based on some form of mutual connection or understanding.
  • Anticipate their needs
    Understanding what your boss needs without them having to tell you is a very useful skill to have.  It does rely on you having a very good understanding of how they work and how they like things done.  If you’re not quite there yet, talk to your colleagues and get them to share examples of things they’ve done that were well received in the past.
  • Do your job and do it well
    It’s important to take pride in your work, even if it may not be your dream job, or you’re having to deal with a difficult boss.  Highly effective people strive for excellence no matter what.  You also have to remember that your performance is a direct reflection on your boss’ ability to manage others.  The more you shine, the more they shine, which is good for both parties.
  • Speak their language
    Take note of the language your boss uses, the topics that they care about and the way in which they carry themselves and communicate with others.  The best way to land any message is to communicate it in a way that the other person connects with.

  • Never surprise them
    Managers do not like to be blindsided, therefore always rather over communicate than under communicate, ensuring that they are aware of all issues that may have a direct or indirect impact on them, even if you think you can resolve it on your own.

What are your thoughts on managing up? Any tips of your own you can share?  Leave a note in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear your ideas on this topic.  Alternatively, if you’d like to get in touch with the Analyze team, contact us at 021 447 5696 or email

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