How to Manage Up

We’ve all had that boss. The bully who makes everything harder. The jerk who talks down or doesn’t listen. 

It can feel impossible to deal with someone like this—someone who creates tension on a daily basis. But, not every difficult boss is impossible. Not every recurring issue should create frustration, or worse, push you to update your resume and look for new options.


To deal with these headache managers and to take back your enjoyment of your job, you need to “manage up” and learn how to better work with your manager. Whether your manager is good, bad, indifferent, or just completely out of sync with how you work, it’s vital that you work as hard as—if not harder than—your manager to build a strong, lasting relationship.


Identifying and Working Towards Goals


Your manager’s job is to get the best from the team, of which you are a member. In turn, your job is to provide the best possible results and help your manager achieve the team’s goals. Unfortunately, when a relationship has already soured, it’s tempting to do the opposite—to phone in your efforts and provide the bare minimum to meet your job duties.


Resist this urge. Identify the goals your manager has set and help work toward them daily. That’s not to say you should kill yourself to make your manager happy, but take the time to better understand your manager’s expectations and do your best to meet them if you are not already.


Get to Know Your Manager’s Needs


When you know what your manager’s goals are—what your manager’s boss expects of your manager—you can start to understand his or her needs on a daily basis. Support in meetings, clean reports for executive discussion, or just a bit of quiet time in the morning before a big client call—these are things you can look for and help with as part of your role on the team.


The key here is to anticipate. If you understand what your manager generally needs to achieve his or her goals on a regular basis, you can be there, helping before you are even asked.


Communicate Failure Early


You will make mistakes at times—when you make a customer angry, or miss an important deadline, or break something. It’s normal and doesn’t necessarily mean your job is on the line.


Where people go wrong is when they try to pretend these errors don’t exist, or they proactively cover them up. If your boss is about to get an angry phone call, or worse, if someone else in the company (like your manager’s boss) is about to hear about a major mistake, be sure your boss knows first. Sure, that conversation will be unpleasant, and your manager might get angry with you, but the sooner you address it, the better you can fix the problem.


Admit the mistake, evaluate why it happened, and present your ideas for how to fix it as soon as possible.


Help Your Manager Get the Most from You


You do your manager a great disservice when you hide or downplay your talents. It’s your manager’s job to leverage the skills and natural talents of the team to generate the best possible results.


But all too often, managers are unaware of what their team members can do best, and don’t assign them appropriately. Whether it’s willful ignorance of your talents, or they simply don’t know what you can do, take it upon yourself to share your skills early and often.


In managing up, you are building a stronger relationship so that you and your manager can work together to achieve greater success. This only happens if the person who oversees what you do on a daily basis has a full understanding of what you can do.


Be a Rockstar


Here’s an easy one. Be awesome at your job.


That might sound simple, but it’s something that a lot of people struggle with. The need for constant validation, always asking what needs to be done next, and never taking initiative to get things done can devour a manager’s time and put undue stress on the relationship.


To avoid this tension, do your job well by:


·         Meeting your deadlines

·         Getting to meetings on time

·         Providing regular updates

·         Proactively seeking solutions


The less your manager has to check in on you, and the more often your manager is impressed with your work ethic and ability to think creatively about big problems in the office, the better your relationship will be.


Why Managing Up Is So Important


You are a valued member of your team, no matter how your boss acts. By identifying what your manager’s goals and needs are, and how your manager is expected to meet them, you can better fit the mold of an ideal member of your manager’s team.


Better yet, you can improve the working relationship you have with someone you interact with every day. This will improve job satisfaction, help you stand out at work, and lead to greater success for your entire team.

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