Make Your Work Life Easier – Start Managing Up More Effectively

by Michael Kwan in Blog

DatePosted on August 31, 2017 at 08:30 PM
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Why is Managing Up important?

Across social media, conferences, seminars, the topic of 'how to be a good manager and leader' is a consistent talking point, to the point where surely we should also be mini-Richard Bransons and Elon Musks by now. However, it strikes me odd that there’s very little conversation about the important of managing upwards. A lot of candidates with whom I’m working regularly face issues with their current employers, and these could be alleviated or avoided in the first place by doing a better job of managing up. Some example of scenarios I hear include:

“I want to change jobs because..:

“I don’t think my boss’ methods of working are efficient…”

“My boss is always too busy and doesn’t have time to train me…”

“My boss doesn’t give me enough responsibility…”

“My boss gives me too much responsibility, I don’t have enough time to complete tasks…”

These employees do genuinely like their jobs/companies, but are frustrated by their managers in recent times, yet it was clear to me that they have not actually done much to manage up. I gave them some simple tips which they put into practice and I’m happy to say that all 4 of these candidates in these situations have resolved their issues and are back to loving their jobs.

Managing up – pro tips

Over the past few weeks, I spent some time reading through some of the online literature that already exists on this topic and over and over again, they echo the same important tips:

1. You have to understand your manager AND yourself, and your respective goals 

Helping them reach their key goals is a sure-fire way to get their attention in a very positive way. Be a solution, not a problem. In turn, they will help you reach your own goal.

2. Understand how best to communicate with them

Are they introverted or outgoing? Do they prefer emails over face-to-face talks? Do they respond best early in the day or late, after work? Focus on communicating in a style and method to which your manager would best respond – you want to maximize the impact of your message. It’s never a good idea to ambush them with requests either. Set aside a time and place to talk.

3. Managing up doesn’t mean sucking up

Seek to build a successful relationship with your manager through genuine efforts, seek clarity on your responsibilities and show your ability to do it, and understand your boss’s goals. Most managers, with years of life and work experience under their belt, will quickly identify when someone is 'sucking up' to them, which in most cases can feel manipulative. Actions, not words, are key.

4. Going over your manager’s head is almost always a bad idea

Think your relationship with the big boss will put you in a position to tell on your manager? Think you clearly add more value to the company and they should just get rid of your boss? Think that your big boss will have a friendly chat with the boss and all your problems will magically go away?

Think again. You’ll face one of the following situations (or a combination of them):

i)  your boss finds out (either through her/his own line manager, or other means) that you were the source of the alleged aggravation, and starts to make your job even tougher;

ii)  your boss no longer trusts you, and stops giving you any significant responsibility; or

iii)  your boss’s boss thinks you’re not a team player and could in future be even a threat to him/her as well. If you are willing to go behind your own manager's back, what else would you be willing to do to get what you want?

Everybody Wins

It’s also important to highlight that managing up does NOT necessarily mean your manager is a bad boss. Managing up effectively will benefit all sides (including the company), as goals, needs and expectations are better aligned – which makes for happier employees/employers and a positive result to the bottom line.

For more in-depth reading, take a look at some of these articles:

https://hbr.org/2015/01/what-everyone-should-know-about-managing-up

https://www.themuse.com/advice/influencing-upward-the-skill-you-need-to-get-ahead

https://www.forbes.com/sites/karlmoore/2016/03/24/managing-upward-a-key-part-of-being-a-really-useful-manager-for-your-people-2/#dc50874fd8ff

Photo credit: Raw Pixel

 

About the Author

Michael Kwan

Michael is a Senior Manager at Star Anise, placing in-house lawyers, compliance professionals and company secretaries in law firms, banks and with multi-nationals. He was previously  a consultant for a leading international strategy consultancy in Hong Kong.  

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