How to Manage Up Effectively: Best Practices and Strategies

How to Manage Up Effectively: Best Practices and Strategies

Strengthening your bond with your manager is vital for workplace success. Discover actionable tips like understanding their communication style and prioritizing 1:1 meetings to elevate your working relationship.

How to Manage Up Effectively: Best Practices and Strategies

How would you describe your relationship with your manager right now? Even if it’s already good, it can always be stronger. And if it leaves a little (or a lot) to be desired, then making even small improvements can make a big difference in how much you enjoy your work and your role. Your manager is probably one of the people you interact with the most at work, after all, so getting this relationship on a better footing is beneficial for everyone. 

You can enhance this essential (and often tricky) relationship by managing up: the art of building a more positive relationship with your boss, no matter where it currently stands. Here are the most effective practices and strategies to manage your manager. 

What is Managing Up? 

Managing up is all about getting to know your manager so you can make sure the way you work together is as pleasant and effective as it possibly can be. 

Managing up is not about controlling what your manager does, or turning them into a different person, or being inauthentically nice so you can get ahead. 

It’s about making smart decisions like offering recognition and feedback, having regular and productive check-ins, and understanding your manager on a deeper level so you can both enjoy a better, stronger working relationship. 

Strategies for Managing Up 

Get to Know Them as a Person 

You spend a lot of time talking to this person, you don’t need to get crazy personal but do learn some things about them, also get to know their career aspirations bc you can help those a little and that’s very satisfying for all involved

You likely will spend quite a lot of your working life interacting regularly with your manager, so getting to know the person behind the position will help you understand them better. You don’t need to be nosy or get super personal, but just taking a few minutes every week to chat with them about their interests and what they enjoy doing outside of work can provide a lovely point of connection. 

Once you’ve developed that surface level of connection, you can go deeper if you feel that’s helpful and openly discuss things like their own career goals and their management style. Then you can tailor your own work accordingly — it doesn’t mean you need to abandon yourself to them, but you can keep your manager’s goals and work style in mind while you go about your work tasks. 

Understand Their Communication Style 

Now that you know your manager’s style and have a connection, you can start to dig into how they prefer to be contacted and communicated with in a variety of scenarios. Do they like to use Slack for quick questions, a Zoom call for longer questions, and in-person meetings for your 1:1s? How often do they prefer to get status updates on your current projects? 

This is a great opportunity to hone your own communication skills, and it can provide a way to build trust with your manager too. And don’t be afraid to ask them about their preferences directly! That way, you know exactly what works best for them, and you can deliver updates and ask questions when you’ll get the best results. 

Prioritize Your 1:1s 

It’s easy to let your regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings with your manager slip off the to-do list when work gets busy, but that’s a mistake. These 1:1s offer a valuable chance to connect, catch up, and discuss any action items like your professional development plans or big projects. 

These meetings are also more effective when you come prepared with an agenda and a rough idea of what you’d like to discuss. Don’t hesitate to ask them for feedback if they’re not proactively providing it. And if they’re letting those check-ins slip off their priority list too, give them a gentle reminder about how important and helpful they are for you so they get back on schedule. 

Anticipate Their Needs 

If you can make your manager’s life easier by being proactive about their priorities and needs, you’ll definitely earn the title of MVE (Most Valuable Employee). Anticipating their needs, like questions and projects that come up regularly or tackling the next steps of a task before you’re asked to do so, makes your manager’s life much easier, and they’ll be grateful for that. 

After all, they’ve probably got a lot on their plate as well, and showing that you can problem-solve and be proactive instead of reactive and have good decision-making skills will go a long way in your career. It’s not about sucking up — it’s about being a genuine source of help to your manager, which is a win-win situation. 

Know How to Bring Up Problems 

Problems are going to arise in your work environment: issues with a project’s progression, with other team members, and even with your manager. Knowing how to approach your manager when these problems come up is critical because the better you get at this, the easier the problem-solving will be. 

Some of this comes down to your manager’s communication and management style — how do they like to receive bad news or hear about problems? Do they prefer to get an early heads-up on a potential problem, or would they rather you try to solve it yourself first before you let them know? This is a balance and often you’ll fine-tune it once you’ve worked with your manager long enough, but essentially it’s critical not to let problems spiral and go unaddressed for too long. 

Give Them Feedback and Recognition 

Being a manager is no easy task — they have a lot on their plates, from getting their own work done to managing their direct reports and giving strategic direction. And managers are often the last ones to receive recognition: only 48% of employees overall say they deliver recognition at least a few times a week, so managers get left out frequently. 

That’s why giving them recognition when they do something you appreciate is so key. Definitely make sure it’s authentic and genuine, but offering thanks when they make your life easier builds trust on both sides and encourages more of that behavior. You can also offer thoughtful, specific feedback if there’s something you’d like to see in their behavior when it’s necessary, and balancing positive recognition with that feedback will help everyone feel supported. Your manager is a human being too, even though they’re your boss!

Managing Up: Takeaways 

The art of managing up is a delicate but essential one. It’s about getting curious about the complete person who is in charge of your day-to-day tasks, your career development, and often how you feel about your job. 

By learning to manage up, you’ll be able to help your manager succeed, build your own leadership skills, and create a better workplace for yourself — it’s a powerful tool to have in your career toolkit. And like all useful skills, it takes time to discover what works best for you and your manager since you’re both unique individuals. But in time, you’ll develop a stronger, more mutually beneficial working relationship that helps both of you thrive. 


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