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‘Manage Up’ For Career Success

Published: Wednesday 5th June 2019

If you haven’t heard the term, ‘manage up’ is how you manage your relationship with those responsible for you, especially if your manager is disorganised, over-worked, has poor management or leadership skills, or simply has unrealistic expectations of the workers they oversee. At its most basic, managing up essentially involves managing your manager to make their job, and your life, easier. Done well, it can get you noticed for all the right reasons and can even help you further your career.

Young man employee sitting on desk talking with older boss in office trying to 'manage up'

Avoid problems before they start

The best way to avoid problems with your manager is to be proactive and prevent any happening. That means getting to know your manager and any ‘triggers’ that initiate a bad reaction, scenario or issue. In other words, prevent small issues escalating into major ones.

Spending a little time walking in your manager’s shoes should help with this and allow you to better anticipate when things might go wrong. Examine their priorities and goals. Understand their goals and anticipate their needs. Once you can do this, you’ll know what motivates them and what causes them to become frustrated.

At the same time, never stop communicating with your manager. This is how you’ll get to know them better. Your goal should be to get closer to their day-to-day challenges and eventually share the risks and the opportunities. That way, should your manager move on, you will be the obvious candidate for the role.

Green highlighter pen, highlighting the word Proactive and describing what it means

Clearly, this can be very difficult to achieve if you don’t see eye-to-eye on certain issues with your manager. Here, it’s a good idea is to observe your managers work from a distance to see how they react in certain situations and ask others what they’ve done to successfully meet your manager’s needs in the past. Once you do that, you’ll learn the best ways and the best time to approach them with problems or solutions. Incidentally, when you do come to them with a problem, it’s a good idea to have a few potential solutions up your sleeve if you want to start impressing them.

Become the manager you want your boss to be

Managing up doesn’t involve sucking up. It’s all about being influential in helping your manager cope better, especially if they’re stressed, overworked, or just not particularly good at what they do. If you do your job well and let them know how best to use your talents, you can get on their good side. You might even get a ‘thank you’. As a bonus, having a healthy, positive relationship with your boss will work wonders for your own job satisfaction.

Young manager taking charge by presenting whiteboard to his colleagues

Managing up is a skill set that everyone can use in the workplace and throughout their careers, so it’s something worth practicing – it can even help you hone your own leadership skills and become more influential in the workplace. But, if your manager is getting too much for you, and you’re unhappy in your current role, then maybe it’s time you looked elsewhere.

In that instance, you’ll find plenty of great companies with great managers at Zoek, including Tesco, World Duty Free, On The Beach, and Kuehne + Nagel just to name a few.

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