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Managing Up: What Does It Mean And How Should You Do It?

The words and phrases thrown around at the office can both have a positive and negative connotation depending on one’s perspective. Like beauty, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. For instance, “fixing responsibility” may be viewed as another term for “blaming others”. “Improving efficiency” could mean “whistleblowing”. The list can go on and on. So what comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “managing up”? If it makes you think of “sucking up”, according to author Whitney Johnson, you may want to change your take with a new and far more constructive definition:

The classic definition of managing up is about developing a good working relationship with a superior. Better to simplify: managing up is solving problems that your stakeholders need solved.

Johnson highlights taking these three steps to start managing up:

  • Be very clear about what job you were hired to do – and do it. - The first step to managing up is to scope out the job you were hired to do – and then execute it.

  • Understand what job your boss was hired to do. - Know what problem your superior is trying to solve in order to create economic value, to become an indispensable solution.

  • Remember that the people you work with are not family - If you want to be taken seriously, you have to solve problems and own your expertise. Avoid becoming too familiar – your boss is not your BFF.

If your immediate superior tells you to “manage up” in the near future, you can relax since it doesn’t mean playing the scheming manipulator at work. All it means is establishinga mutually beneficial relationship with both your boss and colleagues. In a nutshell: Be Helpful.

You’ll be seen as a valuable part of the organization -- one that may even deserve a promotion. Level up by managing up!

Photo by Marie-Aude Sardari