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Managing Up
How Do You Manage Up?
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AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger
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Your relationship with your manager can make or break your career. Whether or not you're a fan of their management style, you do need to know how to work with your manager professionally

Learning to work well with your manager and establishing rapport with them is called "managing up." But how do you manage up, why is managing up important in organizations and how do you deal with incompetent managers who make it feel impossible to manage up?

How Do You Manage Up?

To manage up, you need to get to know your manager and the ways in which they operate. You want to be able to talk with your manager about any questions or concerns you have throughout your career, and you want to come to their mind when there's room for a promotion or advancement in some way.

There are steps you can take to manage up, such as the following:

1. Believe in Your Manager's Mission

Your job is, ultimately, to support your manager's success. If you don't have a shared vision of what that success looks like, you'll have a difficult time achieving it. It's important to talk with your manager about their goals so you can work together on a mission in which you both believe. After all, when you succeed, they succeed — and vice versa.

2. Communicate Openly

Open communication is one of the most important aspects of the workplace. It's hugely critical to be able to communicate with your manager, and to be receptive to their thoughts and needs, as well. Again, you want to be able to communicate any questions or concerns you may have; likewise, they might have feedback for you that you'll need to actually hear in order to move forward. Keeping an open-door policy helps both of you. 

3. Use Your Time Wisely

Don't be using your manager's time to do your own thing. It's one thing to waste your own time on social media, but it's another thing to waste your boss' time scrolling around on Instagram on their dime. Do your job well in an efficient manner so that you both earn your manager's trust and leave ever more room to go above and beyond. Exceeding expectations will help you in the long run, too, not only because there may be room for a promotion down the line but also because you're challenging yourself and pushing your own boundaries.

4. Make the Most of the Resources You Have

Don't rely on your manager for everything. They likely hired you in order to help them take a load off, as well. If you work on a team, lean on your teammates for help where they can lend hands. If you have others in the office who can help you with any questions you might have, reach out to them. Only refer to your manager when you really need them — they're surely dealing with a lot of other workplace situations, and bombarding them with questions or issues you could figure out on your own is unnecessary.

5. Be Honest

Always be honest with yourself and your manager. Be honest with yourself about your boundaries, for example. Don't burn yourself out to appease a manager who is impossible to appease. Be confident that you're doing your job well and push yourself, of course, but that's about all you can do. Likewise, be honest with your manager. Don't accept responsibilities or tasks for which you simply don't have the time. Don't say yes to opportunities in which you don't have the time to invest. You'll only end up hurting both your career and your manager's success.

Why Is Managing Up Important in Organizations?

Managing up is important in organizations for a number of reasons. Here are only some of the reasons why you should manage up in the workplace.

  • Strong working relationships lead to more success.
  • Open communication is healthy.
  • Time efficiency leads to more opportunities.
  • You can collaborate better if you have a shared vision.
  • Strong relationships with managers can lead to more opportunities down the line.
  • Your manager will better vouch for you and be a more valuable connection and reference down the line.
  • Your manager may trust you with bigger and more important challenges.

How Do You Deal with Incompetent Management?

An incompetent manager can be difficult to work with — and you may find it near impossible to do your job well. This is especially true if you lack the resources or feedback to do your job at all.

That said, there are ways in which you can better deal with incompetent management. Here are some tips:

  • Communicate your needs clearly and concisely. Don't bombard your manager with a million questions and concerns, which might further overwhelm them. Instead, prioritize your needs and asks, and talk to them about them in order of importance.
  • Do your best to leave personal opinions out of it. In other words, establish a working relationship with your manager the best you can. You don't need to necessarily like your manager or consider yourself friends with them — this is business, and all you need to do is your job. Leave the emotion out of the equation, and don't get sucked up in petty gossip.
  • Do your best to complete your work with what you have, where you are. It's a fact of life that things won't always go your way. You might not have all the resources you need or work with the most helpful team members or make the most money. All you can do is your best with what you have, where you are.

If you find that your manager is hindering your success, discriminating against you or burning you out (to a point that's beyond your control), you might want to consider looking for a new job. We spend the bulk of our lives at work — and, arguably, a good chunk of our lives outside of work still thinking about work. Your health should always be your first priority, and that includes your mental health.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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