Help Your Employees to Manage Up

by  Mary C. Schaefer  |  Workplace Issues

I finished a training series recently.  On the evaluation forms I suggested a variety of topics that we could do next.  Among topics like Managing Stress and Managing Change, I added “Managing Up.”

This topic provoked the most interest, far and away.  I followed up with an anonymous survey to get really specific as to what this meant to my participants.  I got a number of responses like this:

“I want to…”

  • Understand my supervisor’s needs and how to address those needs.
  • Communicate with my boss better.
  • Influence my supervisor to eliminate obstacles to doing my job well.
  • Learn what actions I can take to be viewed as a more valued and trusted associate.
  • Understand the type and level of communication upper management wants.
  • Garner support for ideas.
  • Be more successful and make the company more successful.

Though some responders expressed the wish to advance, along with this I observed a humble desire to simply do a good job.  I was surprised and heartened by the comments.

As a manager, you might be surprised if you received this feedback.  You might be thinking, “You mean my employees don’t already know this?  And if they don’t, why aren’t they asking me?”

Who knows?  But we’ve identified a gap here where you might be able to help them improve their performance and help you.  They want to.

Clue your employees in about managing up.

It’s so easy to get caught up in day-to-day business and compartmentalize what is needed for this presentation or that project, rather than step back and set the foundation of:

  • How “we,” in the supervisor-employee relationship, work best together.  Consider questions like, “What do I expect of you and what do you expect of me?”
  • The type of approach, responsiveness, and leadership needed to be considered valued and trusted.
  • How the employee’s approach, etc. needs to shift when communicating to upper management.

You’d think they’d know.

One of my training participants told me he remembered the day his supervisor spelled out to him the process for how a promotion happens.  Beyond the required performance and development, the supervisor described how it’s brought up, who’s involved, the buy-in and sign-off that’s necessary, the kind of discussions that takes place with other managers, etc.  My participant said that day he felt like he was going home from work with a golden nugget of a gift.

Your employees want to hear how things work, from you.

How did you learn about “managing up” and what would you want to pass on to others?



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About The Author

Articles By mary-schaefer
Speaker, coach and trainer Mary Schaefer’s expertise is in creating work cultures where organizations and human beings can both thrive. She is a former HR manager. Find out more about how Mary helps managers empower themselves to make the most of their human resources with this special collection of articles selected for LCG readers:  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mike Henry  |  12 Mar 2013  |  Reply

Mary, thanks for the great post. I learned about managing up (and I’m still doing so) by reporting to a variety of different people and by having people report to me. When I put myself in my manager’s shoes, I can become very clear about what I’d want if I were my boss. I still have to consider how my boss is different and what they’d want, but step one is to realize that I don’t often behave even the way I would want me to if I were my manager. So question #1, if you were the boss, what would you want you to do? Thanks for the great thought-provoker. Mike…

Mary C Schaefer  |  12 Mar 2013  |  Reply

Thanks for the insights and additional nuances about “managing up.”

Johann Gauthier  |  12 Mar 2013  |  Reply

Thanks Mary for your thoughts and for the opportunity to comment.
I have gained experience in a variety of management and executive roles over the last 7 years.
I find the secret of any long-term business success lies in the ability to build trusting and authentic relationships.

These are not merely buzz words. We are all human beings with feelings and emotions.

I have always done my best not to leave my identity at the door and bring my full self at the office.

People want to succeed whether they are or not in management positions.

When there is a mutual agreement and understanding many things are possible.

Thanks for initiating the discussion !

Mary C Schaefer  |  13 Mar 2013  |  Reply

Thanks Johann for your comments.

“I find the secret of any long-term business success lies in the ability to build trusting and authentic relationships.”

I’m with you on that one!

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