At first glance, you may be thinking… Me? Manage my boss? Isn’t it the norm for things to be the other way around?
Urbandictionary.com describes “managing up” as the process of managing your boss so that you and those who work for you can get work done with minimal interference. To put it simply: managing up is the fine-tuning of the relationship between you and your boss by understanding their position and consciously working towards mutual benefits!
The rule of thumb to accomplish this is to remember these three points: C-A-T. No, not in reference to felines – but to Communicate, Anticipate and Tackle obstacles. One should learn to anticipate an issue before it happens, face up to your fears by tackling them, and communicating to your superiors by giving them progress reports, updates or talking about potential challenges.
Still not too clear on how to manage up? Here are some examples that will definitely resonate with your day-to-day work life and how to handle issues with the right course of action:
You have been assigned to a new project without any clear, defined objectives as your boss wants to interject creativity into the project by encouraging employees to think outside the box. However, you know all too well from past experiences that your boss is very particular and that this ‘exercise’ may be a giant waste of time.
What you should not say: “Just tell me what you want, already! This is a waste of time!”
You don’t want your boss to think that you are incapable of generating ideas and outlining project objectives. Yet, at the same time, you want them to tell you if you’re on the right trajectory for this new project.
What you should say: “Here are my initial thoughts on this project: we should highlight ____ and ____ as our core objectives. Am I on the right track or do you have suggestions to how we should better proceed?”
You are overloaded with work and but your boss continues to pile on additional tasks! There are now heaps of deadlines and you’re not sure what your boss needs most urgently from you.
What you should not say: “I can’t do this anymore! What do you want me to do?!”
A fair enough response, but you don’t want to give your boss the impression that you are unable to multitask and prioritise. It is also probable that your boss might not even remember what you have been assigned to do before.
Instead of working on your next miracle to deliver everything by Friday, subtly remind your boss why you are an asset to the company.
What you should say: “Alright, I can take on this new assignment. However, I am currently also working on ____, ____, ____, ____ and ____. Which of these are most urgent and how many of them would you like to me prioritise this week?”
With several new company endeavours in the works, you find yourself trapped in meetings for several hours everyday. Instead of executing plans, you feel like all you are doing is talking about plans and brainstorming new plans.
What you should not say: “Hey, micromanager! We could have taken a few steps forward by now if we weren’t stuck in meetings all day!”
You don’t want the person in charge of your annual appraisal to have the impression that you believe you know more than they do. Regardless of how brilliant you are, your boss has probably been doing this for a much longer time than you and you still have plenty to learn. That’s not to say that the status quo shouldn’t be shaken up every once in a while, but there are gentler and more diplomatic tactics that may be more effective.
What you should say: “I’m having a bit of trouble trying to effectively divide my time in meetings and my time spent executing projects. Can we work together to quickly come up with an efficient weekly plan to include brainstorming sessions without sacrificing too much time that could be spent on execution?”
While the term “managing up” may seem a little daunting at first, you’ll soon realise that it helps to improve communication between you and your superiors, as well as increase your productivity and efficiency at work!
Although it may be easier to be a passive employee, learning to speak up in the correct, respectful and productive manner can almost certainly secure that promotion you’ve been waiting for. It’s time to show your boss what you’re really capable of!
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