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Phoenix Forward

5 things you need to know about managing up

How to manage managers

It’s one thing to acquire the skills to manage the people working under you, but if you really want to reach the thin air at the top of the corporate ladder, it’s important to learn how to manage up.

“Managing up is about doing your job so well that it makes your manager look good,” explains Judith Gray, a lawyer and instructor in the MBA program at the University of Phoenix San Antonio Campus.

“It also involves enhancing your communication with your managers in order to help influence the decision-making process for the greater good of the organization.”

Despite what many people believe, the term does not mean that you’re sacrificing your own goals just to make your boss happy or to make up for your boss’s deficiencies, Gray points out.

Here are Gray’s words of advice on how to manage your boss:

Align yourself with your boss’s priorities.

Try to stand in your boss’ shoes and see the organization through the lens of that perspective. Figure out what your boss’ specific goals and objectives are by paying close attention, Gray says, and then make those your priority.

Extend yourself to make your boss shine.

“Once you get a sense of what your manager is trying to accomplish, stretch yourself by going above and beyond your responsibilities to support your boss in achieving those goals,” Gray urges.

“If you make your superior look good,” she adds, “eventually it will flow downhill, and your boss will share credit and recognition with you.”

Gain a deeper understanding of management style.

Figure out how your boss leads. Are casual suggestions welcome, or does your manager prefer formal communication with supporting data to back up your opinions?

“Knowing how he or she operates will help you learn how to best approach your boss with helpful information,” Gray explains.

Adopt a team player attitude.

“You need to put the greater good of the company in front of your own need to stand out,” Gray emphasizes. Instead of concentrating on how you can better your visibility in the organization or take credit for any successes when talking to your manager, try to think like a team player.

Time your communications well.

When you do decide to make a suggestion, it’s important that you’re aware of what’s going on with your manager within the organization.

Everyone is more receptive to a big-picture discussion at certain moments of the day — such as when they’re less busy or after they’ve had time to unwind from a stressful weekly meeting.

“Pay attention to the times of day when [your boss] is in the best mood,” Gray says, “because the last thing you want to do is irritate them.”


If you’re interested in learning additional skills, check out the Managing Up Career Workshop being offered complimentary to the public by University of Phoenix this month.