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10 Effective Tips to Managing Up at Work

It can be difficult to work effectively when your boss is overworked, ill-equipped, or simply unmotivated. Maybe they’re too busy managing up themselves.

Regardless of the reason, you still need to find a way to put out quality work and feel engaged in the workplace. That’s how to get ahead and grow in your career.

Managing up is a great way to achieve these goals, as it empowers you to take a more active role in your job and potentially forge a better relationship with your manager.

But how can you manage up without offending anyone or sucking up?

Here are ten tips for managing up that’ll help you get ahead and retain a strong reputation:

1. Provide Timely Updates

A supervisor shouldn’t have to come to you for a status update. Make it a point to be forthcoming and proactive with your updates.

Over-communication is rarely a bad thing. Especially if you do it the right way. Even a short weekly email about what you’re prioritizing this week and how you’re approaching it can go a long way. Try weekly updates at first, and if you find they’re still asking for updates, consider communicating more frequently.

It may feel strange at first and even discouraging if they don’t respond, but keep at it. Consider it as one-way communication. You’re not looking for feedback or praise. It’s just a status update.

2. Seek Out Clarity

There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that goes, “He who asks a question remains a fool for five minutes. He who doesn’t ask remains a fool forever.”

The biggest way to handicap yourself is by not asking questions. You may be worried about looking stupid in front of your peers or coming off unfit for the job to your manager, but that’s more unlikely than you think. If you have questions about a project, don’t be shy about asking them – t’s better to be upfront than to wait until the last minute.

A pro tip here is to repeat back instructions rather than simply nodding your confirmation. That way, you’ll recall it better later and simultaneously show them you’re really listening.

3. Anticipate Their Needs

Point number one is more about doing what you’re told on time. Anticipating needs is about doing things before you’re told to do them. That’s a level up.

As an employee, you get to decide what level you’re on.

Level 1 means you do what you’re asked to do.

Level 2 means you do what you’re asked to do, and you think ahead and solve potential problems before they occur.

Level 3 means you do what you’re asked to do, you think ahead to solve problems before they occur, and you proactively seek out opportunities within the business to grow or contribute at a higher level.

The best way to manage up is deciding to be a level 2 or 3 employee. Make it easy for your manager to take action and make decisions. Ensure they have the right information at the right time.

4. Advertise Your Accomplishments

If your workplace lacks proper feedback mechanisms, then you have to take matters into your own hands. You have to actively seek out criticism and broadcast your achievements.

Celebrating your own wins without putting people off is a challenge. One of the best ways to showcase your hard work is by shouting other people’s accomplishments out. Building a culture of mutual respect and praise paves the way for recognition. If you’re doing the right things, then your successes will eventually get the spotlight as well

Create your own channels to praise colleagues, customers, and other leaders. Slack channels and weekly email blasts work great here. You could also carve out time in your meetings to give people recognition.

5. Seek Out Constructive Criticism

Elon Musk is a big proponent of leveling up in life through the power of criticism. He says, “Constantly seek criticism. A well thought out critique of whatever you’re doing is as valuable as gold.”

Asking for criticism is a sign of trust and intimacy. It shows you value their opinion, and people value those who genuinely want to improve themselves. Plus, asking for advice and following it can shift your relationship with your manager to more of a mentorship.

6. Find Out What Makes Them Tick

If you play detective for a while, chances are you’ll begin to notice behavioral patterns from your manager or larger ambitions you can use to your advantage, such as:

  • Are they always short on time and come off disorganized?
  • Do they micromanage and have little to no patience for mistakes?
  • What does the bigger picture look like for them? Do they display their goals or fears?

Insights like these can shape your responses and behavior to earn more favor and help them meet their goals. Or at the very least learn what not to do.

7. Create Workplace Allies

If you’re feeling mismanaged, unrecognized, or even mistreated, then chances are others are as well. If you can find partners to drive the change you want to see, it’s easier to manage up without coming across disingenuous or schmoozy.

The right allies can also give you an outlet to vent privately. Doing so publicly may end with unintended backlash if the wrong people hear it.

8. Be a Genuine Source of Help

Create value for your company, your manager, and your peers. Becoming a “go-to” person makes you more valuable. If your boss sees your peers and other leaders coming to you for assistance, they’ll see you as more of a leader too.

Check on your teammates often and ask how you can help them. Do the same for your boss. The more you give at work, the more you’ll receive in turn.

9. Respect Their Time

Strive for independence at work by taking more ownership and seeking out answers to your problems before bringing them to your manager.

When you’ve exhausted your options, then you can bring the problem to them. Let them know what you’ve tried and what other options you’re considering. Make it easy for them to guide you, and they’ll respect you more for it.

10. Speak Up More Often

Good things come to those that ask for them. Plain and simple. You’ll rarely get what you don’t ask for.

Sometimes managing up is as simple as speaking your mind. Your manager likely doesn’t know there’s a problem or that you have any desires unless you voice them. Praise others, ask questions, seek out feedback, and over-communicate.

What’s your secret to managing up at work? Let us know in the comments below:

Sam Molony

Sam Molony is the marketing strategist at ZoomShift, the leading employee scheduling software. When Sam's not publishing or promoting new content you can find him playing his guitar or baking.

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