Learning to Manage Up

One of the most important skills in life is your ability to manage. Excellent management skills can help you in every facet of your life, personal and professional. Beyond the simple tasks of managing your calendar or inbox, a skilled manager can use their abilities to manage expectations, but more importantly, other people.

Most Millennials are still the new kids in the office (depending on where you fall in the age scale, of course). We may have a few years of professional experience under our belts, but we’re still answering to supervisors and probably senior supervisors too.

Sometimes the squeeze of multiple managers can feel like being wrapped up in duct tape. No matter how much you twist and turn, you’re stuck. With multiple layers of management to get through, projects and getting approval can seem impossible, and for some, just not worth the effort.

Learning to Manage Up

Unless you’re the boss, you will always benefit from knowing how to manage up. What does managing up mean? Managing up according to Idealist: “managing up is a method of career development that’s based on consciously working for the mutual benefit of yourself and your boss. It doesn’t mean avoiding work, rebelling, kissing up, or trying to turn the tables on a higher-up, but instead understanding your boss’s position and requirements and making yourself known as a stellar employee by exceeding her expectations and needs.”

The first thing you need to do when managing up is get to know your boss(es). Learn what their goals are, where there is room for improvement and what projects need attention. When you manage up, you’re basically making your boss’ life easier by take things off their plate, and being available to tackle new projects. It also gives you the license to make suggestions. Have an idea for a new project? I promise if you present a thought-out proposal to your boss it will be harder for them to say no. Always give your bosses a reason to support you and say yes.

Do not fall into the trap of taking on irrelevant tasks. Sure – you’re bosses life would be easier if they didn’t have to run out for coffee or pick up their dry cleaning, but those tasks aren’t going to help you grow professionally and they’re certainly nothing you would boast about on your resume.

Also – Don’t take on too much too fast. Certainly you have your own to do list to accomplish on top of branching out into new projects. Make sure you have your roles and responsibilities covered before reaching out for more. In order for this to work, you need to first develop trust.

Gain trust by being supportive, friendly and positive. Managing up is a delicate balance, it can just as easily be detrimental to your career if you overstep your boundaries or make your boss feel like you are out for their position. So remember, be helpful not threatening!

Do you have any great examples of successfully managing up? Share them in the comments.

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