How to Manage Your Boss

two employees talking to their boss

Great work often speaks for itself, but a good way to positively shape your career is to communicate with your boss. “Managing up” is an ability that not many employees are aware of, let alone do. The bold idea of managing a relationship upward makes it a two-way street for the employee and their manager, allowing them both to obtain the best results for themselves as well as the company or organization they work for.

When managing up, an employee and their boss are mutually dependent on each other. In the same way a manager needs the employee to do their jobs well, an employee also needs their manager’s support and guidance.

However, a lot of organizations forget that this dependency goes both ways. For example, employees often make the mistake of thinking they are not dependent on their managers or assume their managers know when they need help even without communicating that need. That’s simply not true, especially for larger organizations where managers handle 10, 20, 40 or more people. It may even be physically impossible for a boss to reach out to his employees one by one, especially if he is responsible for many other important tasks.

Benefits of Managing Up

Managing up can improve and further a person’s career in so many ways. The art of managing up proves to be a vital and useful skill more people need to learn. Here are some of the benefits:

1. It Enhances Your Communication Skills

People all have unique communication styles. As you grow in your career, people and circumstances will mold how you communicate, especially with your manager. Learning how to engage in small talk and paying attention to peoples’ body languages, especially that of your boss, are two skills that can help enhance your ability to communicate well. Managing up also allows you to practice your listening skills. Becoming an active listener can improve your relationships, increase your productivity and improve your chances for success.

2. It Helps You Become More Self-Aware

Managing up allows you to become more self-aware, understanding your own limits, and learning what techniques work and which ones don’t – especially in the context of getting what you ask for. You start to trust your instincts, becoming more in tune with your feelings and desires as they relate to your career and life in general. By becoming more self-aware, you are also able to adapt to rapidly changing environments. It boosts your morale and self-confidence, which helps you become a more proactive person and employee.

3. It Expands Your Network

Managing up teaches you to build lasting relationships, ones that are based on trust. In addition, it helps you network effectively, creating and nurturing relationships not just with your boss but with other individuals you meet. Building a solid network means you have people who can give you honest feedback and advice, and they can even inform you of amazing opportunities for advancement in your chosen career.

4. It Improves Your Knowledge

Managing up, on its own, requires you to step out of your comfort zone and expand your way of thinking. As you practice this skill, you notice how different people react and respond differently to different situations – allowing you to learn how to adjust and navigate in an ever-changing work environment. As such, managing up improves your knowledge base as well.

5. It Encourages You to Take Risks

Managing up gives you the opportunity to create and maintain a network of people, including mentors, whom you can rely on for support and honest feedback. This support group can encourage you in improving your career, your life, and yourself – support and encouragement you normally wouldn’t have otherwise.

Tips for How to Manage Your Boss

man sitting across from his female boss

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for managing up, but there are some best practices that you could start with. Here are just a few:

  • Disagree in a respectful and productive way. Don’t just tell your boss what’s wrong, do it tactfully.
  • Demonstrate your worth and keep your boss informed of both your progress and successes. At the same time, show that you can achieve results with minimal supervision and direction.
  • Provide Solutions. When discussing a problem or issue with your boss, be sure to also share some possible solutions.
  • Understand your boss, including their goals and needs. A one-on-one meeting helps achieve that.
  • Do your job well. Before you manage up, manage yourself first. Do excellent work and give your boss reasons to be proud of you.
  • Give them ideas on how to utilize your top skills and talents. Although you may be a performer at work, you may also be “hiding” useful skills that your supervisor may not be aware of. Let he or she know about other skills you possess so they can be utilized.
  • Support their weaknesses. If your boss is unorganized, and that’s where you excel, offer to help he or she keep on top of things.
  • Observe your boss’s communication style. Each person is unique, and as time passes you get to know your boss’s quirks—what works, what doesn’t, etc.
  • Communicate well. Ask your boss questions and clarify anything that you may not understand. It helps both you and your supervisor from making assumptions that may lead to miscommunication.
  • Thank your boss. A simple gesture, like a verbal “thanks,” goes a long way.

Managing up can seem intimidating, but it is extremely worthwhile. Once you have the hang of it, you end up improving not just your career, but also your relationship with your boss, and the quality of your work life.

About the Author

Dawna is a mom of two young kids, puppy lover, ice cream lover, chocolate lover, and lover of any ice cream with chunks of chocolate in it. She is the author of seven books, a business owner, certified health coach, motivational speaker, and creator of the 5-Day Detox and the 14-Day Clean-Eating Program. Dawna appears regularly on local and national television. She has appeared on the Today show, Martha, MSNBC, HSN, and morning news programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. Dawna is a highly sought-after speaker and has done speaking engagements for Chobani, Disney, American Heart Association, Mass Mutual, Wharton Business School, Women’s Entertainment Television, PGA Tour, Super Bowl Leadership Forum, Susan G. Komen, and many more.
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