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Managing Up

22 Jun 2022 11:30 AM | Anonymous

Dear Sophia, 

In your last answer you mentioned the importance of "managing up." Can you say more about what that is, why it's important, and how to do it well?


Doing Lots of Jobs

Dear Doing Lots of Jobs,

Happy to expand. Managing up is simple to define but can be challenging to realize. Simply, it is managing your relationship with your supervisor or someone else up the chain of command in your organization. It is an important skill that isn’t explicitly taught. Managing up takes effort but makes your manager’s job and your day-to-day job easier. It requires:

  • caring about the quality of work through your supervisor’s eyes

  • caring about them and their goals 

  • communicating effectively, which requires understanding your managers preferred communication style

  • supporting your manager and providing honest feedback that helps improve your relationship

  • being results oriented

  • staying on course with the company’s and your manager’s vision

Some have a negative connotation of managing up, perceiving it as manipulating or sucking up to your boss or even complaining, and while there are plenty of people that do that, that is not what I’m referring to here. I’m talking about supporting yourself, your manager, and your team if the need arises.  Being effective at managing up requires identifying and employing strategies which both help you achieve your professional and personal goals while also demonstrating your value to superiors by helping them to achieve their goals. I’m sure you can imagine why managing up can be a challenging task. We’ve all experienced our share of workplace relationships where you and a superior have noticeable differences in workstyles, communication styles, vision, goals, or desired paths to achieve unit outcomes. While we know diversity in work settings has the potential to enhance the outcomes, it can also create perceived conflict or strife if both parties aren’t recognizing those differences as strengths and working toward common goals over seeking the spotlight. Not to mention, there isn’t a one size fits all approach and there are landmines all around you in any workplace, including competitive teams, toxic gossips, poor morale, or any other number of dysfunctions that can sabotage even the most well thought out and intentional efforts. 

Done effectively, it can help you to find common ground with a manager who doesn’t work or think the way you do, lead to increased trust, help you gain control over your workload, result in a manager advocating for you when there’s something you want, and make your value to your organization clear to your manager and the team as a whole.

To start being effective at managing the relationship with your supervisor I suggest doing some hard work to reflect on and seek insights to understand yourself and your manager. Prioritize regular communication that is both centered on work and professional talk to get to know them as a person, then focus on giving and receiving feedback with an open mind, grace and humility. We all know the saying that “people don’t leave a company, they leave their supervisor”. This highlights how our relationship with our boss is a significant determining factor in our happiness at work. By learning to manage up and improve that relationship, you invest in your own happiness.

Confidentially Yours,


P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.


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