How Do You Manage Up?

Seven tips to help you cultivate a great relationship with your boss


 Like it or not, upline management is an important issue. Doing it well contributes to your career progress and to your job satisfaction. Believe it or not, you can manage up without compromising your principles. Managing up isn’t the same as kissing up. In fact, effectively managing up is the exact opposite of self-promotion and manipulation because it’s more about helping your manager achieve his or her* goals than it is about advancing your own goals. Here are seven tips about how to cultivate a great relationship with your boss.

1. Honour her character traits, values, strengths, and weaknesses.
Don’t wish she would change, and don’t try to change her. Accept her as she is. This is one of the most affirming things you can do for anyone.
Look for areas where you and the boss have complementary strengths. These present opportunities for synergy.

2. Make your boss’s priorities your own.
Knowing your boss’s needs, goals, and aspirations empowers you to add value as your boss defines it. If you make it your business to make your boss successful, you will earn continuing support.

3. Demonstrate fierce loyalty and unmitigated trust.
Make sure your boss knows you seek her greatest good.

Don’t always agree with your boss. Offer your ideas and opinions. But when you disagree on significant issues that she is communicating publicly, do it in private.

Support her decisions in public, even if you don’t agree. Remember, you might be wrong. And trust her to correct any mistakes you bring to light in a one-on-one discussion.

Keep her well informed. Be completely transparent. Don’t hide information, especially when you have messed up in some way. Also, have the courage to speak up when you believe she has made a mistake.

Don’t speak negatively about your boss. That’s blatantly disloyal.

If you’re going to meet with her boss, tell her before you do it. If her boss calls you into a meeting, let your boss know what it was about as soon as possible.

If you’re not sure whether your boss has told you something in confidence, treat it as confidential.

4. Ask for advice and guidance.
You’re bound to run into problems along the way. Although you should bring possible solutions, it shows respect and humility to ask your boss for guidance.

5. Don’t be defensive.
That’s worth repeating. Don’t be defensive. From time to time you’re going to get your ass chewed. Sometimes it’ll be unfair. That’s life. Lick your wounds and move on.

6. Share good news.
Don’t create a situation where you only interact with your boss when there’s a problem, or when you’re going to ask for something. Share a team success, share something great about one of your team members, or share a new idea.

7. Show appreciation. Give your boss recognition when she’s earned it.
We tend to think about recognition as being only top down. We need to escape that thinking. Like anyone else in your organisation, your boss does things that merit some recognition. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Write a brief note, or just say thank you.

If you implement these seven tips, you’ll develop a good, positive relationship with your boss, and you’ll do it in a way that demonstrates that you’re a person of good character.

*We hate saying “his or her” so we chose “her” and stuck with it for the remainder of this article.


Larry Sternberg and Kim Turnage are authors of the new book MANAGING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE:  How To Engage, Retain & Develop Talent For Maximum Performance. Sternberg is a senior executive at management consulting firm Talent Plus and Turnage is a senior leadership consultant at Talent Plus. 

For more information please visit www.ManageToMakeADifference.com