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If you try to ‘manage up,’ you need to understand management

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in Your Office Coach

Q: “My manager encourages employees to be innovative and stretch their capabilities. He’s always receptive to new ideas, so I have never hesitated to make suggestions. However, I was surprised by his reaction to my latest proposal.

“After describing certain inefficiencies that I have observed in our department, I presented some possible ways to correct them. These changes would have given me more responsibility and a higher-level position.

“My boss took offense and said that many of these responsibilities belong to him. I quickly backed off, saying that I was simply trying to help. Now I’m reluctant to propose any new ideas for fear of jamming my foot in my mouth again.” Burned Once

A: Since your boss has historically been open-minded, something about this proposal obviously hit a nerve. Perhaps he sensed an implied criticism of his managerial ability or viewed your bid for increased responsibility as self-serving. He may even feel that you are gunning for his job.

Regardless of the cause, his defensive response provides a valuable lesson in “managing up.” Before making any suggestion, you must carefully consider the perspective of those with the power to adopt it or kill it. The ability to understand management’s view is an invaluable political skill.

Even though this unexpected rejection was unsettling, don’t let it stifle your initiative. Your boss valued your ideas in the past and will undoubtedly welcome them again in the future. However, you have now learned that you must choose your words very carefully.

Want to build a better relationship with your boss? Here are some simple tips: Ten Helpful Things to Say to Your Boss.

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