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How are you ‘managing up’?

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Question: “I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the concept of ‘managing up’ and how I should be more aggressively working with my supervisors, and even leading them toward decisions, so I can get ahead. Do any admins out there have examples of what they’ve done to be more like a manager of the people above them instead of just reacting to their needs? And did get it the result you wanted?” – Martha, Instructors’ Assistant

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Patricia January 14, 2017 at 11:01 am

Managing up is easier if your boss is open to it, but even if they aren’t you can make subtle suggestions. My former boss was very open to suggestions and actually consulted me on many occasions for various things. My current boss is very open as well. He consults me on governance type issues for meetings, but also on etiquette, especially as it relates to email. Once your boss opens the door, then you will feel freer to make the suggestions and before long you are making them before being asked, which I think is where they are hoping you will go. At my last performance assessment my boss handed me a book called ‘Managing Up’ by Rosanne Badowski. The foreword was written by former Chairman and CEO of General Electric. He opens the foreword with this paragraph that I thought perfectly summed it up:
“A few monts ago, when Rosanne told me she was writing a book, I said great – as long as it wasn’t about me, and as long as I didn’t have to do anything for it. Now I’ve read the book and it says plenty about me, and I am sitting here writing the foreword. So you can see who was actually the boss in our relationship.”


Amanda B. January 13, 2017 at 11:22 am

When I first started my job over a year ago I wasn’t really sure how to handle situations and was just growing with the position or reacting to what was happening. Now that I am comfortable in my position I try to take charge as often as possible. Some things I make sure I do are to make sure my managers, and department staff, know I am available to assist in anything that is needed. Rather than reacting I try to be proactive and search for well-planned solutions before meetings with my supervisor. This will show I have taken the time to think through the situation at hand and have offered valuable information. Even if none of my solutions are being used, it offers my manager a change to see that I care about my work and try to do my best to help out. Also, I find that being open and speaking with the staff about more than just work makes great connections. This gives me the chance to really get to know someone and how they like things done.
Additionally one thing I have found to work is taking the initiative on projects or starting projects that will be useful for everyone. I took the chance once I realized we didn’t have a working Access Database for our files or a group of resources for new incoming students (they rotate new every year). So this year I created a brand new Access Database to put our files into. I had to take Access classes through my company to figure out what I was doing, but this was greatly appreciated by everyone and recognized by my manager and beyond. I also created a departmental resource guide for questions, policies, how-to documents, and even important information everyone should know.
I guess the whole point of this is to be proactive in your support and you will get ahead and hold more influence over your managers as you prove that you can offer meaningful and important solutions. Hope this helps!


Maureen Small January 12, 2017 at 5:01 pm

I’ve “managed up” successfully many times over the past decade in my job as an office administrator. I believe I was successful for two main reasons: 1) I kept a humble attitude, and 2) I offered well-thought-out solutions. One of the larger initiatives I “managed up” was identifying the need for a single database of information on our “clients’ (in this case, church attenders). We had multiple silos of information with each executive keeping their own database. I researched options, selected the one I felt would most meet our needs, and presented it to my immediate supervisor. He was impressed that I had not just “complained” about a needed change, but offered a viable solution. With his support, I then presented to a number of different stakeholder groups, and eventually received approval to purchase the software and train everyone else in using it.


Ce January 12, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Managing up (and sideways) is something that I do frequently! Fortunately, I work with an amazing group of people who don’t have superiority/power issues, so they’re completely open to the concept.

In my situation, a great deal of this involves teaching. Last year, I’d noticed that a lack of communication had become a growing problem in our department. First, I pointed this out to my boss and told him that I thought I could help our team grow in this area. Then, I participated in a communication web conference and attended a live one-day conference. From what I’d learned, I created a presentation that I first gave just to my boss (the dept VP). Then I presented it to our leadership team (managers). We began to implement the new techniques and saw immediate results. Finally, I will present it to the entire department, and it’s even been suggested that I present it to the entire company.

Recognizing an area in which those above you and around you can grow, acknowledging it, and taking the initiative to teach is just one way that you might manage up. Realize that your ability to manage up heavily depends on your superiors’ openness to the concept. At my place of work, we laugh about it and joke around that I’m “the real boss.”

Caution: those who try to bully their way into power are NOT successful at managing their superiors. Being aggressive, disrespectful, or out-right rude will not work. “Can you please help me with this?” will encourage people to want to follow your direction. Sincere “thank yous” when they do will also go a long way. Ultimately, managing down, managing up, and managing out are all about growing as a team. Only when you have everyone’s best interest at heart will you be able to do this effectively.


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