The Art of Managing Your Manager


Not all skills to be exhibited at your workplace are mentioned in your job description. Some are acquired and when practiced makes you stand out from the crowd. One such skill is learning how to manage your manager, supervisor, or as some would call it- upward management. What is that? In simple terms, managing upwards is about managing your immediate manager. This is a fundamental aspect of your job if you want to do well career-wise. Managing upwards essentially requires subordinates to take certain actions and practice them diligently to effectively manage their professional relationship with their managers. This helps to establish a bond with reporting managers and shape their perception of your work.

Irrespective of how long you have been working with them, it is never too late to take the first step towards building a bridge of communication with your reporting manager. This opens work productivity and trust factor. Having said this, not all bosses are alike. Some are compassionate while some are the exact opposite. It is important to invest time and understand your manager as a person. After all, they might be the ones you look up to.

Here are few strategies to effectively to implement upward management at your workplace.  

Actively Communicate Your Progress

How often do you substantially communicate with your boss? Do you know how often do they want an update with work and to what extent? While some supervisors prefer daily updates and like to micromanage every aspect of every project, some are okay with being brushed through the touch-points periodically. Find out which category does your boss fall into. Also, gauge the mode of communication they are comfortable with to get work updates. You can also be a step ahead of them on these updates. Imagine a situation wherein your managers are the ones who come forward to ask for an update. This is something you do not want to encounter. Instead, every time he wonders about the progress, a status email should already be in his inbox, or you should’ve previously scheduled a status meeting for that week. Proactively implementing this practice by providing timely work updates instills confidence and trust in your stakeholders about you and your work. This helps you in the long run to get bigger and better projects.

Adapt Yourself to Your Boss’s Working Style

Often it is said that it is small things matter the most. Getting to know the little things that matter to your boss can help you manifold. You can start with understanding their pet peeves. For example, if one of their pet peeves is not being open to staying late or being interrupted while talking, the act of indulging in the same can cause unnecessary misunderstandings and strain the relationship. To avoid this pitfall, find a way to ask your boss about his or her preferred work style.

Ask Questions and Clarify Your Doubts – It does not make you stupid!

Supervisors deal with layers of information and multiple people at the same time. More often than not they tend to leave out the details while delegating or assume that their team members know the nitty-gritty. In such cases, it is better to ask questions and clarify any doubts about the work assigned and your responsibilities. This not only helps you as a subordinate to work better but also keeps all the concerned parties away from unwarranted complexities.  

Don’t Wait Too Long to Wave the Red Flag

More often than not, when things go wrong, our first instinct is to fix it. If it cannot be fixed, we tend to hide it. This is a wrong professional decision. Why? Because either way your boss is going to discover the situation. This backfires if he is caught off-guard by his seniors. It is in your best interest to inform your supervisor whenever you foresee a terrible situation and come up with a constructive solution. Better to be safe than sorry.

What Motivates Your Manager?

Every stakeholder and a team lead have a set agenda they wish to achieve. This list defines their work objectives.  They keep certain motivational triggers to keep them going. It is imperative that you as an aspiring professional identify these trigger points that keep your reporting manager motivated. Understand what your manager’s goals and challenges are. Try to the best of your capacity to resolve these problems. If necessary take your colleagues in confidence and discuss the issues at hand with them.  This encourages team-spirit, and the entire team stays motivated to achieve a single objective.

All the above upward management tactics in totality talk about how actively you can show your boss your managerial skills, your dedication to work and professionalism by keeping him informed about everything and playing a motivator on bad days. These skills are successful because your boss is someone you aspire to become. He or she molds you to become a better team player and a top performing team member who is reliable to work with. You being supportive of your manager encourage them to achieve profit objectives for the organization as a whole. This is beneficial for both you and the team in the long run.