Managing Up: 7 Simple Steps to Success

CoachHub · 17 October 2022 · 5 min read

We’re all familiar with the concept of managing down. It’s simply managing those you’re entrusted to lead. Managing up is also about working with and influencing others, but in a different way. It’s about building strong relationships with supervisors, mentors and company leaders that are conducive to personal growth and getting one’s needs met in the workplace.

A key word in any managing up definition is “relationship.” Every manager has their own strengths, weaknesses and preferences. They have their own ways of communicating and resolving conflict. Employees who learn the ins and outs of their manager’s leadership style and build a productive relationship with their manager develop connections centered on mutual understanding. In turn, those relationships create a solid foundation for personal and professional growth.

managing up

How to manage up at work

Examples of managing up abound. Here are seven managing up tips you can use to begin building strong, positive relationships that will impact your success.

1. Understand what they’re aiming for

It’s much easier start managing your relationship with your boss when you understand what your boss is being asked to accomplish. That way, you can anticipate their needs and align your efforts to help them achieve their goals. You can also propose solutions and pinpoint areas for your own personal career development. In this way you can help them meet their mandate, thus advancing your career by creating value for your boss. Getting a handle on the team’s goals also opens the door to learning more about the company, the industry and business in general.

Bringing back the magic into the daily lives of managers

Download the eBook

2. Build a working rapport

It can be tempting to think of your boss as being outside of your team of peers, as being one of “them,” rather than one of “us.” But that puts undue pressure on them to apply your talents most effectively and guesstimate your workload. If they’re inclined to develop people, it also forces them to take a stab in the dark as to what you might want to do, try or learn next. And it makes them vulnerable to unpleasant surprises you might have helped them avoid. You wouldn’t think twice about reaching out to your coworkers over the course of the day. Don’t hesitate to initiate face-to-face conversations with higher-ups. Be respectful of their time but jump in when there’s an opportunity for mutual benefit. Set up regularly scheduled 1:1s for more in-depth conversations. Both of you will profit from the open dialogue.

3. Align your conversation style

If you’ve ever felt like you’re working with a difficult boss, you might just be misaligned to their conversational style. There is a workplace psychology tool called Insights Discovery that defines one interpersonal style as “show me you care” and another as “Be brief. Be bright. Be gone.” Imagine walking into your boss’s office thinking they prefer the former while they’re really all about the latter. Those who are adept at managing up seek to understand their supervisor’s conversational styles and work styles and align their own to them, even if an approach isn’t their personal go-to. It greatly reduces the confusion, misunderstanding, mistakes and disappointing performance reviews that can happen when someone doesn’t speak the other’s language (so to speak). Achieving conversational harmony is a great example of managing up at work.

4. Learn to resolve conflicts effectively

Where there are two people, there are conflicts. Not necessarily blow-outs, but everyday matters of disagreement that nonetheless need to be dealt with to keep things running smoothly. Understanding different conflict management styles can go a long way toward reducing friction and resolving issues productively. When the average manager spends 20% to 40% of their time dealing with conflict, it’s easy to understand the value of getting good at problem solving. If you can help them dispatch conflicts between the two of you efficiently, that’s great. If you can take care of them properly before your boss has to deal with them, even better. Either way, you become an ally in making the day run smoothly.

5. Strive for empathy

Your boss is human, too. Like you, they deal with pressures in their personal and working life that affect the way they deal with others. Striving for empathy helps you recognize stress, support people’s wellbeing, diffuse difficult situations and come up with unique solutions to everyday challenges. It enables you to exit no-win situations gracefully and stay above the fray by not taking every slight or angry outburst from your supervisor personally. It keeps their challenges from derailing your work and adding to your supervisor’s woes. Soft skills such as these are highly valued in the workplace.

6. Get comfortable asking questions

People who don’t know one another well may have trouble asking probing questions. So might those in subordinate relationships. In the workplace, that can lead to problems. Managing up involves asking clarifying, and sometimes uncomfortable, questions to ensure that tasks are done right, projects stay on track and goals are met. Reticence can lead to misunderstandings that may otherwise have been easy to address. Practice the art of active listening by repeating what you thought you heard from your manager to ensure everyone’s on the same page. After all, which is more frustrating for your supervisor? Dealing with an issue that was avoidable, or clearing up questions beforehand?

7. Cultivate self-awareness

A list of managing up tips wouldn’t be complete without this one. When you understand your own proclivities and preferences, it makes your manager’s job much easier. They don’t have to deal with as much interpersonal conflict because you’re able to recognize what is happening and solve for it before they must step in. When you are aware of your own work and communication styles, you can apply your strengths to achieving the team’s goals. And you’re able to spot gaps in your development that, with proper attention, can add even more value. Time spent opening your eyes becomes time spent getting the job done instead.

Bottom Line

There are many examples of how to manage up at work to explore. As you dig into it, keep this in mind: people have different levels of managerial training. A great manager might be quite skilled at it. Others are thrown into leadership roles with no formal training, having been tapped for the position based on their individual expertise or achievements. Either way, they’ll appreciate someone who serves as a trusted right hand. You will benefit by creating a working relationship that furthers your own aspirations. Managing up well is a win-win in the truest sense.

Modernise Performance & Talent development

Upgrade your talent management strategy and transform your workforce.

Discover CoachHub

Call us on +44 (0) 20 3608 3083 email us (mail@coachhub.com) or contact us below for a demo.


Global Offices

Global digital coaching provider

CoachHub is a leading global talent development platform that enables organisations to create personalised, measurable and scalable coaching programmes for the entire workforce, regardless of department and seniority level. By doing so, organisations are able to reap a multitude of benefits, including increased employee engagement, higher levels of productivity, improved job performance and increased retention. CoachHub’s global pool of coaches is comprised of over 3,500 certified business coaches in 90 countries across six continents with coaching sessions available in over 80 languages. Serving more than 1,000 clients worldwide, CoachHub’s innovative coaching programs are based on proprietary scientific research and development from its Innovation Lab. CoachHub is backed by leading tech investors, including Sofina, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Molten Ventures, Speedinvest, HV Capital, Partech and Silicon Valley Bank/SVB CapitalCoachHub is committed to creating a greener future and is a certified carbon neutral company since 2022.
This site is registered on wpml.org as a development site.