Growing professionally means learning new things, gaining experience, and progressing to better job positions or climbing the corporate ladder.
Most employees believe that competing with managers is essential to secure the position in question and progress at work. The thought process is that until the manager leaves, other employees in the team will not get promoted to the managerial position
But did you know that your manager can help you become a better leader and manager? Yes, there are few manager positions within a company; hence, the likelihood of every employee securing a promotion to that position organically is low.
One of the main reasons most employees struggle to secure management positions is that they lack the initiative and leadership qualities managers must possess. But these can be taught as well, and as we said above, managers can help you learn these skills. But for that, first, the employee needs to learn how to manage up.
What does it mean to manage up?
In simple terms, the word “manage up” means helping your manager out by doing anything that would make the manager’s job easier.
Managers today have a lot on their plates. The work environment is changing from traditional office-based to hybrid and even wholly remote. Like everyone else, they are also trying to figure out the best way to do as much as possible without losing track of their responsibilities.
In scenarios like this, managers could likely seem distant or too busy and not be able to spend enough time working with individual team members to plan their responsibilities and tasks.
Employees can help their managers by assisting them and supporting them. This would improve the lives of their manager and assist the employee in their career development.
Benefits of managing up
As an employee, you may have this question: Why should I be making my manager’s working life easier? Is it not their job to help, support, and nurture their team members (and make the team member’s life easier)?
Yes, in a way, that is the managers’ job. However, there are several benefits for employees to manage up. Here are a few:
1. Better relationships
When a team member assists the manager by managing up, it positively impacts the working relationship that the team member shares with the manager. The manager typically appreciates the team members’ good work, becoming more comfortable with and trusting the team.
This trend opens up opportunities for employees and managers to receive honest feedback and ensure fair treatment of all the team members.
2. Better coaching and development
When a team member is managing up, they are not just supporting the manager but practically coaching themselves for a future leadership position. When managers perceive this initiative from the team members, they exert efforts to provide support in terms of coaching for the team member.
Moreover, when employees support managers, they effectively promote the manager’s development. When managers realise that their team is facilitating their development, they ensure that they consider employees’ career development goals and set a direction for them to proceed in their paths. Such a process creates a win-win situation for employees and managers.
3. Better team productivity
Managers usually have a lot to work on, which sometimes makes it challenging for them to manage the team member’s work better. This phenomenon could lead to lower team productivity as the team may lose track or become demotivated. This demotivation impacts individual team members as well as the team’s productivity (including that of the manager).
Hence, when an employee works with the manager to take responsibility for some of the manager’s tasks, it provides the manager with more time to manage the team better. This results in improved productivity for the whole team.
The do's and don'ts of managing up:
As discussed above, managing up is excellent for an employee and the manager, as discussed above. But one needs to be careful when managing up. It is a great thing, but it could quickly turn sour if not done correctly.
Let us look at a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to managing up:
1. Know your manager
One of the best ways of managing up is to know your manager. Do not just try to understand their skillset or role; try understanding your boss as an individual. This step is crucial because if you do not understand your manager, you may manage up in the wrong way.
For example, managers might like to see the initiative in their teams, so they may appreciate it if you take a task off their plate and complete it yourself. But if they are difficult bosses and believe that their team members must check with them before doing work, it might disappoint them.
Hence, it is essential to communicate with the manager and know them better to manage better.
2. Know when you manage up
Taking every opportunity to manage up may not be the best solution if you want to assist your manager. You do not want the manager to feel that you are effectively trying to replace them. You want them to realise that you are helping them.
Hence, it is essential to know when to manage up, not get involved, and let the manager handle the tasks.
3. Know the business
Before you start managing up, you as an employee must understand the business goals, mission, and vision. Then, you must know how the activities you are undertaking to manage up fit into the business’s bigger picture.
If what you consider managing up is not aligned with the business goals, you may damage the business more than assist your manager.
Hence, it is essential to know the business and its goals better before implementing a management plan.
1. Take shortcuts
There are always opportunities in business to take shortcuts. Even when it comes to managing up, an employee can lie or change facts or even pretend to support the manager positively to gain favours from the manager.
Do not do that; the road to success is through hard work and not through taking shortcuts under the guise of managing up.
2. Hide mistakes
When you as an employee try to manage up, there may be scenarios where you might fail or do a moderate job. Do not try to push the blame onto others or hide it; it damages the trust you were looking to build with the manager.
Most managers will appreciate honesty, and it would help solidify their trust in you if you accept and admit the mistakes you made while trying to do something new or nice.
3. Create bias
When you start managing up, you may get more opportunities to talk to the manager in various areas and assist with some of the manager’s responsibilities. Do not use this as an opportunity to use the information or responsibilities to help your favourite people in the team.
Keep it professional, and keep your personal bias out of this process. This will help you gain more trust from the team and the manager and make you a better manager in the future.
How to manage up
Now that you have understood what to do and what not to do when managing up. Let’s see how you can manage up:
1. Be inquisitive
Knowing what to do is the first step to managing up effectively. This can only be achieved when you can be genuinely curious and ask all the right questions to your manager and your team members to receive a response that can help you assist your manager better.
2. Be empathetic
Understand that managing up is not part of the roles and responsibilities of any employee. It’s something that an employee needs to do out of their interest, but for that to happen, you need to learn how to be more empathetic towards your team and your manager.
If you are not empathetic toward your manager, then it is doubtful that you will understand their challenges and be able to assist them in any way.
3. Be prepared
At work, there is always a crisis that happens for various reasons. It might feel challenging for employees at this time, but it is also horrible for the manager. Hence, no manager likes to be unprepared for a crisis.
If, as an employee, you can notice and communicate any challenges a lot earlier to the manager (maybe even offer to resolve the challenge), it would help your manager know the bad news as soon as possible and move you in the right direction managing up.
4. Be the note-taker
Managers are typically shuttling between tasks, daily jumping from one meeting to another. Sometimes, the managers may lose track of some conversations or decisions in these scenarios.
One effective way to manage up is to take notes and keep track of all the conversations and decisions in individual or team meetings. This will help you assist your manager in a better way.
Start managing up today
Learning how to manage up is a skill that will turn you from being just another employee to the company’s go-to person to get the job done. Figuring out the best way to speak to your boss, expressing your care and concern, fulfilling your performance goals, and more won’t go unnoticed. Make a few of these goals your priority in your next 1:1 on the Mesh app. Book a free demo with us today.