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"Managing Up" - What it Means, and How It Can Work For New Graduates

Apr 4, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Managing up is a very important skill to have if you want to advance within your company—and make your life easier at your current job. Your boss has the power to improve your life in a lot of ways—by giving you more lenient working hours, looking the other way when you call in “sick” on a Friday or Monday, assigning you the projects you want to work on, and even giving you a raise. In addition, your boss can make sure you get more relevant and interesting job duties—and recommend you for a promotion. Here are a few tips for improving your boss’s relationship with you—and making yourself as easy to work with as possible.

Know how your boss likes to work

Is your boss crazy about spreadsheets, charts and graphs? Then be sure to quantify everything at work. Keep track of your sales, your results, or your productivity—and make a chart demonstrating the advances you’ve made. If your boss is dedicated to customer service, be sure you can show how your projects relate to improving the customer experience. Know what matters most to your boss and be sure you can frame your work in terms of those priorities.

Business Woman

“Managing up” is an advanced workplace skill—and one it often takes new graduates a long time to develop. The sooner you can learn it, however, the easier your work experience will be.

Prioritize your work

Once you know what’s most important to your boss, you can start to prioritize projects and work that make the most difference to him or her. Many people may be passing work on to you—but there are never enough hours in the day to do everything. Be sure you know what work is most important to your boss—and focus on that first.

Know how your boss likes to communicate

Does your boss like to talk in person? Then stop by his or her office to give updates. If your boss is more of a daily e-mail person, send those. Be aware of how many details your boss wants to hear about—some people get overwhelmed by too much detail, while others want to drill down. And be aware of how often your boss wants to communicate. Don’t overwhelm your boss with communication, but don’t go too long without giving an update, either.

Ask your boss’s advice

Show your boss that you value his or her professionalism. Every so often, ask your boss’s opinion on a professional goal or topic you’re thinking about. If you can inject some mentorship qualities into your employee-boss relationship, it will help you—because mentors often feel at least a little invested in their mentees and want to see them succeed. If it’s possible, offer to take your boss out to lunch to discuss his or her career path and advice for advancing in your company. Be sure to do it in as non-threatening a way as possible, however, so your boss doesn’t assume you’re angling for his job.

Don’t let your boss be surprised

Share negative information as soon as you can. If your boss feels he or she can count on you and trust you, it’s an excellent thing for your career. In addition, even if new information is positive, be sure your boss hears about it as soon as possible. For some bosses, even positive surprises can be stressful.

“Managing up” is an advanced workplace skill—and one it often takes new graduates a long time to develop. The sooner you can learn it, however, the easier your work experience will be. If you earn your boss’s trust, you can reap plenty of benefits—and protect your job security if there are layoffs in your department. Learn to manage up, and it will definitely help you advance in your career.

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