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“You have to learn to manage up better.” Perhaps someone has said this to you or a colleague. To manage up, you need to be strategic in how you handle work relationships with your boss and individuals higher on the company ladder that possess more power than you. When you manage up with leaders, the underlying objective is to enhance the relationship and ongoing collaboration. Otherwise any attempts may be seen as manipulation.

According to Gallup research, poorly-managed work groups are, on average, 50 percent less productive and 44 percent less profitable than well-managed groups. Whether it is your boss or leaders you aid on initiatives, these individuals have a noticeable impact on your work environment and performance. Although these leaders should be good at creating a productive work environment, the Gallup results just mentioned show that often is not the case. If you want to take steps to improve your situation, what can you do? Try these strategies to manage up:

Communicate Their Way

Misunderstandings frequently result from different ways of communicating. This can create tension between you and leaders above you. So, learn their communication preferences and act accordingly. Do they like to get information in writing (hard copy or soft copy), or do they want to hear it directly from you? Do they want an overview, or do they prefer details? Once you figure out their preferences, be proactive in your communication.

Shore Up Their Weaknesses

Like you, leaders above you also have strengths and limitations. Take a little time to understand where they are strong and where they are weak. If they candidly tell you their weaknesses, that’s great. Don’t expect them to do so. Subtly figure out ways to compensate for their limitations and make them successful. Their success is your success, especially if they recognize you helped to make it happen.

Bring Solutions Instead of Problems

Many leaders get frustrated when someone continues to point out when things aren’t going well. Don’t be this person. If things aren’t operating as they should, make sure you offer some viable options for discussion to resolve them. Be prepared to provide the rationale for each option and the one you recommend.

Adjust to Their Work Style

Pay attention to how the leaders operate during a typical week. When are they most energized? What are the best/worst times to have meetings with them? Do they make decisions quickly, or do they like to mull things over before making the call? Gathering this information will enable you to refine how you work with them and prevent potential frustration with their habits and mannerisms.

Pick Your Spots for Disagreement

Observe how the leaders react to disagreement. Are they even-keeled most of the time? What sets them off? What approaches engage them? Use these facts to finesse how you disagree with them. Have a couple backup tactics in mind that you can use in case the first tactic you try fails.

Be Real

Keep in mind managing up is not sucking up. While some leaders may respond to veiled attempts to curry favor, most savvy leaders will recognize and resent such duplicity. Authenticity will help you manage up more than ingratiation.

When done right, managing up improves relationships and collaboration. By using strategies like the ones suggested above, you help create a positive work environment for yourself, the leaders and those around you.

Related article:

My Boss is a Piece of Work


Ryan Lahti is the founder and managing principal of OrgLeader. Stay up to date on Ryan’s STEM organization tweets here: @ryanlahti

(Photo: 3 Women in Suit Sitting, Pexels)