Managing Up Without Sucking Up

In order to do your job effectively, you must develop a healthy working relationship with your manager, being clear about expectations and delivering consistent results.

While managing your team is important, knowing how to work for and with your boss is crucial to making progress at your company. Bruce Tulgan, author “It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss,” and John Baldoni, author of “Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up,” have identified six things you must do to build a good relationship with your manager.

How to Manage Up

  1. Establish ground rules. Tulgan notes you should establish “how you’re going to stay in dialogue, how you’re going to set priorities on a day-to-day basis, and how you’re going to monitor, measure, and document your performance.” Decide on times you’ll check in, and commit to those times—no endless rescheduling allowed.
  2. Overcommunicate. “Could you take care of this” leaves too much room for misunderstanding. Ask, “How exactly do you want me to accomplish this? By what time and what day? Do you want me to stop doing the other thing so I can start doing this?” If you get “However you want,” “ASAP,” and “uh,” those aren’t sufficient answers. Outline how you’re going to accomplish a task and show it to your manager before beginning. Confirm a deadline and the shuffling you’ll have to do with other priorities.
  3. Prioritize with them in mind. Keep a time log for a few days and share it with your manager. This will give them a chance to confirm you’re prioritizing tasks the way you want them to.
  4. Come up with a plan, then stick to it. Just as you’re clarifying specific steps and deadlines on a project-by-project basis, you should be disclosing how you plan on handling common recurring issues and requests. To avoid nagging your boss, design your own procedure and show it to them once, then keep using it.
  5. Think big. Baldoni says to “Lead Up,” or think of the big picture of the company while communicating with your boss. What is the company’s vision, mission, and strategic goals? Make sure you’re both aligned on these factors.
  6. Share your ideas. Once you’ve established your competence, credibility, and confidence, sharing your insights. For instance, once you develop processes and start to see patterns, share why you think a problem continues to happen and the impact it has on the team and the company overall.


Published July 11, 2016

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