Management is a two-way street. You probably have someone who manages you—a boss, someone who gives you feedback or appraises your work. Allowing yourself to be managed by that individual is crucial—but so is learning how to manage up.

What do we mean when we talk about managing up?

Most simply, managing up is about intentionally, proactively trying to understand how your boss or manager thinks—what your boss’ strengths and weaknesses are, and how you can use that knowledge to improve your own work as well as the work of the entire team.

Managing up helps you be less passive in your relationship to your boss. It prevents you from being beholden to your manager’s whims. The question is, how is it done?

Manage Up Definition

Managing up involves proactively and intentionally understanding your boss’s preferences, strengths, and weaknesses to improve both your performance and the team’s.

It’s about taking initiative to align your work and communication style with your manager’s to enhance efficiency, preemptively address issues, and contribute more effectively to organizational goals.

This strategy not only aids in your professional development but also in building a more productive and positive working relationship with your supervisor.

My Tips for Managing Up

Here are a few basic tips for managing up.

  1. Know how your manager likes to communicate—face to face, via Skype, through email, or however else. Often, this is pretty easy to figure out—but if not, don’t hesitate to just ask.
  2. Keep a task-list for yourself. Don’t lean on your manager to assign all your work to you!
  3. Observe how your manager prefers to receive information—with a lot of lead-up? With a lot of supporting data? Just the facts?
  4. Before any meeting, try to get with your boss to get on the same page about the meeting’s goals. Ask your boss what he or she hopes to tackle during the meeting and align yourself to those objectives.
  5. Consider some of the simple, repeatable, but time-consuming tasks your manager has to do, and volunteer to help out. Free your boss to do things that only he or she can do, and things that add real value to the business.
  6. Be ready to identify potential risks and problems, and to calmly share them with your manager before they snowball out of control—saving both of you some stress in the long run.
  7. Be aware of your specific skillsets—and as you see new tasks or projects that make use of those skillsets, volunteer for them.

These are just a few of the things I’d recommend to any employee who’s looking to manage up.