For the most part, employees expect to take direction from their managers. But anyone who’s ever worked for a boss who is disorganized, scatterbrained, or simply overworked knows how difficult it can be to figure out exactly what’s expected of them.
When your manager is spectacularly swamped — or, like a significant majority of other bosses, simply disengaged — tackling your job responsibilities can be a bit tricky if for no other reason than you might not know precisely what they are.
If you find yourself in such a situation, you generally have two options. You could either grit your teeth and try to endure the uncertainty or you can try your hand at “managing up,” a concept that’s generated increasing attention over the last several years.
Quite simply, managing up refers to doing whatever you can to make your boss’s job easier by essentially managing your manager. As the Harvard Business Review points out, managing up includes a combination of:
Being able to anticipate your boss’s needs
Does your boss routinely scramble to put together a PowerPoint presentation for a monthly team meeting due to having a heavily packed schedule? If so, volunteer to take over that responsibility. Whenever you’re able to take a small task off your manager’s plate, it will most certainly be appreciated.
Understanding what makes your boss tick
Once you get to know your boss, you’ll be able to communicate more effectively with them. If, for example, your boss hates communicating via email and loves to talk in person, you’re going to have to go over to their office when you have something important to share. Accommodate your boss’s work style as much as possible. It won’t go unnoticed.
Knowing the right way to discuss problems with your boss
Do you have a problem with the way your boss manages the team? Is one of your coworkers dropping the ball? Does the entire team have too much work on their plates? You certainly don’t want to insult your boss’s managerial style. But you can’t let problems fester out of control. When bad situations materialize — or, better yet, when you anticipate them brewing — let your boss know in a polite and helpful manner. They will appreciate your initiative.
Learning how to be a well-rounded source of help
When you establish a trusting relationship with your boss, they may start turning to you for help whenever the need arises. Figure out the areas that your boss struggles with most frequently, and do your best to position yourself as someone who can always pick up the slack when needed. The easier you’re able to make your boss’s job, the easier your own will become.
Remember, managing up doesn’t involve being a suck up. That’s easily detectable and, despite your best intentions, may do more harm than good to your relationship.
But by managing up effectively, you’re bound to get on your boss’s good side. Not only will they respect the effort you’re putting into making their job easier, they’ll recognize your forward-thinking capabilities and keep you in mind the next time a promotion opens up. And, of course, your own job will become more enjoyable as well.