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Time for you to Manage Up

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It’s a friggin’ outtacontrol busy time of year. But it’s the perfect time to embrace the practice of “managing up”. Just wait a minute, though. I can hear you now “do you even know how busy it’s been with commencement and trying to get meetings with faculty before they leave for the summer? Why would I give a damn about managing up right now?”
The answer is simple: because it will make your life easier. Managing up is about helping your boss get what she needs. And what about your needs, you say? Want to work a more humane schedule? Want to get rid of some responsibilities but get more in other areas? Want a pay raise? Your boss can give all those things to you. So start managing up.

Penelope Trunk, of the Brazen Careerist, outlines 7 things you can do to humanize the workplace. It’s not brown-nosing, it’s making smart career moves.
Know what matters to your boss. If your boss is a numbers person, then quantify all your results. And know which numbers matter most to him. All numbers people have their pet line items. If your boss is a customer-is-first kind of guy, frame all your results in terms of benefits to customers. Let’s say, though, that you are working on a project that is impossible to frame in terms of the customer. Then ask yourself why you’reworking on it for a customer-oriented boss. It probably isn’t a high priority for him, so it shouldn’t be a high priority for you.

Say no. Say yes to the things that matter most to your boss. Say no to everything else and your boss will appreciate that you are focused on her needs. Remember that your boss doesn’t always know everything you’ve got on your plate. So when she asks you to do something that you don’t have time to do, ask your boss about her priorities. Let her know that you want to make sure you finish what is most important, and this will probably mean saying no to the

lesser projects.

Talk like your boss. If your boss likes daily e-mails, send them. If your boss wants a once-a-week summary, then do that. Convey information to your boss in the way she likes so that she’s more likely to retain it. Be aware of detail thresholds, too. Some people like a lot and some people like none. A good way to figure out what your boss wants is to watch how she communicates with you. She’s probably doing it the way she likes best.


Toot your own horn. Each time you do something that impacts the company, let your boss know. Leave a voicemail announcing a project went through. Send a congratulation e-mail to your team and copy your boss, which not only draws attention to your project success but also to your leadership skills. Whatever the mechanism, you need to let your boss know each time you achieve something she cares about.

Lunch with your boss. If all things are equal, your boss will cater to the person she likes the best. So go out to lunch and talk about what interests her. Connect with her by asking her for advice on something about work. If you are very different than your boss, work hard to find common ground in your conversations. Everyone has common ground if you hunt hard enough.


Seek new responsibilities. Find important holes in your department before your boss notices them. Take responsibility for filling those holes and your boss will appreciate not only your foresight, but also your ability to do more than your job. (The trick, of course, is to make sure you do not shirk your official job duties while taking on more.)


Be curious. Remember to make time to read and listen. Then ask good questions. You will make yourself more interesting to be around, and you will elicit fresh ideas from everyone around you. Your boss will feel like having you on the team improves everyone’s work, even his own, and that, after all, is your primary job in managing up.

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