Real Strategies for Managing Up

Photo Credit: Henry Perks @hjkp

Every time I attend a professional development conference or training there is a session dedicated to the power of managing up. The presenters will often define this concept and share the benefits of utilizing this skill to become better employees. In some instances they will share industry examples, but these never account for variation related to the personality of the manager. The examples include anticipating your boss’s needs, understanding and recognizing your boss’s ticks, knowing the right way to discuss problems with your boss, and many others. The truth is you must be manipulative to effectively manage up. While I can acknowledge the negative aspects of the term manipulative, for this particular topic I consider it to be the skill of influencing a person or situation in a skillful manner.

Rather than discuss the reasons managing up is an important and effective skill, I’m listed three real examples of managing up strategies that have worked for me and worked on me. If you’re not using them with your boss, your employees may be using them on you.

  1. Calendar check. Most office employees will share calendars to ensure that they are able to identify a person’s availability for scheduling needs. In fact, many supervisors will also share their calendars with their employees are an expression of transparency. One way to effectively manage up is to utilize your access to this information to identify ways to best support your leader. Observe patterns in your boss’s behavior before or after they attend meetings. These patterns can provide valuable information about their needs and mindset throughout the day.
  2. Utilizing Strengths. If you work on a Clifton Strengths campus, take some time to review the strengths of you and your boss. If you are looking to maximize the effectiveness of your relationship, brainstorm ways in which you can combine your strengths with your boss’s to create synergy. For example, one of my strengths is Restorative (I enjoy identifying and solving problems). Initially I thought bringing problems and solutions to my boss would be an effective way to assist the department, but I found this approach did not work well with their Positivity strength. After some reflection I decided to focus on their Maximizer strength (which seeks to transform something strong to something exceptional). So in addition to providing problems and solutions, I also provided context that described how my recommended solutions would enhance the student experience from good to great.
  3. Identify the key to a real smile. When adult s are around new baby they are often determined to discover what actions will make the baby smile. Employees should use this same approach their boss. We all have a real smile and fake smile, and if you don’t know how to solicit a real one from your boss you should take time to learn more about their personality. Remember to consider things beyond family, as it cannot be assumed that everyone either has a family or a positive relationship with family. Some of my favorite (and most unique) examples have been a love for BBQ, nail polish, bow ties, shoes, Build-a-Bear, and Mr. Potato Heads. The ability to bring moments happiness, even in stressful times, is important in building a strong relationship.

Do you have any strategies that work for you? Feel free to share! Also, I am a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach so if you are interested in learning more about CliftonStrengths and ways you can use it on your campus to manage up or down, feel free to contact me (

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