Managing Up: A Smart Strategy for Young Professionals

By: Melissa Noyes

While creating tailor-made trainings for local nonprofits, we often come across new ideas and concepts.  Our latest find is the concept of “managing up.”  This isn’t a term that I had ever heard before, but after a little bit of research, found that it’s something that’s all over the web (and the business world), and can be a smart strategy for young professionals.

What is “managing up?”  Basically, managing up is way to get the best outcomes for you, for your boss, and for your organization.  Managing up is about building a relationship with your supervisor that facilitates both understanding and cooperation.  Managing up is NOT about sucking up or brown-nosing; it’s about understanding your boss and responding to his/her needs, strengths, and preferences.  By framing the way you communicate and the tasks/projects you take on in terms of what your boss is most interested in, you can work smarter.  And working smarter means less hours, more flexibility, and the ability to be creative.

Here are some strategies for managing up:

1. Know your boss and what matters to them most in the workplace.  Use time with your supervisor wisely in order to learn what they value and what matters most to them about their work.  What mark do they want to leave on the organization?  This is important, especially in the nonprofit world.

2. Communication is key.  Know how your boss likes to give and receive information.  If they prefer phone calls–call them.  Emails?  Email them.  Know whether they like a lot of details or just a few.  Communicating with them in the way they prefer will ensure that your ideas are heard and considered.  Not sure how to tell what they prefer? Watch how they communicate with other employees and with their boss.

3. Be proactive on work tasks and share successes.  Communicate with your boss about your progress while completing a project, and share challenges as soon as they arise.  Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you encounter a challenge and make sure to ask your supervisor about their past experience or how they would handle a similar situation.  When a project ends well, make sure to share your success with your supervisor.  Demonstrating success and the ability to take initiative and responsibility, you can begin to ask for more responsibilities and new tasks.

4. Create a reciprocal relationship based on trust and commitment.  The first step to establishing a good relationship is setting expectations.  Work with your supervisor to create a list of objectives (both yours and theirs).  Talk about what they expect from you and what you can expect from them.  Know what the organization expects from you as well so you can work toward meeting larger-scale objectives as well.  Learn from your supervisor’s experiences.  Sometimes it’s hard to put ourselves in the shoes of someone older, but it’s important.  Showing interest in your supervisor’s background and their story helps to establish trust and good communication.  Be open to learning from their experiences, their successes, and their failures.  Know their leadership style and yours.  This will help you to approach them in a way that plays to their strengths.

Utilizing these skills and strategies can help to create a positive mentoring relationship with your supervisor.  It can lead to a relationship that is built on trust and good communication.  You are also building your professional skills and taking on new tasks and responsibilities.  In a nonprofit world where many young professionals feel stuck or stagnant, managing up can help to refresh your experience and allow you to take on new experiences.


About catalystxchange

Catalyst X-Change, Inc. is a 501c3 serving the greater Indianapolis area. Catalyst was founded by two Millennials (Kristin Clements-Effner and Melissa Noyes) with a passion and a vision for world change. We believe that significant and positive change can happen when individuals come together and match their passions with tangible actions. Our mission is to advance community through meaningful action.
This entry was posted in Generations in the Workplace, Millennials, Next Generation Leadership and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Managing Up: A Smart Strategy for Young Professionals

  1. coupletastic says:

    This is a great article and something I struggle to teach the staff that I currently manage. I was very lucky in past jobs to have mentors who helped me learn how to do this – it really did make a big difference in my relationship with my supervisor. I’d love an easy way to teach this skill now, but I’m concerned that if I share the concept with jr. staff they will see it like a criticism instead of a growth opportunity.

    • This is a newer concept that we’re weaving into our trainings, but we are incorporating it as an activity when we have staff and supervisors together. It’s a good way to teach the topic without it being seen as a criticism. We’re finding that most young professionals are looking for mentors in the workplace, so approaching it from that perspective frames it positively and provides opportunity for professional growth (and the easiest and most accessible mentor is your boss, so it’s a win-win if you can make it work!).

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