Direct Your Career by Managing Up

Career Blog

Published: September 10, 2021 by Jillian Collins

Managing up is the process of learning your boss’s management and communication preferences, and then adapting your communication in the workplace that supports those preferences. Clear communication among all staff members is one of the building blocks of great working relationships that enable teams to reach the goals of the organization. The same holds true for your relationship with your boss. 

Mindfulness and Managing Up

If you’ve just been hired and are entering a new work environment, it’s the perfect opportunity to make it known that you have valuable  knowledge, capabilities, and skills. Equally important, you’re now in a position to create a terrific working relationship with you new boss. To manage up, start small.

  • Observe patterns. Determine the method that is most used by your manager to communicate with you (e.g., email, Slack notifications, text message, etc.). With less face-to-face interactions in some workplaces, it can be harder to read non-verbal communication cues. Check to see if there’s already a directive to follow of how to best communicate in the workplace. 
  • Timing is everything. If you want to communicate with your manager one-on-one, notify them first and ask if they have a good time available – and give them some options like day, date, and time. Look at how much – or how little – you’re communicating. Initially, it’s difficult to master the balance of information you’re providing. It’s a good idea to check in with your boss occasionally during those first few months to see if they’re receiving the information they need from you and in the format that works best for them. 
  • Bridge the gap. Really think about how you best communicate. And then look at patterns you’ve seen with your manager and consider how your ideal communication style can best align with your manager’s expectations. You need to adapt to meet your manager in the middle. 

Manage Down (and get out!) with Toxic Bosses

People don’t leave bad jobs – they leave bad bosses. Bad bosses make bad workplaces. Your reputation in any workplace is on the line. You will need to find a new job (manage down) if you have a bad influence of a boss. 

  • Gossiping and bullying. If your boss is gossiping to you about another employee, leave. If they gossip to you, they will gossip about you. Singling out a coworker to bully because you want to appease and impress your boss is never, ever cool. You damage your reputation and damage another person, as well. 
  • Drama. If everything is an emergency and starts looking less like a profession and more like an episode of Real Housewives, leave. This is inevitable with the above, and can take a little longer to come to terms with. If everything is a catastrophe, you really can’t fix it.
  • Do you feel safe? Any boss or workplace where you feel unsafe, need to exit as soon as possible. Your professional reputation is important, but always prioritize your safety. Manage up to a new workplace when you find yourself in a terrible one.

Experience Leadership to Become a Leader

When you practice managing up, you’re also working on a variety of extremely useful interpersonal communication skills. Observing leadership behavior can teach you what – and what not – to do. You may well be a leader in an organization at some point in your career, so now is a great time to observe the impact of different types of management approaches. Align your style to the one that encourages both productivity and creativity, and you’ll likely end up with a high-performing, high-energy team. That’s upward mobility from managing up!

Quick Jot from Jillian

Why should you pay attention to this trend, and how might it impact how you work with your manager? Because right now, you’re working through your master’s degree program and being diligent about honing your craft and technical skills, which will help you advance in your career. Don’t neglect practicing your people skills, which includes managing up. It’s a skill that requires constant adapting and re-framing your expectations. 

Managing up is one of the most valuable skills I have learned about. This is a trend that benefits me, you, and the direction of our profession.

Career Opportunities

  • Exhibitions & Programs Assistant. International Spy Museum. Full-Time. Washington, D.C. Apply on LinkedIn
  • Food and Wine Archivist. Library of the University of California, Davis. Full-Time. Davis, CA. Apply on ALA JobLIST

Mark Your Calendar!

Aligning Career Options With Who You Are hosted by Kim Dority

  • Date: Wednesday, September 15, 2021
  • Time: 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. (Pacific Time)
  • Location: Register here to attend this Zoom event

Banned Books Trivia Night hosted by ALASC

  • Date: Thursday, September 30, 2021
  • Time: 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. (Pacific Time)
  • Location: Register here to attend this Zoom event 


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