Managing Up

What managing up is, and what it is not

Whether or not we have direct reports, almost all of us have a boss. Even if you are the CEO, you probably have a board to whom you report. How do you manage this relationship for best results? Well, you manage up!

I’m Katherine Akbar, president of YES Career Coaching & Resume Writing Services. In this week’s career advancement video, we’ll talk about what managing up is and how to do it for greater career success. So what is managing up? Managing up is handling matters affecting your boss so that you create value for them and the organization.

To be clear, managing up is not …

  • Supervising your boss,
  • Going over your boss’s head when you two disagree, or
  • Judging your boss’s actions or style.

Examples of managing up:

  • Making sure your boss is prepared with the information and resources they need for important upcoming meetings. Part of your job is making sure they look good and achieve their goals.
  • Providing your boss information and ideas in the format and on the timeline they prefer. For example, do they like to discuss things with you in a private meeting? Have you let them know of an agenda item and then discuss it with the team in a meeting that includes them? Hash it out in a meeting that doesn’t include them and then send them a memo of your team’s conclusions? Provide them a memo of options with your recommendations? Not sure? Ask them!
  • Letting your boss know—tactfully and strategically—if they don’t have the correct or complete information, or if you see a better way of doing something important

Let’s talk about that last one for a minute. As those of you who have done interview coaching with me know, my absolute favorite interview question is this: “Tell me about a time your supervisor was wrong about something. How did you handle it?”

How to let your boss know they were wrong about something

This question requires excellent social and emotional intelligence to answer well, and few answer effectively without coaching. The answer needs to convey (1) that you are assertive enough to let your boss know when they are wrong, (2) that you do so in a way that saves face (i.e., privately and gently), (3) that you are persuasive, and (4) that you manage up effectively, adding to the boss’s success.

So here’s some homework on managing up:

Answer these questions:

  • How does my boss prefer to receive information from me on complex matters?
  • How can I most gracefully let my boss know when they are mistaken or when I see a better way of doing something?
  • What is my boss struggling with that I can streamline for them or take off their plate?

Master the art of managing up, and your career will thrive.

If you liked this video, please give it a Like and Subscribe so you don’t miss the rest of our Career Advancement series. If you want support on managing up or any other aspect of your career, schedule a free Career Success Consultation at if you’ve never had one. If you have had one, contact your client success manager about Career Advancement Coaching.

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