By Karen Preston-Loeb
In today’s age of work overload, executives and leaders can find themselves overextended and over-scheduled, drowning in a sea of meetings and emails that all require their personal attention. Tasks easily can get pushed to the back burner and eventually forgotten. When your boss’s workload starts to affect yours, it is time for you to start managing up.
Managing up refers to working with your boss to enhance the relationship and improve workflow. As a respected employee, you should be able to proactively address items with your boss, provide friendly reminders, and offer suggestions. If you find that you cannot move forward with a project because it needs your boss’s feedback and items are piling up, empower yourself to manage your boss. Here are some key tips to managing up.
One key element in managing up is knowing your boss and being aware of when and how best to approach him or her, because every person is unique. Does your boss like to review documents electronically? Perhaps emailing the documents to her is most efficient. Does your boss like to review hard copies? Print out the documents and reports that need attention and present them to her for review.
Understanding timing is crucial as well. It is probably not a good idea to bring a laundry list of projects and processes that you think can be improved upon on days when last-minute deadlines and urgent issues demand your boss’s attention. Jot down your thoughts on those and bring the ideas to the table when crunch time has passed and your boss has more opportunity to focus on what you are saying.
Feel free to lighten your boss’s workload by offering to take on some of her tasks. Not only will this keep the work flowing, but it can also provide you with more experience in achieving a skill you might not have had the opportunity to learn before. Just be sure that you can actually accomplish the task accurately and within the specified time frame before committing.
Anticipate your boss’s needs by thinking “what’s next?” If you’ve delivered a report to your boss for review and you know it is due to the client by a certain date, make a note to follow up with your boss to be sure that she has made time to review it well before the deadline.
Maintain a positive attitude. Remaining tactful and friendly is always a plus when communicating with a busy boss. Sometimes a gentle reminder to look over a proposal or call a client is all your boss needs.
Open dialogue is vital to understanding expectations in order to work more efficiently, so be sure to establish open communication with your supervisor through regular check-ins. Remember, your boss is busy with a heavy workload and multiple employees to supervise; if he or she does not schedule these meetings, take it upon yourself to arrange them.
Managing up also refers to proactively approaching your employer with ideas on ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness, overall. Step out of your specific role in the company and look at the big picture. Put yourself in the mindset of the top leader and think of ways to improve the company and to strategically achieve the company’s goals outside of the current work being done. Your ideas may not all be utilized but they will be appreciated.
You were hired because your boss saw you as an asset who could add value to the team. Learning how to manage up effectively will benefit you, in the end, because your working relationship with your boss affects your ability to do your job. And nine times out of ten, your boss will appreciate it, too, because it will enable her to do her job better. That kind of teamwork will help both direct reports and managers be more successful.
For more resources about managing up, check out this Harvard Business Review article, and feel free to share your own tips in the comments.