Career advice

Expert advice: How to manage your manager

Do you sometimes shake your head when your manager makes a decision? Perhaps you need to be better at managing up.

Managing up may sound like day-dreaming by a spurned employee.

But in reality, managing up is one of the competences that could most benefit your career, no matter whether you're a mid-level manager or a specialist.

Employees who know how to manage up or establish a good relationship with their manager are often more successful. Their ideas are taken more seriously by their manager and they may be allocated more interesting tasks because their manager has confidence in them.

So, there's a lot to win by managing up, but it's important to go about it correctly and plan a strategy based on your manager’s goals. 

Know your manager

First, you need to understand that there are generally two types of managers. There are good managers who know that they have flaws and that they don't know everything. These managers are not insecure about their employees knowing more about a subject than they do. And then there are the managers who are not so secure.

This type may not want to be a manager after all. Perhaps they are former specialists who were promoted and still think they have to be best at everything. This type of a manager may feel threatened if an employee is trying to manage up.

So, your chances of managing up are far better if you have a manager who is confident enough to take advice from an employee. However, if your manager sees threats everywhere, you will have to be a little tactical to get through. 

Devise a plan of action

When you’re figuring out what type your manager is, consider how your manager’s performance is measured. Because the biggest mistake you can make is if your proposal only benefits you. Your proposal has to benefit the organisation and your manager as well. So, you need to ask yourself whether it will benefit both the bottom line and your manager.

You need to present your proposal without coming across as a know-it-all. You can do this by sharing your ideas  with your manager and asking your manager whether he or she has considered doing this. This will transfer the idea to your manager, who can then say: "As a matter of fact, I have".

Find new angles

If your manager keeps shooting down your proposals, don't stand firm on them. If you do, you risk being perceived as a complainer or perhaps untrustworthy. Instead of causing problems by contradicting your manager, aim for another solution that is consistent with the goals of your manager.

Finding new angles to a problem may help you achieve your goal. But perhaps your manager is simply not interested in new ideas. Then you should consider whether you want to stay in a workplace where you have no influence, or whether it's time to move on.