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article How To Manage Upwards For The First Time

If you've never managed upwards before, it can be a daunting task to understand how it works, or even what's required. If you're new to managing upwards, here's a short introduction.
Many people who are asked to 'manage upwards' and who don't know what it is could be forgiven for getting into somewhat of a panic. Managing upwards? It goes against logic - surely management only ever gets directed downwards, as that's the whole point of being a manager and a leader?

Not so when it comes to upward management. No matter what your position - if you have a boss, superior or manager who is above you in the work 'food chain', then you are capable of managing upwards. So how do you do it for the first time?

1. Understand both your role, and your manager's

If the lines of responsibility in your role are blurred, then managing upwards can be difficult. If you do genuinely take on some of your boss's tasks, then it can be hard to manage upwards to them about it. Try to ensure that you know what kind of tasks you are doing that are not in your job description, or that get delegated to you. Setting these boundaries is the successful start to managing upwards - after all, if something wasn't your decision to make in the first place, you cannot manage the way your boss handles the same problem.

One of the first steps of managing upwards is knowing what responsibilities your boss has and how you can communicate to them more effectively regarding it. For example, if you realise that someone is behaving badly in work (i.e. sexual harassment, stealing or so on) then that's obviously a manager's responsibility to deal with ultimately and not yours - however, rather than turning a blind eye, you can "manage upwards" by both briefing your boss on what's going on, while appraising them of what you know about company policy on sackable offences. This is an extreme example, but a way to show how upward managing works - you are coaxing, rather than controlling, a way of managing how a superior acts and interacts with others.

2. Remember managing upwards is for you too

In the above example, you are the one to be praised for being proactive, and acting in a management-conscious way without taking on the manager's responsibility. This is one of the essential elements of managing upwards. Remember that managing upwards is to make your life easier, not just your superior's.

For example, if you have a nightmare boss who is never on time, you can pre-empt this by sending a report to their blackberry so if they are going to be late meeting you, at least they are briefed on what you want to talk to them about. This is not about being a PA, but having an effective and symbiotic relationship with your boss to further improve your own working life. Getting your boss to agree on topics, and be influenced and persuaded by you are all key positive results of managing upwards.

3. Difficulties are a chance to shine

Let's face it, not all of us get on with our boss - some of us severely dislike some people we are forced to work with, whether it's a personality clash or something else. However, if you manage upwards effectively, you will be seen to make your boss's life easier, but in fact you're actually improving your own work life, too - and who can argue with that as a result? After all, one day you may be that boss yourself.

Author is a freelance copywriter. For more information on managing upwards training, please visit

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