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Managing Up in the Modern Workplace


Andrea Reyes

Date Published

Aug 09, 2023
7 minute read
managing up

Senior Consultant Andrea Reyes has worked with leaders across industry and government. Here are her insights on “Managing Up,” a skill that employees across every level can use to help facilitate better outcomes for their leaders, teams, and organizations.

Defining “Managing Up”

“Managing Up” is a phrase we hear every day – and it means different things to different people. However, it generally refers to the practice of employees proactively and strategically working to foster a positive and effective working relationship with their superiors or managers. The concept involves understanding your manager’s preferences, communication style, and priorities in order to align your own work and behavior accordingly.

The goal of managing up is to build a strong, mutually beneficial partnership with your manager, which can lead to increased job efficiency, satisfaction, improved communication, and better career growth opportunities.

In many cases, senior leaders – especially here at The Clearing – are subject matter experts in their fields. It’s important – especially for our clients – that is where they focus the bulk of their energy. It leads to better outcomes, but those outcomes still take a village. And that’s where managing up comes in. In my case, knowing that I’m consistently nailing the day-to-day work with our clients allows my manager to confidently focus on the things that ultimately drive our work forward.

An Essential Skill at All Levels

With few exceptions, nearly everyone manages up in some regard. Even C-suite and the subject matter experts discussed above have managers or folks they manage up to in some capacity or situation. That’s why it’s important to learn to manage up effectively because while responsibilities shift as levels change, the nuts and bolts of making your leader’s job easier don’t really differ. It all leads back to the same principle: effectively managing up ultimately drives better outcomes for teams and ultimately, the organization as a whole. I often think about it as making things run smoother. When everyone knows someone has their best interest in mind, it creates smooth coordination and transitions through the work. In turn, that results in better relationships between senior leaders and team members. Those things together bring more harmony through clear expectations, more collaboration, and better results.

Here are a few of the benefits we see when team members effectively manage up:

  • Working together becomes easier thanks to enhanced communication and collaboration with your manager;
  • Thanks to that enhanced communication and collaboration, it becomes easier to gain clarity on expectations and goals;
  • Gaining clarity on those expectations and goals allows for a success of a project/deliverable, thus increasing opportunities for success of your organization;
  • Managing up is not only good for your boss, but it’s also good for your career, often increasing your visibility and recognition within the organization.

Skill Spotlight: You’re BLUFing

We often think of managing up as making things easier for senior leaders. However, we also rely on those senior leaders for input, guidance, and advice. In a time-crunched world, however, getting that input can be difficult. That’s why “BLUFing” is a critical skill for effectively managing up.

What is BLUFing?

Bottom Line Up Front.

It’s about being clear, concise, and putting the information you need from that person first in your communication. I’ve found that being clear up front increases the likelihood I get the response I need in a timely manner. I start with the subject line of the email (where most of us make requests these days). If it’s time-sensitive, that goes first in all caps followed by some context:

managing up


If I’m simply informing them of something, I make that clear, too:

managing up

I follow the same strategy in the body of the email. I lead with the request and follow up with any necessary supporting information. In the end, it makes the leader’s job easier – exactly what we set out to do with managing up.

Sharpening Your “Managing Up” Skills

As we covered earlier, the skills required for a given role may be different, but the central principles of managing up are consistent.

Here are several items I keep in mind when thinking about effectively managing up.

  1. Communication is Key. The best way to effectively manage up is to get to know your leader. I recommend having a direct conversation with this person about their communication preferences (e.g. calls, emails, text messages, etc.), how they prefer to receive deliverables, and other key items like after-hours communication for time-sensitive needs. In addition, leverage your peers or those who have previously worked with your leader for their insights.
  2. Anticipate Needs. Using the information gleaned from regular communication with your leader, try to anticipate their needs and provide solutions or suggestions before they ask for them. By taking initiative and offering assistance when appropriate, you can demonstrate proactivity and reliability.
  3. Manage Expectations. Be realistic and clear about what you can deliver within given deadlines or resources. Once again, communication is key: if you anticipate any challenges in meeting expectations, communicate early and propose alternatives or adjustments.
  4. Be Confident. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “I’m just a junior team member” or “I’m too new to the organization” and underestimate your value to your company’s leaders. However, the opposite is true. You wouldn’t be in your role if you couldn’t do it or had the capability to do so. Trust and lean on that any time you need to gut-check your confidence. Remember that by effectively managing up, you can provide immense value – and impact – to your organization and its leaders. It starts with having confidence, which I find builds along with success.

Managing up is just one of many soft skills you can master that will serve you well throughout your career. For more on building these skills, take a look at The Clearing’s training options in our course catalog. I can also connect with you our leadership, culture, and workplaces experts for advice – or simply chat about best practices. Reach out anytime at