Ultimately, Managing Up Should Lead to Career Advancement
Workplace experts say one of the best ways to get ahead on the job is to “manage up.”
Managing up is basically going beyond the call of duty—taking on extra responsibilities, thinking ahead and anticipating your boss’s needs. But there is an art to managing up.
One key is to understanding your boss’s the goals. This way you can better help her, and the company, reach these goals through your own actions.
According to brand builder Theresa P. O’Neal, CEO of New York-based O’Neal & Company, managing up puts your professional career in your own hands. “It is clearly a time where employers have the upper hand in the workplace. Employees are afraid that if they grumble about their workload, they may join the throngs of those out of work and desperately seeking employment. For those gainfully employed, it’s time to nurture the bird in hand and create win-win situations for all involved,” she says. “We all need to stretch a little and take the opportunity to learn something in the process. The term ‘managing up’ means stretching oneself in ways where he or she may become an asset to the employer and yet to oneself in the process. For me, ‘managing up’ means caring about the details that concern your leader and helping him or her watch out for the organization’s concerns. Paying attention to the competition and sharing vital information with your boss helps to keep your company one step ahead of others.”
When managing up you have to be careful not to step on the toes of your colleagues—and especially those of your boss. “Help share some of the responsibility at work by assisting your co-workers with tasks and workloads when your desk is clear and their work is overflowing. Make sure they understand the assistance is temporary and in return, you may actually learn something new and gain a workload buddy in the process. When you expand your knowledge of other tasks and goals of the business, you become more valuable to the organization. When the time is right, make sure your employer is aware of your growth and capabilities and it may pay off when promotions are being considered,” explains O’Neal.
You also have to make sure the boss will appreciate your initiative to manage up and not see your actions as a threat. “When it comes to managing up, be very mindful of your leader’s personality. Is he or she easily threatened or confidently encouraged by your initiative? There are those who do not care for employees who seem too bright as they may feel they are interested in taking over. But a great leader trains his stunt double,” advises O’Neal. “I actively and aggressively trained every assistant I have ever had to know everything I know, so they can make smart, informed decisions when I am not available and at the end of the day, advance my company’s agenda.”
Ultimately, managing up should lead to career advancement. “Managing up can lead to an employee being promoted if he or she displays a level of knowledge, expertise and willingness to go the extra mile,” says O’Neal.
O’Neal shares three tips on how to manage up:
• Think Like a Boss – “The best thing that happened to me was that I left corporate America eight years ago and joined the world of entrepreneurship. The roller coaster ride of wins and losses kept me on my toes and was nail-biting at times. However, the experience helped me tremendously in understanding the A to the Z of an organization. If one works for a company that employs more than 50 people, he or she may only be concerned with a fraction of what the company actually does. She may only be responsible for the L through the P,” she says. “When I was my own boss, I definitely had to learn all aspects of my business. I was the pitch person, administrator, billing clerk and janitor, switching hats whenever necessary. I gained a true appreciation for every role within the organization and understood that I couldn’t do it all because some things required a certain level of knowledge and expertise.”
• Envision the CEO Viewpoint – “How amazing would it be if every employee thought like the boss? Had the big picture in mind?” asks O’Neal. “The outcome would be phenomenal. It is not impossible to acquire this viewpoint if you understand where it can take you. When you know what keeps your boss up at night, you will become a major asset to him or her. You will understand that a shortage of pens in the stock room is an easy fix in comparison to company shares and investor concerns.”
• Serve and Serve Again – “The thought of consistently serving others in the workplace may sound scary to some as the act of selflessly putting oneself aside could become endless and taxing at times. However, a willingness to jump in to lend a helping hand whenever possible, speaks volumes about one’s character,” offers O’Neal. “So roll up your sleeves and plunge in, you can never be too experienced or knowledgeable of the business of your business.”