A young professional woman appears on a laptop screen as she attends a virtual meeting

The do's and dont's of managing up

Working remotely can add an extra challenge to building effective relationships. Conquer it with these tips.

It may feel like a challenge to get face time with your boss – and especially so with the transition to remote or hybrid working. Every interac­tion counts.

Managing up can already be a tricky balance. But building a strong relationship with your manager by showing you care about their objectives and preferences helps build trust and accelerate productivity.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help guide you.

Do communicate relevant information – often and pro­actively. By keeping everyone in the know, especially your higher-ups, you’re building trust. It shows you have confidence in the progress you’ve made on projects and gives them the oppor­tunity to see the impact you have on the business.

Do understand your manager’s objectives. Ask what strategic priorities are on their list so you can contribute appropriately. You’ll be able to make the meaningful connection between your tasks (and your team’s) and their vision.

Also, listen carefully to executive reports on companywide calls so you can weave what’s on the CEO’s mind into your list and incorporate those ideas into your strategies.

Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. When you’re across the hall from your boss, it’s easier to learn what they like via obser­vation and interaction with others. Fast-track this process in a remote environment by clarifying what success would look like in their opinion.

Do seek out stretch assignments. It might seem harder to put your hand up when you’re not physically present in a conference room, but be mindfully present in group conversations (you know, the ones where we see everyone trying to multitask) and offer smart solutions you’re willing to take on.

Don’t work on your boss’ pet projects or become their notetaker. Be sure you’re strategic in what you offer to assist with and ensure it aligns with your own remit. Straying can lead to disappointing your own team or causing favoritism among peers.

Do get to know your boss’ likes and dislikes so you can predict what they’ll ask for next. If last time you sent a monthly management report they asked for more metrics, incorporate them proactively next time.

Don’t overstep. The hardest part about managing up is under­standing the balance. This is going to differ depending on the relationship you have with your boss as well as their management style. Take time to analyze their management style before making too bold a move.

Do manage “around” your direct manager. Other people who influence your manager – their boss, peers or assistants – are good connections to make. It doesn’t hurt for your name to come up as your manager collaborates with those surrounding them.

Next steps

If you’ve been working remotely:

  • Make sure you have regular one-on-ones scheduled with your boss and prepare talking points to help guide your conversations.
  • Stay engaged during wider group discussions so you can proactively incorporate these ideas into your everyday tasks.