How To Manage Up Without Sucking Up

Estimated reading time ~ 3 min
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Regardless of how you see your manager, forging a harmonious and productive relationship with him or her is probably a good move. You don’t have to be friends or aim to hang out with your boss socially. But having a relationship that functions smoothly can make your professional life easier, plus it can lead to perks down the road.

Professionalism, after all, is about taking the emotional weight out of work interactions and relationships so that they are simple to understand and easy to navigate. Fostering a smooth and productive relationship with your boss isn’t a social ambition. It’s a professional one.

These five steps can help you get there:

1. Manage up.

A supervisor’s role may seem kind of like a teacher’s role because all aim to rally and inspire their troops. But supervisors tend to be trained much differently than educators. While teachers are trained to understand their students’ interpersonal and developmental needs, most managers experience less holistic training regiments. Managers often earn their positions because they understand the nuts and bolts of their business, not necessarily because they’ve been trained to understand the interpersonal nuances of managing people.

Rather than leaning on your manager, you want to show your manager that he or she can lean on you. Demonstrating your own proficiency and independence in your role will make your manager’s job easier. Know your job back and forth. Track down every answer you can on your own. Develop a lateral network of colleagues that you consult. Elevate only your toughest questions for your manager’s weigh in.

2. Communicate like a boss.

Be concise, clear, strategic and emotionally even-handed in your communications with your manager and your colleagues. Develop devices that keep you organized and that capture your progress. This way you can chart your progress in a streamlined way, and you can easily pull your manager into the loop when it’s necessary.

3. Nix drama.

Your boss does not want to be called into a spat. The last thing most managers need is a long, drawn-out story where a direct report wants them to validate a position or take a side. Drama at work exhausts everyone. If you have a co-worker who is notorious for fanning those flames, figure out how to keep your professional wits about you when you deal with him or her. Drama is a game. Don’t play it. Don’t drag you boss into it. If you are being bullied, experiencing harassment or abuse at work, however, then definitely bring your boss into that. That’s not idle drama. Your boss will want to help you navigate that.

4. Be a pro.

Adhere to the standard tenets of professionalism: Be organized. Arrive on time. Dress professionally. Control your frustrations. Be present and polite at work. Committing to these makes you a reliable employee. Your boss will notice that. He or she will also notice if don’t adhere to these basic mores. There may come a time in your career when you earn the clout to start rule bending. Until then, be a beacon of professionalism.

5. Make your boss look good.

Demonstrate that your team is well-directed. If, for example, you’re presenting a team project at a division meeting, make sure that your presentation is rehearsed, refined and ready to go. Nailing it doesn’t just make you look good, it makes your manager and your unit shine too. Hopefully you’ve got a great manager and the process of making them look good is both easy and rewarding. But if your boss is not your favorite person, try to view this an exercise in dealing with difficult personalities. That is as much a part of work life as any of the hard skills you’ve honed. Think of this as another project that you can nail.

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