what does it mean to manage up?

Most people get annoyed or frustrated with their boss at some point, even when that boss is a good manager. Maybe your manager isn’t responsive enough to email, or she cancels meetings at the last minute, or she changes her mind after you thought a decision had been made—or you might be dealing with another grade of problems altogether, such as a boss who is a bona fide wimp or tyrant.

At Slate today, I talk about how to manage your boss in a way that will help you keep you sanity. You can read it here.

{ 197 comments… read them below }

  1. Anon E. Miss*

    Would these rules apply to coworkers as well? I currently have a (junior) coworker who works/speaks to me like she’s my boss. Would love to know how to handle her.

    1. fposte*

      That’s different, because a manager has expectations of you that your co-worker can’t. Depending on what the co-worker is doing, responses can range from ignoring it to saying breezily “[manager] and I have got it; thanks!” and moving along to saying “It sounds like there’s some confusion about the reporting structure here. Should we meet with [manager] to clear things up?”

      1. Anon E. Miss*

        It’s of the “reminding me to do things I already know I need to do because she wants to look good in the eyes of another employee/higher up” variety, if that helps.

        1. Emily K*

          “Managing up” tips are more for situations where the other person has power over your career – your junior coworker doesn’t have that, so you don’t need to be a strategic and deferential with her as you need to be when “managing up.”

        1. fposte*

          Odds of stopping her entirely aren’t high. But you can at some point say calmly and curiously, “Jane, it seems like you’re worried about my getting this work to you. Is there a reason you think this will be a problem, and has there been difficulty in the past that we should talk about?” or “It seems like you’re concerned that [Manager] isn’t on top of this situation. Have you shared your concerns with her?” And if the answer is “Yes,” be prepared to actually talk about it, since sometimes even annoying people have a point.

          1. Snark*

            Or just, “Have I given you a concrete reason to be concerned that I’m not on top of this?”

            1. Anon E. Miss*

              I’ve tried that kind of soft correction on her to no avail, and she’s the type to get pissy and defensive and never owns up to a mistake of any size. URGH!

              1. ChachkisGalore*

                Yeah, unfortunately at this point you’re going to have to get either (or both) very direct or just flat out ignore her.

                Depending on your standing/how good your own manager is I would probably loop them in on the situation. Just a quick “hey this is happening, I’m planning to do x,y and z about it, unless you’d prefer I’d handle it differently”. Typically I’d say don’t get the manager involved unless there was anything actionable they could do, but in this case I’d want to stay ahead of any accusations of rudeness/unprofessionalism/bullying from the pissy/defensive coworker.

                Signed – someone who was reported to HR for unprofessional behavior when I did try to reset/enforce some very reasonable boundaries with a very defensive coworker. Obviously I was vindicated in the end, but it was pain to deal the with and started a bit of rumor swirl with my frequent HR meetings. I’m not saying that it would have been completely avoided if I had given my manager a heads up, but I think it would have been wrapped up/dealt with much quicker if I had.

        2. Magenta Sky*

          I had a coworker who would do that. I usually had time to help out on stuff that wasn’t strictly my job, and didn’t mind. And one day, she wanted me to do something and I was busy with stuff that actually was my job, and she complained to our mutual boss. Who told her “He doesn’t work for you, he works for me.”

          After that, she was always *scrupulously* polite when she wanted help with something.

          It helps if your boss has your back.

    2. Snark*

      No, that’s a different and more annoying situation. You wouldn’t manage up to her, or in any way treat her as if she’s got supervisory or decisionmaking authority, because she’s not in a management or supervisory position. She’s showboating.

      A civil but frosty, “Thanks, I can manage my own work without assistance,” or “Maybe we need to go talk to Boss about our reporting structure here, because it seems like you’re under the impression you need to manage my work,” or even a “I’m super receptive to feedback if I’m having difficulty, but I don’t need reminders on routine aspects of my work I’ve fot well in hand, thanks,” would be warranted in this situation.

    3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      In a way, yes, because the general idea is to be a good, proactive employee. If you are then you can simply tell coworker you have it under control. But I wouldn’t. I would throw it right back.
      “Yes, Boss assigned that to me and I’m on schedule. Is there some information or piece of that project you need for your own work?”

      1. slick ric flair*

        It very likely won’t. Being direct and assertive is much more likely to be a productive, professional response.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            I found there’s a box to check below the username: “Save my name, email and website in this browser…”

    4. TardyTardis*

      I had a co-worker like that who almost talked my real boss into firing me (till Upper Boss saw what was going on and stopped it). Boy, that was fun, not. I’d say humor the co-worker until you find out what your boss thinks about it–if the boss comes down on the side of the co-worker, you haven’t burned any bridges.

  2. Tableau Wizard*

    While I have, in general, adopted this method of adapting to what works with my boss rather than focusing on her flaws and how things SHOULD be done, I still struggle with the thinking that it’s not the right thing to do.

    Should I have to adapt to my boss style 100% when it severely cuts into the productivity of myself and the rest of our team? Where is the line between adapting to the boss and actively trying to make her change a few key things to keep the group on track? How do I know when to speak up versus when to adapt?

    1. Bea*

      It’s a matter of knowing your boss and if they can change. It also matters if they are adapting to their bosses, who adapt to theirs, etc. So yours couldn’t change if they wanted to because the CEO their boss reports to does things X way and sht rolls downhill, you know?

      This is why I don’t do well with layers between me and the head of it all. I will curl up and explode into pieces due to stress.

      My bosses have been a mix bag. Some once we’re on the same page we find what things we can tweak to be in sync. Others are why I’ve developed a “go with the flow” attitude, which other bosses are like “why are you so chill right now…?” “because this is a cake walk, dude! Yeah I’ll get it done today.”

    2. LQ*

      I think it is absolutely the right thing to do overall.

      I think the question of can I handle this job long term (which is seems like your 2nd paragraph is about) is a different question. Given that this is the way it is, what it takes for me to do my job (assuming your job includes some of these things), and that you can’t change other people…are you comfortable staying at this job? Take it as a given that your boss isn’t going to change. You cannot change others. So with that as a current state, are you ok with what it takes to do what you need to do in your job?

    3. Emily K*

      The managing up strategy isn’t just about adapting to your boss’s style. It’s about getting what you want by making yourself useful and valuable.

      So if you think there’s a better, more efficient way to do things, bring her a proposal that explains how making these changes will [improve the company’s bottom line/improve the department’s performance stats/reduce employee turnover/make the boss look great to the CEO/etc]. That’s managing up – getting your boss to do something you want but have no authority to require by making it something she *wants* to do for her own reasons, not yours.

      If she doesn’t see enough value to make the changes you requested, then you either adapt to how she wants things done, or you think about moving on.

  3. Jaguar*

    Managing up is a bad strategy for reducing stress for me because managing up gives me incredible stress. I find the idea of having to five times as much work because the manager isn’t doing his job to be absolutely repugnant and just stop doing the things that are blocked by the manager instead.

      1. Jaguar*

        But that’s what managing up means in practice, in every job I’ve had to do it.

        I have employed two strategies to deal with bad management (good – and even borderline good – management doesn’t require managing up, in my experience). The first is managing up: rescheduling meetings, following up on items that can’t be moved forwards, coming up with solutions because the manager won’t make decisions and get their signoff on one, etc. That results in an expectation that Jaguar will do all the managing, and the problem will get worse. The cancelled-at-the-last-moment meeting becomes more frequent when it’s just a Jaguar meeting: Jaguar will find a new time for it (which will probably be cancelled as well). The second is to just stop trying to manage up at all. If something is blocked by my manager, a CYA e-mail goes out asking for something, and then when they wonder what happened to the project, I tell them I assumed it wasn’t a priority since there was no response. The second is if it doesn’t require the manager’s input but the manager “likes to be involved,” I just do the whole thing and deliver it – the ask for forgiveness instead of permission idea. I find it it overwhelmingly the case that the law of triviality comes into play for a lot of “manager input” stuff. If I drag every decision out of the manager that they want input on, getting that information will take far longer and cost far more than if I just make decisions myself, present a finished product, and then deal with the vastly lower amount of input the (bad) manager makes. The product works and is ready to go – there’s now a strong incentive for the manager that doesn’t like managing to just say “let’s go with this” than to put their fingerprints on it. The second solution is far more productive, far better for my mental health, and I develop a reputation for being able to manage my own work. I’ve tried both and I see no advantage at all to the “manage up” solution. It might be different for the circumstances of individual jobs, but none of the ones I’ve been in.

        There’s a great piece from Coding Horror about asking for forgiveness instead of permission (the article is called New Programming Jargon):

        This started as a piece of Interplay corporate lore. It was well known that producers (a game industry position, roughly equivalent to PMs) had to make a change to everything that was done. The assumption was that subconsciously they felt that if they didn’t, they weren’t adding value.

        The artist working on the queen animations for Battle Chess was aware of this tendency, and came up with an innovative solution. He did the animations for the queen the way that he felt would be best, with one addition: he gave the queen a pet duck. He animated this duck through all of the queen’s animations, had it flapping around the corners. He also took great care to make sure that it never overlapped the “actual” animation.

        Eventually, it came time for the producer to review the animation set for the queen. The producer sat down and watched all of the animations. When they were done, he turned to the artist and said, “that looks great. Just one thing – get rid of the duck.”

        1. hermit crab*

          I would argue that “good – and even borderline good – management” absolutely still needs managing up! I mean, you wouldn’t say that only bad employees need to be managed, right? I think this is similar. It’s mostly about finding the best way to productively work together, while staying cognizant of the inherent power imbalance in an employee-manager relationship.

          1. JR*

            Totally agree that even great managers require managing up. I see this, to a significant degree, as about priorities and attention. Your boss has a wider scope of responsibilities, and thus priorities, than you do. You are the expert in what input/support/approvals/etc. you need from your boss and when you need it – she doesn’t necessarily have visibility into what you need from her all the time. She also has competing priorities, as she needs to provide the same support/approvals/etc. to her other direct reports (as well as manage her own projects, often). So managing up is about taking responsibility for getting what you need from your boss, and figuring out how to make it easy for her to give it to you.

          2. Jaguar*

            The good managers I’ve worked with communicate how involved they want to be in my work, make time to do that, and put trust in me to to handle what they aren’t involved in. There’s no management involved in getting communication.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            To be fair, that doesn’t sound like managing up. That sounds like your managers have completely abdicated their responsibility in a way that significantly impedes your work and adds to your workload.

            The distinction seems meaningless until you work with a relatively mediocre-to-good manager who requires some level of managing up. Ultimately, many of the tasks associated with managing up are useful and can make you a more effective employee with any somewhat decent manager. But it won’t help for someone who full-on refuses to be a manager or engage in management.

    1. NW Mossy*

      A direct trying to fix their manager’s major performance failings via managing up is like trying to sew with a hammer. A hammer’s a fine tool in the right applications, but not appropriate when you’re trying to fix a fabric tear. This kind of managing-up effort feels impossibly frustrating because it IS frustrating to try to accomplish something with the wrong tools.

      I know it’s tough when you feel like you don’t have any alternatives and this other person is just making your work life a misery and gets away with it. It’s monstrously unfair and it makes you feel devalued and dehumanized. It’s appalling that your boss’s boss either doesn’t see or doesn’t care about what your boss is doing to you. It’s terrible that the only real solution to the problem is to get a different job working for someone else who’s got their crap together, because why should you be the one that has to sacrifice for THEIR failings?

      But as Alison says, sometimes your boss sucks and isn’t going to change. While moving on is scary and hard and disruptive and disappointing, it can be far better than the alternative of remaining in a place you know to be painful and miserable.

  4. Seltzer Fan*

    I’d be interested to hear thoughts on how to talk about managing up in job interviews. Is it acceptable? Is there a way to do it that doesn’t make it sound like you’re badmouthing your former/current boss?

    I ask in part because I was recently interviewing for a job that involved some management. I’ve not yet had direct reports of my own, but I have a couple of bosses who require a bit of managing up. Obviously that’s not an exact experience match, but it seemed better than nothing. But I couldn’t figure out a good way of talking about that element of my experience that didn’t sound like complaining, so aside from a very brief mention I mostly didn’t talk about it. I wound up not getting the job, but I’m curious if there’s an approach I hadn’t thought of that could be helpful in the future.

      1. Seltzer Fan*

        That makes sense! And makes me glad that I didn’t try to push it as relevant experience.

        Still curious about the first question—how you do talk about the work done managing up in an interview context? I may be answering my own question here actually—would it be best to talk about good communication, being flexible to the work systems of managers/coworkers, and finding a good distribution of work? The more I think about it the more I would want to avoid the phrase “managing up” in an interview (especially since it seems like, from some of the other comments here, it can be a loaded phrase that brings up memories of bad bosses for some folks).

        1. JR*

          I find it helpful to frame it as skill in understanding how work gets done in your organization, understanding your boss’s needs and how to work with her effectively, etc.

        2. Emily K*

          I’ve been point-blanked asked in interviews to talk about managing up and managing horizontally, so I don’t know that it’s really that loaded of a term generally speaking.

          There are certainly dysfunctional environments and managing up in that kind of environment is a thing all unto itself, but managing up happens in smoothly functioning organizations, too. Particularly at the mid/upper level of very large organizations.

          Like admin/support work, when done well, managing up means your boss will think you’re invaluable because you’re able to anticipate their needs. Good and bad managers alike benefit from staff who can anticipate their needs, it’s just that bad managers will force you to anticipate stupid things like, “Fergus says No to everything when the Eagles lose, so don’t ask for anything important the day after a big loss,” while good managers will benefit when you anticipate things like, “I know Sansa gets lots of emails and is in meetings all day so she doesn’t have much time each day to really focus in on anything, and it’ll help her make an informed decision on my project more quickly if I summarize all of the relevant information in a single email, in concise bullets, instead of asking her an open-ended question that requires her to go back through an entire email thread or recall what we discussed in previous meetings.” Everybody wins – by managing up, you made it easier for your boss to do her job, you got the answer you needed, you even got to exert some influence in the process by being the person who framed the question/suggested a particular course of action, and the project (hopefully) gets successfully completed.

          1. Seltzer Fan*

            Thanks! This is really helpful.

            The entire conversation here is really interesting, because I think “managing up” had a slightly negative connotation for me as well. As a phrase, it has largely come up in the context of working within my bosses’ bad habits, and it’s something I would have much more associated with your first example than your second. The second example is a line of thinking that I recognize and have had, but not something I would have described as “managing up” until now.

            Between Alison’s article and what you (and others!) are saying here, I’m realizing that my dysfunctional workplace has colored my thinking way more than I realized.

    1. Artemesia*

      Men manage up if they are successful as well. Being able to make your work life easier by accepting the reality of the situation and developing techniques to make it work for you is not gender based.

      The one thing I would take issue with in the article is that it is isn’t about managing impressions, because I think that is absolutely critical. Especially early on being fairly calculative about how you present yourself and your work to the boss is crucial. Figure out how you want them to see you and how to project that clearly when they are getting to know your work.

      But the sort of adolescent ‘no gonna, it isn’t my job, so there’ just gets you frustration. All the suggestions Alison made, makes it easier to get your own job done. Not particularly the one example of the employee who got her Emails answered when others didn’t. Her job was made easier not harder by her ability to manage up.

      1. Artemesia*

        This was in response to someone saying this was all about gender roles and women being expected to do the emotional labor — no idea how it ended up here instead.

        1. ainomiaka*

          I think that was me. And you’re right, men manage up. But they are much less likely to be judged harshly for not hiding it.

            1. ainomiaka*

              Maybe a lot of our disagreement is what we’ve seen get judged harshly in terms of managing up. This has very much been my experience.

              1. JR*

                When you say people are judged harshly for managing up, can you share an example? When I think of managing up, I think primarily of figuring out how to make it easy for my boss to give me the input/approvals/support/etc. that I need, and of course there’s nothing shameful or antagonizing in that, so I’m wondering if we’re thinking of different things when we hear the term “managing up” or if I’m not seeing or noticing ways people are being pushed.

              2. Emily K*

                I said this in another comment, but it’s usually the opposite – when done well, managing up is just like doing good admin/support work: the managing-up labor becomes invisible. Your boss will just think, “Wow, ainomiaka is so easy to work with, and the work I give her always gets done well.”

                The reason you’re so easy to work with and are able to get good results on all your projects is because of the invisible work you’ve done to make sure you really understand what they want and figure out how to make what they want happen. Boss doesn’t necessarily even know that you have a special way of dealing with him that plays to his idiosyncrasies or strengths and weaknesses. He just knows you have figured out how to be effective.

  5. AmazinglyGuileless*

    I hate hate HATE managing up. My thinking is: You are the manager, you have the title, and most importantly, YOU MAKE MORE MONEY THAN ME. Therefore, why should I have to do all the labor in getting you to do something really simple, like, say, give me a project to work on? I also find managing up to be very inauthentic and insincere, which my therapist keeps telling me is not true, but it still feels like playacting as someone I’m not.

    Surprisingly, I have not been very successful in my career. Right now I have a good friend who is also a coworker who manages up beautifully, and I am watching how she does it carefully.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s the totally wrong way to think of it. It’s not something you do because your manager isn’t doing her job. It’s something you do with every manager, including great ones, because it makes the relationship go more smoothly and makes your work life easier/more effective. And the way to look at it isn’t “my boss makes more money, so the onus should be on her to do this stuff.” It’s “my boss is probably much busier than I am / juggling more things, and doing these things will help me do my own work better, which means that I’ll get better reviews/raises and generally have a much better time at work.”

      1. Justin*

        I think it’s a good thing to do, but it’s like top-level, expert-tier type work skills. I don’t know if most people are cut out for it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, I don’t think I agree! I’ve done it in nearly every job I’ve ever had, and I’ve trained junior staff members to do it with a lot of success. I don’t think it actually does take super sophisticated skills, just an understanding that’s it’s good to do and why.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Not always, it isn’t! Like, my old boss wouldn’t read all of an email. She just wouldn’t. So if her making a decision involved having a certain amount of information she didn’t already have, i knew I had to call and tell her about it so I could make sure she had the information before she made the decision. That’s not a top-level, expert-tier type work skill. It was glaringly obvious after a few email responses that she wasn’t reading the emails, and it didn’t take an expert to know that i didn’t have the authority to order her to read them more closely, so I had to come up with a plan B.

          It doesn’t take an expert to realize that, say, your boss is going to keep canceling meetings and yet you still need to meet. So you just need to realize that doing your job requires you to find a way, other than what you’ve been already trying, to find time to talk. It might take you some trial and error to figure out how to make it work, but shouldn’t even fairly decent employees (not just top-level) be able to learn how to come up with different solutions to a problem?

          1. nonymous*

            While I agree, generally, with your point I do think that cancelling meetings is a pretty passive-aggressive way of communicating that it’s not the right method. Like if a boss is canceling meetings repeatedly, they need to start saying what is it about the meeting that doesn’t work.

            I had a PI who would regularly schedule meetings with her grad students to overlap other things and then just choose! which one was most important at the last minute, thinking she would just grab the grad student when she walked back into her office. If you rescheduled, she would accept new meeting assuming the same method. You can imagine her frustration with me since my assigned desk was in a different building, and I had scheduled off-site hours due to funding source. My plan C was camping out in a conference room that had windows facing the stairwell of her building, but that only worked when the conference room was unused or if she wasn’t going to a conference that week. In that case I would have been happy with a few more cancellations, or at least the ability to see her free/busy calendar to make myself available at more opportune times.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              I agree it’s a passive-aggressive way of communicating that what you’ve been doing isn’t going to work–but a lot of the time when meetings keep getting canceled, it’s not an attempt to communicate anything. Something more urgent came up in between when you set the meeting and when the meeting was supposed to happen. Like with my friend–when she schedules plans, at that moment, she has nothing else going on. She doesn’t not intentionally schedule anything else at the same time. A work deadline gets puts on her by circumstances beyond her control . That happens a lot with higher-level managers, too.

              If a manager is avoiding having a conversation about how to communicate and instead just canceling meetings, that’s bad. But that’s just not what’s usually going on with very busy people.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                To me it looks like my boss cancels meetings because he schedules them back to back, doesn’t allow time to process or do the work generated by them, is offsite at least half the time but isn’t willing to cut back on the work he’s trying to do… in short, it’s his problems with time management and workaholism.

        3. smoke tree*

          I don’t think this is the case, although some people probably have more of a natural inclination to do it. In my internships, all of my managers were extremely busy and hands-off (and in most cases worked remotely) so I was pretty much forced to learn to communicate on their terms, which I think is basically what managing up is. At the time it didn’t seem strange to me, since I was used to customer service jobs with extremely incompetent/petty/absent/tyrannical bosses, so sending all my emails in the form of a question didn’t seem like that much trouble by comparison.

      2. AmazinglyGuileless*

        This reframe might be helpful for me: it must be done for all managers, regardless of how successful they are, from terrible ones to amazing ones. If I think of it as a necessity rather than a fix for bad bosses, I’ll probably be more likely to do it.

        Maybe it’s just the area I live in (DC), but I have had terrible luck with picking out healthy functional workplaces. My current place is terribly dysfunctional (very shark-eat-shark, lots of BS’ing and con artisting going around, we’re in finance so there you go), and at my last place my boss often refused to teach me anything (she did not want my position created and fought me on everything). I wonder what it’s like to work at a place where a good review = a raise? All I ever get (and all ever my coworkers say they get) is a very tiny COLA.

    2. Snark*

      If you read that entire article and your conclusion was “f that noise, I’m not responsible for any of that,” I think you’ve gotten steered far down the wrong road. I’m just going to copypasta Alison’s top-level suggestions from the article:

      Talk regularly about priorities.
      Establish communication systems—and take responsibility for making them work.
      Make it easy for your boss to give input.
      Ask for feedback after a project is over.
      Don’t take things personally.
      Don’t forget your boss is human.
      Keep your own house in order.

      If you feel that all of those general guidelines do not apply to you and only to your boss, or think leaving them to your boss is going to be good for you, or think doing that is “inauthentic” as opposed to “maintaining one’s side of an ongoing working relationship”….uh, dunno what to tell you, but nope.

      1. Justin*

        I think these are great tips for anyone at work, but to me “managing up” makes it sound to much like you’re, well, MANAGING or handling them rather than just learning how to work better with them and under them. Like you’re a handler for a celebrity or something.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Ok, so ignore the term and just . . . do the things instead? Not liking the name used for it doesn’t mean rejecting the whole idea of it

        2. ChachkisGalore*

          Blerg – accidentally posted this below, but wanted to put it in the right threaded convo (sorry for the duplicate posting!)

          I actually think the name is REALLY misleading as well. Until recently I thought of “managing up” as sort of compensating for or overcoming an objectively bad manager’s deficiencies.

          It’s really not though. I think that all “managing up” actually is is just “adapting to the manager’s preferences”. However, it’s predicated on the idea that the manager is a decent manager, but that there’s just a difference of style/preference going on. EG: I’d send emails with questions to my boss, but they ignore my emails. So I start scheduling a weekly meeting with boss and asking all questions then. I’m just adapting to my what works better for my boss. OR boss isn’t the best at giving feedback while in the midst of a project, so I ask at the end instead for feedback.

          However, all the adapting in the world isn’t going to help if you have an objectively bad manager who is incapable of answering questions, doesn’t recognize the value in getting necessary info to their direct reports OR refuses to give feedback at any point.

          I don’t know if that helps at all. For me, I kept stressing out that I wasn’t “managing up” well enough, when in reality – I just had a string of awful bosses (like people who had no business managing people). It was pretty freeing to realize, that while yes, it’s my job to adapt to my boss’s preferences (and to get creative/try to think outside of the box in doing so), bad bosses are going bad boss – and I can’t fix or change that.

          1. Empty Sky*

            I hate the term as well, although not the way Alison uses it (and I think her advice and bullet points on the topic are good).

            Organizations with generally poor management, or a high percentage of bad managers, will often have a number of counterproductive or negative power dynamics in play that don’t support the underlying business, or are even in active opposition to it. People tend to fall into two categories as to how they deal with this. One type views it as a problem, and aims to reduce, work around or eliminate the negative power dynamics so that the underlying business can function better. The other type sees it as an opportunity, and a possible source of competitive advantage and career advancement if they can learn how the various power dynamics work and use them effectively. People who rise in an organization this way often end up with a vested interest in keeping the same dysfunctional dynamics in place.

            I’ve always taken “manage up” to be code for the second category. It sounds like it has a less pathological meaning as well, so if I hear someone use the term I should probably curb my initial negative reaction and inquire further. If I get a set of bullet points like Alison’s then there is nothing to worry about.

            (I’d describe what Alison talks about as building an effective working relationship with your manager, which admittedly takes much longer to say but lacks the negative connotations of ‘managing up’ for me).

    3. ainomiaka*

      I so agree. It’s so much crap. And while I know that Alison’s and the prevailing mindset on this blog is to lean in and reify power dynamics rather than ever suggest that they are bad, I agree with you. I always feel like managing up is 5 times the work. Some of that is because I am not naturally suited to “get people to do what you want without them knowing that you are doing it”. That’s not my style, I hate that women are expected to do it etc. I am not ever going to be an iron fist in a velvet glove.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m not sure why you think it’s more work. It usually ends up meaning you’re doing less work — it makes you life easier/less stressful and usually gets you far better results than if you don’t do it.

        My sense from some of these comments is that there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how this works in practice and why (and a lack of understanding of what the manager’s perspective might be, especially managers who are juggling a ton of different responsibilities/priorities/needs), along with resentment about authority structures in general. And I mean, if you don’t like authority, cool. But if you don’t recognize the reality that authority structures are very much in play when someone else is paying for you your work, you’re likely to have a difficult professional life with fewer of the outcomes you’d like from it (similar to what the top-level commenter in this thread says has in fact been the case for her).

        1. ainomiaka*

          I think it’s more work because for me it always takes more time and effort. This may not be true universally, for sure. But if I have to spend 5x the time because I don’t need to know all of my boss’s priorities(and I legitimately don’t-I don’t have her job) or schedule or conflicts, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to call it more work. Or if I have to rewrite my e-mail 5x because I’m being to blunt

          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            Here’s an example that is an illustration of managing up being less work. I haven’t seen my boss for 3-4 months because of her work travel, but I still need to get answers and get things done. I know she is OK at responding to e-mails but if I need an immediate answer I need to text her. I also know that if it during work hours to keep texts/e-mails simple and short because she is reading on her phone and might miss the heart of a longer message. So if I really need an answer, I text and say: I am going to do A,B,C for D,E, F projects, OK? If it can wait a bit, I’ll outline stuff in a bulleted list in an e-mail. If it is more complicated, I will call later in the day when she is likely to be out of whatever meeting she is in. This makes my life easier and less stressful because I know I will get a reply when I need it.

          2. Mrs_Helm*

            Like “Danger” said, when used properly, it isn’t 5x the work. It’s finding ways to work with your boss more smoothly. Every boss is a human, therefore flawed individually…figure out what you’re not getting and how to work around it. I have an awesome laidback boss, who is also busy – sometimes that means I finish up projects before he gets back to assign things…so I periodically shoot him an email “here’s what I am working in/status, and here’s what I plan to work next”. Occasionally this prompts him to give me a headsup on something new, or tell me “x is hot, y is backburner”. The result is fewer miscommunications, getting a good balance of work assignments, not getting frustrated/bored/overwhelmed – things like that. NOT having things go smoothly is more work and more stress.

        2. Decima Dewey*

          It’s doing what’s necessary to prevent your boss running around in a panic when a deadline looms. It’s asking for things in a way that makes it possible for the boss to give the answer you want.

      2. LQ*

        This is odd. I mean I guess if you just hate power dynamics that’s one thing. But working within the world we currently live in is the best part about this blog. I don’t know that just throw everything out makes sense here at all, it could, but it’s not useful today when I need to get an hour of my boss’s time and his calendar is blocked for the next 3 weeks (with legitimate meetings).

        I don’t actually think any of the things mentioned here are overly feminized or submissive or iron fist/velvet glove things.

        Some of them are just, seize control where it makes sense to rather than, sit back and wait for things to happen. Which feels like the opposite of what you are saying. Step up to the plate and make a suggestion for what you think should happen rather than waiting for it to happen to you. That’s going to make my life easier, make my boss’s life easier, probably (if I’m right at least) make the org better off, and make me stand out as doing a great job.

        1. ainomiaka*

          see, and I guess I just fundamentally have different expectations of the world as it is for someone like Alison that is giving advice that thousands of people, some managers see every day vs. for the people without the power to change much. It’s long been one of the reasons I come in and out to most post except the weekend.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think power dynamics and hierarchy are an inherently bad thing. I think they’re generally necessary in order to get things done through a group.

            I do frequently tell managers they’re being too tyrannical, but I don’t think the sorts of things being discussed in this article fall in that category.

          2. LQ*

            Most managers also have managers? I mean there is nothing on this list that doesn’t apply to a manager as well as to someone who has no employees reporting to them. Boss’s are people too. And yes, managers who are in a position to change something can, and there are lots of time where there is a great push back to the bosses. One of the things that I think has changed over the years on this blog is that there is less (from Alison) “your boss is never going to change quit”, and more “this is what you can expect from a good and reasonable manager, here are some suggestions how to make this less than ideal solution work” with an implied, or sometimes suggested, “start looking”. If I’m a boss I can read that and learn how to be a better boss. If I’m an employee I can read that and learn how to make it work, or move on and try somewhere else.

            But with all that said? I still think that the suggestions here are entirely reasonable. For a boss who manages 10 people vs me who has 1 boss, me having to go, Ok I can check my boss’s calendar and put an appointment on there, or Ok I can write my emails better? That is tremendously valuable to me as someone who wants to take control of my life.

          3. Trout 'Waver*

            You’re making too much of it. It’s really about communication style. You wouldn’t move to France and insist everyone speak to you in English, right? Same way with joining a team. You communicate with the boss in her preferred manner. That’s all this really is.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I don’t think the prevailing mindset is to reify or “lean into” power dynamics. If anything, the advice is about working within the system/workplace that the LW is working within. IME, that’s brutally realist more than anything else.

            And it doesn’t mean the hierarchy is ok, but it’s about helping people deal with their immediate needs. When managers write in, Alison often encourages them to advocate against unfair power inequalities/hierarchies when they have the ability to do so. But power and hierarchy are not inherently good or evil, and I’m not sure it would be as helpful to critique the system when folks are writing in seeking very concrete and actionable advice.

      3. Snark*

        I feel like you’re responding really strongly to an idea in your head of what “managing up is,” and that you barely read the article if you did at all. I posted this list of her top level bullet points above:

        Talk regularly about priorities.
        Establish communication systems—and take responsibility for making them work.
        Make it easy for your boss to give input.
        Ask for feedback after a project is over.
        Don’t take things personally.
        Don’t forget your boss is human.
        Keep your own house in order.

        If you think any of that is “crap” or that it’s reifying power dynamics or involves 5 times the amount of work, I really would like to engage with you on your specific reactions to specific advice Alison gives. Because that entire list just reads to me like sensible, actionable tips for a professional looking to maintain a workable relationship with a superior who might not be 100% focused on you and your team all the time.

        1. fposte*

          Yes. I think the term “managing up” does get associated with a kind of “person handling” that can get backs up, but fetch doesn’t have to happen for the underlying points to be valid. This isn’t “Here’s how to do your manager’s job for her”; this is “take initiative in creating a relationship that’s good for you.”

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Totally. These are principles that work with good managers and with slightly more absent-minded managers. When I’m engaged in mentorship and training, part of that training is helping my reports attain the tactics/skills in your list, even though I’m a relatively attentive manager. Because as I noted upthread, they’re useful skills for anyone regardless of the quality of their manager or the power hierarchy at play. And in my experience, once those skills are honed, they don’t take “5x” longer.

    4. SoCalHR*

      here’s how I think about it, even being sandwiched in on the hierarchy – my boss makes more than I do, so the value of their time is greater than mine. My responsibility is to allow my boss to be able to focus on the things that ‘deserve’ that time value, anything I can off load to my plate I should because that means the boss can spend time on higher level activities (those I cannot do, because if I could do them, I would be the boss). And when/if I have direct reports I essentially expect the same thing. They should offload as much off of me so I can offload as much off of my boss. The work gets done for the smallest “cost” possible. If that means following up on meetings and preparing ahead for those meetings so my boss can just pop in, then that is using boss’ time efficiently.

      1. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

        This! Delegation is not a dirty word. It’s necessary.

        However, I also think that bosses typically have bosses of their own. Sometimes last minute changes, meeting cancellations, etc., come because of those other demands.

      2. Emily K*

        Yes! We have a firm guiding principle at my workplace that all work and decisions should be done/made by the lowest-ranking person capable of doing/making it well. It’s good for the organization, because our top leadership are freed up to do the big picture stuff they have the experience to do instead of getting bogged down in the weeds of keeping the ship afloat, and it benefits all of us because we are getting professional development by being delegated higher-level work.

      3. I'm Not Phyllis*

        This is how I look at it too. And I agree with a comment Alison made above where she said something along the lines of it being a bit of a stress reliever. I’m admittedly a bit of a control freak, so I’d much rather take the lead on something that I need to have done then worry about whether it’s going to get done, or stewing because the boss isn’t doing it.

    5. Sara without an H*

      (To AmazinglyGuileless): Ummm…to channel a well-known daytime television personality: How’s that working for you?

      You are, in effect, giving all power to the manager and giving away whatever autonomy you have. You and your manager each own half of the relationship. Own your half and work with it.

      1. AmazinglyGuileless*

        This is what my therapist is always saying! “You are giving away all your power.” But I don’t feel that way; I feel like I give away power by dancing around and kissing butt and schmoozing. That to me feels so disgusting, and I think I equate managing up with that sort of behavior, even though “managing up” is not “sucking up”. That’s why I read this blog and other career/job related blogs/books, to try to improve myself so I can have a smoother career. I ain’t doing a good job of it, though.

        I think a big part of it is I don’t mind doing WORK work (as in, job duties and tasks) but the SOCIAL work aspect of a job (like managing up) is something I really, really struggle in. I have a very hard time figuring out how to navigate anything social. Like, I know not to be rude, if the boss gives me a job I will do it. But when I have to approach her day after day, saying “I need a task, isn’t there something available, are you sure you don’t have anything for me?” and she refuses to delegate tasks or train me, well, I get worn down, and stop working on the situation.

        A former HR woman, who I was later friends with, told me this: “You are like a border collie. Throw you a ball, train you to jump through hoops, you can do all that. But, if given too much downtime, you get into the garbage, eat chocolate, and cause an expensive vet visit.” Which, yeah, accurate. I’m happy to do WORK work; I do not want to do SOCIAL work. Hence, I’m struggling in my career, hence, my reading up on job skills/taking classes/whatever.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, that’s really interesting. If you haven’t yet, you might dig through the archives here on the discussions about task oriented vs. relationship oriented people; it sounds like you’re a task-focused person who struggles with relationship orientation, and there’s been some good diving into that spectrum here.

        2. Anonym*

          Ain’t doing a good job of it *yet*. You will. ;)

          Seriously, the work is hard, and the progress comes in fits and starts and sudden insights. Rarely does it go smoothly! But it’ll pay off eventually. Reframing how you view aspects of work can make a huge difference. I share your issue with anything that feels like brownnosing. My boss has a somewhat irritating need to talk (well beyond what I think is necessary or useful). I’d get very impatient with him and sometimes interrupt to get to the point, but I had a moment of insight in which I realized I would be much more patient with a friend in the same scenario. So he has a need to be the center of attention, fine, I’m not perfect. I can let him do his thing. Most of the time. I view him with kindness and let him be his imperfect self since on the whole, it’s good for our work if he’s allowed to think out loud. And heavens forbid I should be held to any standard of perfection! I wouldn’t survive it. At this point we have a great relationship, he feels supported (feels matter!) and I no longer spend meetings dreaming about exploding out the wall like the Kool-Aid man.

        3. Trout 'Waver*

          Focus on completing projects and not doing tasks. To actually get something accomplished, the rough steps are:
          1. Recognize a need.
          2. Create plan to address need
          3. Secure resources to accomplish need.
          4. Do the work.
          5. Advocate for work to be implemented.
          6. Clearly communicate what was accomplished.
          7. After-action stuff: billing, change management, etc.

          If you’re only doing step 4, you’re asking your boss to do the rest of the steps. That’s a lot of work, especially for a productive employee. Now multiply that by the number of reports. The more of those steps you can do independently, the more valuable you are. Some things, like #3 and #7 are likely always going to be boss territory, but you get the idea.

        4. krysb*

          I kind of understand where you’re coming from, but take it from someone who has stolen a lot of power: being a quiet problem solver works, even if it doesn’t work immediately. I 90% hate the social aspect of work. I just want to hang out in my little corner and do my job. But I’ve taken my supervisory role from a “watch employees, complete productions” piece, to managing various cogs in the wheel that is my department. That has gotten me noticed and will benefit me even more in the long run, even if it is not in my current company.

        5. Sara without an H*

          To AmazinglyGuileless: “…I feel like I give away power by dancing around and kissing butt and schmoozing.” What power are you actually giving up? I’m puzzled. What do you actually lose?

          Yes, you sound very task oriented, and other commenters are right to steer you to the archives for posts on that topic. (When you find a good one, expand all the comments — I recall some really long, substantive comment threads on this issue.) But I’m a little disturbed by how contemptuous you sound of people you work with — is that your intent? Your choice of words, “dancing around and kissing butt and schmoozing,” would seem to indicate that you look down on the people you associate with. Is that right?

          I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable. I’m very introverted and task-oriented myself and I, too, initially found the social aspects of work hard to navigate. But social skills are called that for a reason — they are skills, which you can learn. I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy (and I’m glad to hear that you’re doing that), and I made it a point to watch people who seemed able to manage their work relationships smoothly. It’s not “sucking up” (although that is a thing) — it’s a set of behaviors that let you manage the give and take of human relationships in the world of work.

          Now I sound like an old psychology textbook, but I really feel your frustration, and I hope at least some of this will be helpful.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Maybe it would help to think of it as making people feel good about you, which makes them want to cooperate and work with you.

        6. Cat Herder*

          AmazinglyGuileless, I can see why the actions required for managing up (some one above has summarized them) feel frustrating to you! But really, you need to come to terms with the fact that doing these things — and other social / relationship actions — *is* part of the job. Work isn’t just those tasks you like. It’s all the other stuff too. The better you can come to terms with that fact, and learn how to do it, the better for your career and for your work satisfaction as well.

  6. Maria*

    There are some good suggestions here, but I think many of these rules are how to deal with a bad manager rather than just managing up. In many of the examples given, the boss is failing to lead and manage their team effectively (Not answering emails, Not giving feedback, failing to keep commitments with your team, etc.), and it’s up to the lower level employees to pick up the slack. Often no appropriate and a good way for morale to plummet! We are dealing with a situation at my non-profit where the new head of our department is making 3x the salary of our former boss but can only accomplish half the work, so we are all scrambling to keep deadlines and make sure things are running as smoothly as possible. We definitely employ some of these strategies, but it’s frustrating because we feel like we are the ones running the department instead of her, without the pay and recognition.

    1. BeenThere OG*

      I think this is the issue I have also, the advice is all good and it works. However I’m exhausted and unproductive after two years of managing up three different terrible managers. Compared with the work needed to put into a relationship when you have a good boss it does feel like 5x the effort to deal with someone who embodies the Peter Principle. I’m also very wary of any boss who won’t give any direction in writing and requires in person conversations, an aversion to a paper trail is a massive red flag for me.

  7. Hiring Mgr*

    Interesting.. In places I’ve worked, the phrase “managing up” has ususally had a negative connotation.. It was used to mean basically making yourself look good to the boss, probably at the expense of the people below you, or colleagues.

    (And tagging along while the boss is getting their hair cut? More power to you for that! )

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m not aware of that connotation, but I always thought it was a less-positive thing as well. I thought it was unnecessary handholding, as in “Fergus is supposed to tell me how he wants the teapots to look, but he dithers and never makes a decision, so I have to come up with two or three plans and ask him to pick one.”

      1. LQ*

        This is interesting. I think this is just My Job. To come up with plans and my recommendation for which one I think is good and why. I do think it varies based on job level, but certainly in my job I would never go to my boss and just expect him to tell me what to do, in that case the reason he’d be dithering would be thinking about is this worth sitting me down and having a Serious Talk about my performance.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Well, yeah, I’m not talking about the scenario where it *is* your job. I’m talking about the scenario where it’s Fergus’s job, but he can’t or won’t do it, so you have to coax him through it.

          A different example… It’s Fergus’s job to schedule employees. He doesn’t like to do it, he waits until the last minute, and he tends to do it poorly (i.e., forgetting or disregarding policies). It’s not my job at all, but my life, and the lives of my coworkers, are complicated by his failure to do it in an accurate and timely manner. So, since the schedule is supposed to come out on Friday, on Wednesday I say “Hey, Fergus, if you’re not done with the schedule (I know he’s not), don’t forget that Cersei worked the last three Saturdays in a row, so she’s supposed to have this Saturday off.” It’s his job as the scheduler to be aware of that, not mine, but I’m basically doing it for him. That’s what I’ve always thought of as managing up.

          1. Not All Who Wander*

            That second example is exactly what the term “managing up” as always meant to me…the manager doesn’t do things that are clearly their job rather than their employees’ jobs AND won’t delegate them, so the employees get stuck trying to figure out diplomatic ways to get them to make decisions/do required things. If I wanted to deal with needing to micromanage someone, I’d be a supervisor myself & at least get the pay bump for it. Hence, why I spent the entire weekend working on my resume!

          2. Emily K*

            In the above scenario I would probably just skip right to, “I’d be happy to take over scheduling to free up some of your time – I think I’ve got a good handle on our needs. How about I put together a proposed schedule each week by Wednesday and you can approve or make changes before putting it out on Friday?”

            Instead of getting hung up on who’s job it’s supposed to be and being resentful that you’re feeling forced to do work that is supposed to be his, look at it as a resume-building opportunity. Every task you take off your boss’s plate puts you one step closer to landing a job at your boss’s level because you can tell prospective employers you have actual experience doing the work. It also gives you more ammunition to ask for a pay raise at your next performance review – “As you know, I took over scheduling responsibilities this year.”

            If your boss is an obstinate ass who refuses your offer to do the work but then you still end up having to unofficially do it all anyway, then your boss is an ass. But the nature of the work (managing up) doesn’t depend on whether or not your boss is an ass.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Okay, maybe you’ve worked places where (for example) “associate level” employees would be allowed to take over a strictly-management task like that, but I haven’t. It’s not a matter of getting “hung up” on whose job it is.

              However, the point remains. The only definition of “managing up” I’ve ever seen is the one where an employee basically does parts of a manager’s job for them, without it being officially delegated and without actually getting any credit for it. What Alison is describing seems like pretty reasonable “working with your manager to facilitate things getting done.”

          3. epi*

            This is how I have heard it used as well.

            I once had a boss who just wouldn’t listen when I told her we needed to translate some of our patient materials into Spanish. Not only was it the right thing to do for our patients, it was required by some of the policies governing our project. She seemed convinced that it was optional and a poor use of time; it was neither. Nothing I said convinced her. So I waited until our noncompliance was about to cause us a problem, then gave her a heads up like we’d never discussed this before. I even framed the problem as “hey you might not be able to communicate with your patient next month” to appeal to her own self-interest. I let her suggest we translate the forms and assume it had been her idea, and it finally got done.

            That to me was managing up. Definitely if someone is having a problem with their manager, they should make sure they are doing all the things in the article before getting creative or leaving. But I’ve never heard it called managing up before.

    2. The Original K.*

      Me too. I had a boss who was great at interacting with people above her but treated her team like crap. (A common refrain when people heard her speak to us was “Does she always talk to you like that?” Yes, she did.) When people would talk about her, they’d describe her as good at managing up. She was actually quite good at the work itself; she just didn’t like the little people, whether or not she worked with them – the IT team hated her because she treated them like they were idiots.

    3. epi*

      I agree. This is all good advice, but I’m not sure I would call it “managing up” because I only ever hear that phrase used negatively.

      Now that I’ve been working for many years, I do many of the things in the article almost automatically. It all comes down to paying attention to what your boss wants from you, and holding up your half of clear communication. They’re the general skills of being a good direct report. I’ve never thought of what I’m doing as “managing up” unless my actual manager isn’t doing their part.

  8. KHB*

    Thoughts on how to apply these ideas when the issue isn’t just your relationship with your boss, but your boss’s relationship with other coworkers?

    Long story short, I’m a team lead with responsibility but no authority. My boss (who is also my team members’ boss) has a management style that’s good in many respects but often leaves me without the people I need to do the work that needs to be done (e.g., because he has them cross-training with other teams, has approved their last-minute vacation requests, or whatever else). What can I do aside from picking up all the slack myself (which is what I’ve been doing) or leaving work undone (which is definitely an option, but which I feel would make me look bad)?

    1. Ranon*

      Have you communicated to him the quantity of people/ hours you need to get the tasks done? If things are getting done he may not realize there’s a workload problem. With as much detail as you can “boss, we have xyz tasks, I need # people hours to accomplish them, with Pat and Stan out we only have #-8 people hours so y and z will be one day late”

      1. KHB*

        Yes, we’ve had that conversation. Nothing came of it. I don’t remember why.

        A possibly complicating factor is that it’s not so much people-hours as it is people-months, and the number of tasks per month isn’t evenly divisible by the number of people, so there are natural small-number fluctuations in people’s workload from month to month. So over the short term, it looks like everything’s fine (nobody’s doing more than the maximum they’re supposed to in any given month) – it’s only when you add up the numbers over a year or more that it’s evident that I’m doing significantly more than I should be. And there’s rarely an uninterrupted year without some complicating factor (Pat spent three months out on medical leave, Stan resigned and his replacement wasn’t up to speed yet) that make such comparisons tricky.

    2. Emily K*

      It’s hard to really give advice without knowing all the particulars of your workplace, but I would say the question is: How would you solve this problem if you were the Boss and your team lead brought it to you?

      Now, write that solution in a proposal and bring it to your boss and ask for a Thumbs Up/Down permission to implement it.

      That’s really it – that’s managing up!

      If you aren’t sure what the solution would be, then you have a problem that cannot be solved by managing up.

      1. KHB*

        Thanks – you’ve helped me clarify my thoughts on this. My initial reaction was going to be “But but but the solution is something that only the boss can implement!” but on second thought, it’s really not. For example, if I ran the zoo, I’d require that if you want to take a vacation that’s long enough to disrupt your workflow, you need to request it X weeks in advance so everyone else can plan around it. As team lead, I don’t have the power to require or enforce that – but I can get in the habit of asking people each and every month if they have any vacation plans coming up that will limit their availability to take on work for the team.

        Now, that’s not going to stop Percival from deciding at the last minute that he wants to take a three-week vacation after all, and it’s not going to stop the boss from approving the request. But it does mean I can go to them and say look, I was counting on Percival to be available this month, and now that he’s not, it means more work for me. And maybe one or the other of them will feel a little bit bad about that.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          You could go farther and say since Percival isn’t available the deadline for the project will be moved.
          Unless boss wants to assign you some help?

  9. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    I agree. I think manager dynamic aside that the article is a plan for being a good employee. You will be happier in your work and more successful the more proactive you are and the more aware you are of what you need to do to get what you need from your manager.
    It’s about career building, not fixing a dysfunctional system.

  10. ainomiaka*

    but why oh why am I taking responsibility for my bosses inability to communicate-Alison’s example in that article is a perfect example of you doing the work for your boss that they should be doing. they cancelled the meeting-how/why am I supposed to be the one determining when a convenient time for them to reschedule is?

    1. Ranon*

      Because you can control your actions, but not theirs. So your options are adjust your behavior so you get what you need from them (i.e. manage up), stew in frustration, or change jobs. If it’s minor stuff the first is usually the easiest.

      1. ainomiaka*

        and while I agree with you as a practical necessity, the specific point was in response to snark “this isn’t you doing work for them” because it absolutely is. It’s also putting the onus on the people most likely to suffer and with the least chance to make a functional system. that bit is my biggest objection to Alison saying “manage up” rather than using her platform to say “hey, managers. cut down the power differential. You’re the only ones that can.”

        1. Magenta Sky*

          It’s important to distinguish between “getting the job done” and “how you do it.” If managing your boss is necessary to get your own job done, then you either manage your boss, or you really should be looking for a different job because you’re never going to be good that the current one.

        2. Snark*

          Because doing 30 seconds of work “for them” lets me do the rest of the afternoon’s work for me quicker, with clear priorities and a set schedule. Worth it to me.

          It has nothing to do with a power differential and everything to do with “we’re busy people with a lot to do, shifting priorities, and stacked schedules, so I’m going to do what I can to make this easier on both of us.”

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes. And because they may be juggling significantly more and higher priorities than you are, and so if you can take some of the burden off their plate, you will probably get that rescheduled meeting faster, which is good for you.

        1. ainomiaka*

          or I won’t know when they can do it and am stuck guessing 5 different meeting times, because now we’re making it the responsibility of the one who doesn’t know what all high priority tasks they are doing rather than the responsibility of the person in this situation with the knowledge of what I am doing and the power to say “hey, drop thing x and do thing y”.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Then it just means going back to your boss and saying, “We need to reschedule that meeting. When works for you?”

            This is really not hard, unless you want to make it hard.

            1. ainomiaka*

              and see my other comments about gender roles-this would be considered waay to blunt to be managing up.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                It sounds like you’ve worked in some very unusual work cultures in that case. This is not any blunter than “hmmm, the printer isn’t working — can we call Bob to fix it?”

                1. ainomiaka*

                  though we’ve still got the I can’t tell my boss “drop thing x and do thing y” if they don’t know a good time to meet, for example.

                2. JB (not in Houston)*

                  @ainomiaka managing up is not demanding your boss drop something to do something else. It seems like you are just against the entire idea, but it’s not as hard or complicated or involved as you’re making it to be. It just isn’t.

                3. ainomiaka*

                  JB, you’re right, it isn’t, because I can’t do that. I never said it was? What I said is it is more complicated because there’s much more placation of feelings and one sided information.

                4. Snark*

                  I’m getting the feeling you have worked in some really dysfunctional workplaces, because everywhere I’ve worked, whether male or female, there was no placation of feelings involved in “Can we reschedule the meeting? When works for you?”

                  That is, if we were even that grammatical. “cool, come get me this afternoon or whatever” was what it sounded like most of the time.

                5. anonners*

                  It could be a matter of very unusual work cultures, but I wonder if there are communication/soft skills issues at play here for at least one of the parties. It’s often less about what one says than how they say it.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            I understand how you feel. They keep cancelling meetings and ignoring your needs, and leaving you to guess/figure out what to do in your job. You feel unsupported and discouraged. I’ve often felt like that too.
            I have a good job, it’s not likely I could find a better one – every workplace has problems and jerks, and at least here I’m appreciated. So I try to work with it. As I posted below, I’ve gone through a process from getting very upset to *almost* taking it in stride. I have supportive colleagues who can help me when the boss is unavailable. One day my boss will retire and someone who’s not so distracted, scattered and absent will replace him. :)

    2. JB (not in Houston)*

      Well you sure don’t have to. But if you can’t do your job well without meeting with them, what are you going to do? Just not do your job, or not do it well? You could sit there and fume over having to reschedule, letting your righteous anger at how you shouldn’t have to do this consume you and make you miserable in your job, or you could just reschedule the meeting and not make it into a bigger deal than it needs to be. This sounds like you take something like meeting cancellations personally, but it’s not. If you don’t want to do something that makes your job easier, you absolutely don’t have to. But I don’t understand why people are acting indignant about the idea of something that makes their lives easier.

      This isn’t a direct comparison since it’s personal, but I have a friend who works a very stressful job with long, long hours and sudden deadlines that pop up with no meeting. She often has to cancel plans with me at the last minute. I could just say “fine, I’m just never going to see her again and I refuse to plan anything with her again.” But, I dunno, I like her. She’s overall a great friend. I’m happy to have her in my life. She’s not canceling because she doesn’t like me or doesn’t think I’m important. I could stew about it, I could wait for her to pick a time (and sometimes she does), or I could just reschedule and be happy when it works out.

      1. Emily K*

        I love the friendship analogy – I was thinking something similar. So much of the resistance I’m seeing in the comments basically boils down to, “Why should I take steps to make my boss’s life easier? Why can’t they just get their ish together and be the boss?”

        Well, the answers are, “Because done properly, it will make your life easier, too,” and “Who knows, and you can’t control it, so focus on what you can control.”

        But really, I think some people might benefit from examining why they’re so resistant to the idea of helping their boss, why they want to die on a hill of a bunch of “shoulds” and “should nots” instead of proactively working to make the relationship productive and functional.

        I would venture that the people who are bristling at these suggestions just don’t like their bosses and so don’t want to do anything to help them. But the existence of bosses you don’t want to help doesn’t mean that the whole concept of being helpful to your boss is suspect. Many people find that it’s the ticket to a happy and productive working relationship and to career advancement.

      2. Cat Herder*

        And the other thing about your example is that it’s not that your friend is being irresponsible or on purpose doing a bad job at being a friend. Other obligations are getting in the way, obligations over which your friend has no control.

        I have an excellent boss. Meetings do often get cancellled, or they’re on the boss’ calendar and then they don’t show up or they come late — because my boss’ boss and grand boss suddenly call meetings, assign tasks, etc. If I can reschedule — or better, use some initiative to solve as much of whatever problem I needed the meeting for as I can while I’m working on getting that meeting rescheduled, so much the better for ME, and for my boss, who will also see me as helpful, proactive, and understanding. Taking it personallg and not rescheduling because that’s the boss’ job — that doesn’t help anybody.

    3. Snark*

      Because regardless of whether I do the work proactively reschedule, it IS my responsibility to get the work I need to get done, done. And if I fart around until she reschedules – which might not be till later – then I’m wasting my time.

      Take today. I manage the, uh, llama grazing and grooming programs. I had a meeting scheduled with my boss this morning to discuss an important but not pressing deliverable I’m working on. She got boofed by an unexpected emergency with the llama watering troughs and had to cancel so she could rush off to an emergency meeting at the rancher’s office. I sent her an email saying, “Hope the watering trough is clear, I’m free at 3pm today or 9am tomorrow, let me know when it makes sense to circle back.”

      Was that technically her job to reschedule, since she suggested it? Yes. But I’ve got shit to do, and knowing when I’m meeting again with her lets me structure the rest of my day efficiently around my new priorities. Practically, it means I kicked the llama grooming reports to tomorrow and I’m heading out to the llama pasture this afternoon.

      Fair? Nah. But it’s the terrain you’re walking on.

      1. Ali G*

        I feel like it also gives you back a sense of control. For me, waiting around for my boss to get back to me when I know I have a deadline looming, is anxiety inducing and sometimes frankly makes me mad (depending the boss/situation). I would prefer to handle it as you did because then I know I am going to have an answer within the time frame I need it.
        It just makes sense to me! And it’s not that hard.

  11. LQ*

    This is a really helpful list (though I think a lot of it is good advice across the board, good manager or not). I’ve been moving into a new role and thinking a lot about what my role entails and I think a lot of it is stuff like this that I should be doing regardless. Some of them might be a little more in my boss’s camp in an ideal world, but the boss here has something like 12 direct reports (who are almost all managers), and then a couple of teams constantly (either on purpose because it’s needed right now, or because they are still working on getting those teams under control) end run around their managers and go directly to boss. So something like 25-30 people who are below in the org chart constantly looking for information. Being able to stop and view it like how do you even do that? And then working my way back though what tools can I use to get him what he needs without making more noise.

    The make it easier to give input one especially I want to frame. I (and my peers) should definitely be at a level where we shouldn’t be just throwing up our hands and saying, what should I do, but I know I see others and I see myself doing it too. So just stopping that from me would make a difference.

    (Also I really felt like I read this recently, because I was going back and re-reading this section of your book!)

  12. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

    I really like this article, because unlike so many it doesn’t give the impression that managing up means fixing or correcting a managers behavior. It’s about adjusting how you react and manage how to integrate their quirks into your work flow.

    It shouldn’t surprise me, but often I see stuff about managing up focused on how to get your manager to behave how you want them to behave, versus how to change your behave to maximize your bosses.

  13. Chaordic One*

    When I think of managing up I think of anticipating my boss’s reaction to how things are going and being ready to do the next step in whatever action needs to happen next. I can’t make the decision to take the next step, but I can have all of the information necessary ready to figure out what the next step should be. (If my boss is in a bad mood, I don’t tell her that I have the information ready, and let her think that I’m waiting for her to request it.)

  14. Sammytwo*

    I am currently trying to manage up my boss, and frankly, I am exhausted. I try to take things off his plate (either to take on personally or suggest he delegate them to his leadership) and he grabs them right back because ‘nobody can do the work like he can’ and then all the things don’t get done. And then he puts it back on me.

    1. Ali G*

      Unfortunately managing up won’t be effective if your boss has control issues. That’s not going to change – instead focus on anticipating how that will impact you and proactively trying to do something about it.
      How about when he takes something back, check in with him on it. So you know that X project is due in 2 weeks and he hasn’t done aything on it. Managing up here wouldn’t be to try to get him to outright assign it to you (because that won’t happen), but maybe you could get him to “ask” you for help. So try something like “Boss, I know X project is due in 2 weeks and you have your hands full now with Y project – is there anything you want me to do for X in the meantime?”

    2. Jenn*

      This is my current situation as well. I’ll get something delegated to me at the last minute but then have to go to him for information to complete the task. It’s exhausting and tough to manage up when your manager doesn’t communicate.

  15. BRR*

    Exactly. To me, it boils down to there’s a name for the way you interact with your manager. You adjust your interactions a lot already, this time it just has a name.

  16. Delta Delta*

    When I was in college I worked for a manager who would gladly schedule time to meet with people, but would then insist on taking phone calls and responding to emails during every meeting. I get it that he was busy, but it became demoralizing. I mentioned it to a co-worker, who said she found the best way to get him to stop talking on the phone was to bring him crunchy snacks. Every tine she wanted to have a meeting she would bring a bag of pretzels or something and that would get him to not talk on the phone. Clever, but I wasn’t about to bribe my manager to talk to me during our scheduled meeting. Sorry – just not doing that. Good thing I was a short-termer in that office anyway.

  17. JB (not in Houston)*

    It seems like a number of people on this thread have their own idea of what the term “managing up” refers to, and that’s what they are commenting on, rather than what Alison is actually talking about. It’s like how the way the British use the word “quite” is different from how USians use it, and that can lead to confusion–we are using the same word, ostensibly speaking the same language, but not saying the same thing. Because these are the comments on an article talking about what Alison means when she refers to “managing up,” when you are using that term to refer to something else, it seems like you are more or less off topic but don’t realize it because you’re using the same term.

    Or maybe people just aren’t grasping that what Alison suggests you do to make your own work life easier is not what they think the term “managing up” refers to.

    1. ainomiaka*

      I’m confused why you and so many people seem to think that just because something is effective it isn’t complicated and a lot of work for some people.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        I’m confused about what your comment has to do with the comment it’s responding to.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Not trying to be hostile, by the way. I just honestly do not see how what you said could be in response to what i said.

      2. Snark*

        Because done right, it vastly decomplicates things and reduces the amount of work I need to do, or at least helps set priorities for what I do now and what I do later. And it’s effective.

        1. Student*

          I think there’s a certain degree of fortune and industry-specific issues involved in both viewpoints.

          I’ve had bosses where I have to manage up with them a lot, and the specific things I need to do to “manage up” are just as exhausting/draining/as much work as the thing I am trying to avoid from the boss. Both options are bad and involve extra work for me, but one option is a bad option I can live with – I’ve often chosen it for moral/ethical/safety reasons rather than to minimize my own workload – and the other is a bad option where I can’t look myself in the mirror when I get home from work. You sound like you’ve never had to deal with that kind of issue in a boss. Good for you, but they are very real, and common in my industry.

          I’ve had other bosses where it comes down more to optimizing my own workload, like choosing to make a phone call to a boss that doesn’t read emails to reduce the overall level of miscommunications. I know those bosses exist, and for those situations I agree that it’s more about making my own workload lighter overall.

          However, having experienced both, I think a lot more about the former type of boss than the latter type of boss when I hear “managing up” as a term. The former type of boss, I’m managing issues that I consider to be a much bigger deal, whereas the latter type of boss, interactions are so much smoother and issues are such small potatoes that it’s just not in the same category at all for me of “things I care about”. Trying to keep the former type of boss from getting us all into trouble by violating federal laws and regs is so much more consequential than giving the latter kind of boss a 10-minute chance to get his weekend story out of his system before we start the group meeting’s technical discussion.

      3. smoke tree*

        I’m not sure I understand exactly what your objection is, because the kind of strategies Alison is talking about are, to my mind, pretty basic requirements of working with other people. What is the alternative? If you know that your boss is always swamped with email on Monday mornings and might have missed a question you sent in, is it really easier to wait her out and hope she answers than it is to wait for a time when you know she’ll be free?

      4. annoners*

        I sympathize with the fact that there’s a cognitive load associated with effective communication, and that cognitive load is going to be higher for some people than for others. But because you need to be an effective communicator to do your job well, it’s important for all of us to find some way to lessen the load that communication takes out of us.

        A big part of making this easier as time goes on is that recognizing that it’s a skill that’s learnable, and that the people who are doing it on a daily basis learned it as well. Sometimes when people get really uncomfortable with things like this there’s an underlying assumption that they’re being asked to wield an innate skill that everyone else except for them has.

        Perhaps it’s not a skill you want to or believe you can learn. Even so, the point is that there’s an expectation that managers and subordinates both take responsibility for their relationship, in the way that almost all adult relationships are to some extent a two-way street.

  18. Abe Froman*

    I worked in an organization that was very big into managing up. I found that thisv worked really well for people coming from a majority culture perspective and was often problematic for others. I think there is a lot that just doesn’t translate cross-culturally and can be compounded by gender dynamics.

    1. Abe Froman*

      One helpful thing on this would be to do some research on the concept of “power distance.” Those coming from cultures with high power distance are more likely to struggle with the idea of managing up.

  19. ChachkisGalore*

    I actually think the name is REALLY misleading as well. Until recently I thought of “managing up” as sort of compensating for or overcoming an objectively bad manager’s deficiencies.

    It’s really not though. I think that all “managing up” actually is is “adapting to the manager’s preferences”. It’s predicated on the idea that the manager is a decent manager, but that there’s just a difference of style/preference going on. EG: I’d send emails with questions to my boss, but they ignore my emails. So I start scheduling a weekly meeting with boss and asking all questions then. I’m just adapting to my what works for my boss.

    However, all the adapting in the world isn’t going to help if you have an objectively bad manager who is incapable of answering those questions or doesn’t recognize the value in getting necessary info to their direct reports.

    I don’t know if that helps at all. For me, I kept stressing out that I wasn’t “managing up” well enough, when in reality – I just had a string of awful bosses (like people who had no business managing people). It was pretty freeing to realize, that while yes, it’s my job to adapt to my boss’s preferences (and to get creative/try to think outside of the box in doing so), bad bosses are going bad boss – and I can’t fix or change that.

    1. ChachkisGalore*

      Whhoops – this was supposed to be in response the thread above about how much “work” managing up is.

  20. Ali G*

    What do you mean by majority culture perspective? I also really don’t understand why gender dynamics are an issue with managing up. That doesn’t make any sense to me. What am I missing?

    1. anonners*

      I’m not Abe obviously, but some of my colleagues who were raised and at least partly educated in Asian countries really struggle with managing up due to different cultural ideals around deference. This is true of my colleagues who have spent decades in North America – they just struggle with the idea that a manager-subordinate relationship can get close to a two-way street, especially when we’re talking about people who are senior in their careers.

        1. anonners*

          Thanks! It’s something I hesitate to mention because I’m a POC myself and a good number of my Asian-North American friends and colleagues aren’t like this at all. That said, I see issues with professional communication that everyone’s reluctant to examine from a cultural angle because (a) only terrible people aren’t colourblind and (b) if the person in question has been here for a couple decades, they must be 100% assimilated, amirite? I’m not sure that’s a realistic or fair expectation, particularly of people who operate in the dominant culture at work then go home to a significantly different environment. Even if you appear to be good at code-switching the cognitive dissonance will still be there and may lead to some difficult-to-parse reactions.

          Heck, one of my parents immigrated here from a Western-but-culturally-dissimilar country nearly 50 years ago as a 20-something and they still see themselves as navigating cross-cultural communication at work.

  21. Jenn*

    I hate managing up. It’s the reason why my current job is so miserable. If i am reporting to you, i do not see the need to manage my manager’s work. My manager is always 2-4 weeks behind in emails, doesn’t share information and keeps an outdated filing system. It’s a nightmare to get anything out of him until something is dropped on my desk as a hair on fire situation to him that has already been resolved and communicated to all parties, including him, by me. This is the biggest source of stress and I’m not here for it.

  22. ragazza*

    I think these are effective techniques as long as you have a manager who is above board and acting in good faith. I guarantee you my former toxic boss would have found a way to use them against me.

  23. Like what even*

    Based on the comments it seems like there’s a couple different experiences: there’s the using these tactics to your advantage when you have a healthy relationship with your boss, and then feeling like you have to “manage up” to cover for your boss not actually managing. As someone who’s experienced both, I both get the value of these tactics and understand the frustration of feeling like “managing up” hailed as the solution to poor management.

  24. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    Of all of Alison’s suggestions, I’ve found “Make it easy for your boss to give input” has always been the most effective strategy. I think I have a good manager who’s not great at communication, but he’s got a lot of priorities and isn’t always “in the know” of what’s going on even if I think it’s obvious. I need to be very specific in ID-ing the problem and then give Boss a clear action I need him to do to solve the problem. I can’t just complain (or fume in silence) and expect him to read my mind to solve it. I lead with the question and provide details as needed in bullet points. Sometimes I’ve just had to just remind him that I don’t have the authority to do anything beyond what I’ve already done; which seems obvious, but he likes to “empower” his people so he forgets that he may be high ranking, but I’m not, and I just need him to flex his authority.

    1. Not A Morning Person*

      This sounds like a great example of managing up. Most managers have more than one direct report and even if there was only one direct report it wouldn’t make sense for the manager to be on top of all that individual’s work all the time. Managers have their own work and other direct reports and bosses and coworkers and a personal life, too. Recognizing that managers have other priorities and that you need to adjust to get what you need is not “doing your manager’s job”, it’s understanding that if you have work to get done and you need your manager’s authority, attention, approval, or whatever, then it’s important to provide the manager with a way to grant you what you need. You figured it out and “managed up” and got what you needed.
      I have been guilty of thinking that my boss should “just know” what I’m doing, how I feel about it, what I need to do a good job, when I’m overworked, etc. All that did was make me feel resentful and overworked and taken for granted. Managers are not mind readers anymore than anyone else is. When I learned to speak up and how to ask for what I needed and pay attention to what my manager was most responsive to, things got easier all around. “Managing up” is also not the panacea for a bad manager or a workplace that has poor practices, but it is a very effective and useful tactic for helping you get what you need to do a good job. It’s about learning to work within the boundaries of your workplace and the particulars of your manager. And when nothing works and you conclude that it’s not going to change then you may want to make plans to get out of that workplace and into a workplace with better practices and management.

  25. Kate*

    As a super-busy manager (who has also worked for super-busy managers), this is a fantastic article. I kind of want to print it out and give it to the people I manage. Would that be weird?

    1. Miss Displaced*

      That might be too weird, but you can use the tactics in changing the work/reporting style.

    2. Gyre*

      Might be too much, but as a manager, I think the takeaway is: figure out how you want to work and make that as clear as possible to your staff. I have a new manager (again) and honestly have no clue about her preferences. I ask, but it would be nice to be given some info…

  26. anonners*

    Something to think about if you’re very adverse to managing up is that you may be making group dynamics very difficult for your colleagues if you hold out on managing up. I’ve worked on a couple of smaller teams where there were one or two employees who, while good workers otherwise, refused to manage up or act with any sort of authority when something had been delegated to them.

    This led to all sorts of exploitation when a bad boss was involved, but even with our very good boss, the hold-out’s hands-off nature and constant deference really slowed down our ability to work collaboratively as a team. The rest of us who make an effort to get a sense of our boss’ priorities and run with things accordingly are making his life easier, whereas this person is merely a player in Bureaucracy Theatre. Don’t be like that.

  27. Peaches*

    A manager at my work (who is not my direct manager, but I communicate with frequently) is HORRIBLE at responding to emails in a timely manner.

    The problem is that when asked, she says that she prefers email as a means of communication, which makes the situation even hairier. If I (or any of my colleagues) go in her office to ask her a quick question, her usual response is “you can just email me next time.” But when “next time” rolls around and I email her, she won’t respond for two days, even to emails that require a one-word response. I try to avoid asking her questions when I can, but the nature of her position is that she has the answer to things that no one else does.

    1. JR*

      Can you do something like, send her an email outlining the question, and then add a line that says “this might be faster to just discuss in person, so I’ll swing by your desk this afternoon” or “I’m hoping to get an answer from you by this afternoon and I know your inbox gets crazy, so I’ll stop by after lunch in case you don’t see this before then” (or whatever). Then, maybe she’ll be promoted to respond sooner to avoid the in-person follow-up, or it might at least head off the discussion of emailing next time. That said, if she’s someone who gets a ton of email and thus needs to triage her inbox, replying two days later doesn’t necessarily seem unreasonable – can you either let yourself be okay with that timeframe or make it clear in the subject line or first sentence of an email that you need a reply by X time?

      1. Michaela Westen*

        If she’s like my boss, she’ll be too distracted to see the timeline. But worth a try, at least.

  28. The Other Dawn*

    My take on managing up is that it’s a way to make your and your boss’s work life easier and more efficient, and to keep the work and communication flowing. It’s not efficient for me if my boss cancels a meeting and then I wait around for him to reschedule–that could take a long time since he manages three departments. I can see his schedule in Outlook so it makes sense for me to get another meeting on the calendar; I need his input on my task, hence why the meeting was scheduled in the first place. It helps me get my work done and it helps him to not have to remember to reschedule a meeting.

  29. Jessica Fletcher*

    If only “managing up” in my office didn’t mean “coddling a toddler incapable of planning, communication, or keeping her temper in check.”

    Everyone cross your fingers that I get the job I recently interviewed for, so I can get the hell out of this environment. My 4-person team has lost 3-people in the past year, with no new hires. That’s right, kids, I’m the only person working on a grant that is 70% of my organization’s entire operating budget! And my boss yells at me because she doesn’t understand how the electronic time keeping machine works! And I can’t press her to hire because she hears it as “I can’t do my job,” instead of the totally reasonable, “no single person can do the jobs of four people all at once.” I can’t do physical therapy for my injured back because she won’t approve it because there is no one else to work during that time out, but she also won’t hire so there is someone else to work. I wish AAM still did Worst Bosses of the year, because she would win.

  30. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I have heard “managing up” used with negative connotations before but it can be an extremely effective tool for just getting your work done. I have a really wonderful boss (who is the CEO), but I still have to manage up sometimes, and he has to manage up with his bosses (the Board of Directors). You can call it other names – reminders, etc., but it amounts to the same thing. I don’t see it as doing part of his job, I see it as doing what I have to do so that MY job can get done.

  31. E. Jennings*

    Here’s a concrete example of a time an employee of mine recently managed up and it works well: My office runs primarily on Slack, with email for external communication/less urgent requests/after hours. One of my direct reports,, asked me a few weeks ago how I’d prefer she get in touch with me. I’m sure she was frustrated because it felt like whatever she tried was wrong.

    The answer is nonintuitive but easy to follow — before 9 am, I’m usually going through my inbox on my phone and email is easier. Once everyone in the office is online around 9:15, Slack picks up and I check email a lot less frequently. If I were a better manager, I’d be on top of both platforms at all times, but as it is, I was happy to be asked and it seems to have cleared away a frustration for her too.

  32. Safely Retired*

    I would add, establish a relationship with your boss’s boss. Don’t use it to “go around” your boss for decisions, but to keep information flowing.

  33. Be Positive*

    I have a poor manager who I constantly tried to work with but no matter what strategy I tried he could not improve.

    So I stopped. Now he’s nearly on a PIP

  34. buttercup*

    Ugh – will refrain from using this as a prompt to complain about my insane boss and instead hopefully internalize the suggestions in a productive manner. -_-

    1. buttercup*

      OK – read it. While they are good suggestions, I don’t think they will help with my relationship with my boss. My boss’s issue *is* communication. She will say something and forget it the next day. She contradicts herself on a regular basis. (Like, she will literally say one day that X is important and should be considered first priority; then by the end of the week say that X is not important and why weren’t we focusing on Y all along??) I’ve given up on asking her for feedback because she puts no thought into it. She has more than once attributed my ideas to one or more of my coworkers. According to my coworkers, she does the same to them, so it’s not just me.

      I failed at not ranting about my insane boss.

  35. Argh!*

    I have tried a few different things, with a little success. My main problem is that my boss just doesn’t like or respect me and never has. I suspect her boss at the time of hiring may have over-ruled her. He always liked me. Now I have a different grandboss who is a jerk with a temper.

    My boss seems to have 2 big problems: she’s a coward, and she’s disorganized. Oh, and she’s a micromanager. So she’s not afraid to nitpick your monthly report, but she won’t tell you about bigger things until your performance evaluation. And her disorganization means I have to be more organized than I would naturally be. One thing that has worked: I keep a list of unanswered emails and bring those topics up at our one-on-one (at least when we have those). After a few times of doing that, she has prepared for our meetings by looking through her Inbox for those emails so she can give me an answer before I ask – I much prefer that but I’m still tracking emails just in case. (She asks me to email about things we discuss then doesn’t read the emails I send!)

    She has also said a few things that are truly insulting, but because she “doesn’t mean it that way” she thinks I’m too sensitive. I pick my battles on those. You can’t fix social ineptitude.

  36. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

    Not that it matters any more because I left ToxicJob a few years ago, but I do wonder how I could have “managed up” with my old manager – I honestly have no idea what she did all day. She was out on vacation for a month and the only difference we noticed was that there was no weekly meeting where we told her what we were doing and she said, “OK.”

  37. Lea*

    I’ve got a pretty good manager and I’ve found managing up generally applies most for things that are higher priority for me than her.

  38. Michaela Westen*

    This sounds like what I/we do with our workaholic boss. He lost track of emails years ago. We text him instead. We text him to let him know there’s an email. We pop into his office with questions – sometimes lining up to do so. We do a lot ourselves because he’s not available for questions and signatures.
    For any given meeting he will be 15-30 minutes late from the meeting before. It’s not unusual for him to cancel, then I have to chase to reschedule. He had gotten so bad I ranted to him about 2 years ago, now he’s a little better.
    If he wants to schedule a meeting later than 3:30 I say no because it can easily get pushed as late as 4:30 and I have to leave at 5:00. I once told his assistant I would do it with the understanding I would come in later next day if it went over. (I wasn’t being petty – I have to make all my own food because of allergies, and I had to cook that night.) She didn’t schedule it.
    When she moved a meeting to 3:30 I told her it wouldn’t happen till after 4:00. When she told me he had pushed it I said, “I told you this would happen.” She doesn’t get it.
    Recently I left a form for him to sign first thing in the morning and a note asking him to look at an email requesting program access which I needed ASAP. I ended up finding him at 11:00 am, when he handed me the form and first heard of the email from me in person. Too busy to read the note I left or sign the form earlier.
    The thing is even though I know it’s not personal, it’s still discouraging. I’ve progressed from getting very upset, to crying, to feeling discouraged and unmotivated, to, sometimes, “whatever”. His careless distracted ways are clearly affecting my motivation. I’m adapting, and I come to AAM to cheer up. :)

    1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      Ugh, I could never deal with this. I figure, I already have one kid. This would be like having another one. If you’re getting paid managerial wages, you should learn how to remember things or hire someone to remember them for you and not put the burden on the employees who are trying to get actual work done.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        ” I already have one kid” that’s how I feel about dating! If I wanted to babysit, I would have had one. :D

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