Manage upwards — supporting your manager within their role

Game pieces on a network map to get across getting to know your team and in turn help with managing upwards.

Having a good relationship with our colleagues is vital for a harmonious work environment. But how about our manager? I’m sure a lot of us are guilty of complaining or moaning about something our manager has done, but often what a lot of people forget is that they are human too and a little support of our manager by managing upwards can go a long way. Having a good relationship with your manager will make your life and their life a whole lot easier and hey, you might even become good friends.

Managing upwards is a term that you may not have heard very often. Simply put, managing upwards is about how we as individuals can get good at properly understanding our boss and learn to adapt our approach to get the most out of our relationship with them. Just as our managers have a responsibility to support us, we also have a responsibility to support them in their role. At the end of the day, we usually find that ultimately, we have the same goals and the more we can support one another the better we will feel.

Often, people who find themselves in a manager’s position initially have very little training on how they should perform or behave. We all make mistakes, and this is okay, it’s these silly slip ups that help us learn and grow as a person. Just because someone’s in a manager’s position doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes, but there are a few things that we can do that can help to make a manager’s life a little bit easier and manage upwards effectively.

What can we do to help build a harmonious environment?

Research has shown that satisfaction within the workplace will affect our general wellbeing. So we want to help you do everything you can to make sure the workplace is a happy place. Having a good relationship with our managers will help build a harmonious work environment. One of the main things we can do is to be patient. Managers are people just like you or I, not fairy godmothers so allow them time to respond and handle situations. By allowing them time you will ease the pressure placed on them and they are more likely to have a welcoming response to anything you fire their way.

Know your manager type

Part of having a good relationship with anyone is understanding their traits and personality. No two people are the same, but we all know that people can be very similar in the way they act. Whether this is your lovable enthusiast best friend, your annoying sibling, or your calm and trustworthy next-door neighbour, different types of people can be categorised by their behavioural habits.

So what are they? Firstly, there are typically 6 different manager types. These are the super planned, the process driven, the visionary, the super agile, the harmonious and the ones who are always in the detail. Now you’ve heard what they all are but what do they mean? And how can you manage your manager a little better? You’ll be pleased to know that with each manager type, there are certain tips and tricks you can use to make your work relationship with your manager more straight forward and managing upward more effective.

Super planned — This type of manager is likely to be ultra-organised and will always plan ahead. They will also be driven by deadlines and will more often than not, love a project. Typically, the best way to deal with this type of manager is to be realistic rather than optimistic with what you can promise. Be proactive with providing updates throughout a project or throughout a deadline and remember to not take anything personally if your manager communicates in a direct manner.

Process driven — This type is similar to the super planned in some ways. However, their main incentives are driven by their logical, rational and decisive behaviour and not to mention their desire to stick to the rules and love for justice. Building a good relationship with this type may feel challenging at times, however, they may just need a gentle reminder to be aware of the human side of everyone in the team if they become engrossed in a project.

Always remember to be clear on the rules so that you can always make well informed decisions. Above all, remember to stick to the facts and stay rational, especially if conversations become challenging. People are people, often when work gets in the way this can be easily forgotten but knowing how to handle situations will reinstate the feeling of humanity.

Visionary — Next up we have the visionary. This type of manager always thinks of the bigger picture, they are brimming with ideas and innovation, and they will always be keen to brainstorm. There are a few things to keep in mind when communicating with this type of manager. Firstly, if they pitch an idea try to refrain from dismissing their concepts before you consider the positives that could be behind their work. Ask for their input before presenting a final solution and share with them what you are learning and discovering, they will always be happy to hear about your progress.

Super agile — This type of manager is slightly different from the rest, in that they are spontaneous, reactive and under pressure this person will shine. When it comes to change, well they say a change is as good as a rest and the super agile will be excited by the thought of a change.

There are a few tips here that will help you build a good rapport with this manager. Firstly, be super-organised with your own work so that you can re-plan if things change. Offer to help plan projects with them and show that you are confident getting involved and remember it is okay to follow things up with them if they don’t deliver what they agreed.

Harmonious — Yup you’ve guessed it, this type of person will want to be everyone’s best friend. Typically, they will be a people pleaser, have a sensitive nature and will love nothing more than a happy team. Dealing with this type of manager is never usually difficult, however, there are a few things to still be mindful of. These people tend to be fantastic listeners so please try to resist dropping your problems on them.

It is also always nice to check in with them on a personal and professional level, showing and interest will mean a lot. If you have difficult information for them, give them time to process this so they can be confident they are making the right decision on behalf of the team. Finally, give them feedback on how they have helped you personally. It may not seem like a lot, but a harmonious person will be delighted by positive feedback, especially if they think they have personally helped another.

In the detail — Finally, we have the manager who is always in the detail. This type of person will generally always know what’s going on and in some ways will always seem like they are one step ahead. Often, they may have been promoted from within the team and will be happy to get stuck into the work.

There are a few things you can do to help this kind of manager out. One of the first things is to be confident within yourself and approach them first providing them with the details they require, trust me they will love this. You can also be prepared with your answers so you’re able to provide detailed feedback when asked. Above all, ensure there is clarity within communication, so they are sure that you fully understand what is expected.

More tips for managing upwards

Now we have talked about the different types of managers and learned the tricks for maximised communication between manager and colleagues and managing upwards, there are a few things to remember. Seek to understand the world from their perspective and understand what makes them tick. By doing this you will be able to see situations from their perspective and have more of and understanding of their decisions and thought processes.

In addition, tell them what they do that works for you. Ultimately, unless your manager is a secret superhero (fingers crossed) then it is unlikely that they will be able to read minds. Therefore, tell them what they can do that will improve your working experience. They will be grateful for the feedback.

This next one may seem like stating the obvious but remember you can ask them what you can do that will help them to manage you, something so simple could make a huge difference. Ask the best ways to communicate with them, each manager will have a preferred form of communication, this may be informal chats, emails, or a quick teams message. Either way ask them what works best and usually this will be the most effective. Furthermore, if something isn’t working then tell them, it’s easy to get upset about something or moan to others, however, managers are not ogres and will be happy to hear the criticism as it gives them an opportunity to fix things.

Finally, enjoy the time you spend in the workplace and make the most out of your time there. On average, we spend a third of our lifetime at work, so it is very important that we are happy and enjoying what we do. Contrary to popular belief, work can be fun and your relationships with co-workers are invaluable and will in turn help with managing upwards.

If you loved this and would like to know more about supporting the role of a manager, why not check out our blog on The importance of supporting new managers or check out our workshops on management we have plenty info to keep you entertained for hours.

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