‘Upward Management’ does not imply manipulating your boss – but all relationships need managing.
Keep in mind that it certainly does not, and should never; involve any ‘brown-nosing’.
Why would you need to manage your boss?
It sometimes happens that bosses:
- Are distracted by having to deal with their bosses – and organisational politics including ‘turf wars’. This could result in them losing focus on their own operations.
- Are about to make decisions without considering all the available information, because they do not have it.
- Are deliberately being misled by members of the team who have an agenda which could damage part of the operation – and as a result harm your boss.
While exercising tact and diplomacy a forthright approach is required. You must never say anything which they cannot repeat to others. I was once concerned about certain developments in an organization where I worked and I went to the CEO and prefaced what I had to say by saying, “I want to tell you something and you can quote me on this to anyone” – he replied, “That’s unusual, most people come in here and want to talk ‘in confidence’”. After that I was often called in to be used as a sounding-board.
Another essential strategy is to never mention the names of anybody involved in causing the problem. Rather talk about the consequences of anything that is not being done properly – this allows your boss to figure out who the responsible parties are.
Your timing is critical. If your boss is about to head off to an important meeting she or he will be too preoccupied to pay full attention to what you have to say. The same applies when you can sense your boss has just returned from a rough meeting or encounter with his or her bosses – or you know, for example, that he or she has a child in hospital or some other personal issue.
Another issue relates to what do when you feel that you are unfairly being overloaded. On my first day in the Navy we were being given a ‘pep talk’ by an officer. Amongst the things he said was, “If you think an instruction is unfair carry it out first – and then come and discuss it”. So if you are being unfairly loaded with work first do it and then go and discuss the matter. However, if you can do the work within normal working hours but feel that you have to do more than your colleague’s then don’t complain – it just makes you an A+ member of the team – and sooner or later it will be noticed.
It should also be clear in your relationship with your boss that you are not seeking to gain favour through your actions. Always be correct in your approach – your boss is not your friend.
Finally, always be aware that you are walking a fine line and your approaches could easily be misunderstood.