What is managing up at work: Definition and top strategies to know in 2024

11 min read
What is managing up at work: Definition and top strategies to know in 2024
What is managing up at work: Definition and top strategies to know in 2024

Have you ever felt like your career path has stalled? Maybe you think your boss doesn't quite understand your goals or value your contributions. If that sounds familiar, then honing your "managing up" skills could be the key.

Managing up isn't about cozying up to your boss or manipulating them. Instead, it's about fostering a collaborative and effective working relationship that benefits both of you.

By learning to communicate clearly with your manager and influence them in a positive way, you can take charge of your career development, achieve your professional goals, and make your job easier.

This blog post will delve into the concept of managing up, explore the common challenges you might face to start managing up, and provide actionable tips to help you become a master of this essential skill.

Manage up meaning

Employer working on a upward arrow
Manage up meaning

"Managing up" in the workplace refers to the strategic and proactive approach employees take to effectively communicate and collaborate with their supervisors or higher-ups.

It involves understanding the priorities, expectations, and working styles of those in positions of authority to foster a positive and productive working relationship.

The concept recognizes that successful communication and open collaboration isn't solely the responsibility of supervisors but requires effort from employees to ensure mutual understanding and achievement of organizational goals.

However, managing up comes with its set of challenges. Employees may encounter difficulties in navigating hierarchical structures, communicating direct reports effectively with diverse management styles, or aligning personal goals with organizational objectives.

It requires a delicate balance between asserting oneself and respecting the authority of superiors, all while maintaining open lines of communication.

To navigate these challenges successfully, individuals can employ various tips for managing up at work. These may include actively seeking feedback, understanding the priorities of superiors, adapting communication styles to align with theirs, and anticipating needs to proactively address challenges.

By cultivating a serious work style and strong ability to manage up, employees contribute to a positive and harmonious work environment, fostering collaboration and achieving a great working relationship with your boss.

What does it mean to manage up at work?

Employer working effectively to increase ROI
What does it mean to manage up at work?

Managing up at work involves strategically and proactively building a positive and effective working relationship with your supervisors or higher-ups. It is about understanding their priorities, preferences, and communication styles in order to align your efforts with organizational goals and enhance collaboration.

Instead of merely reacting to directives from above, managing up entails anticipating needs, demonstrating initiative, and actively seeking ways to contribute to the success of both individual and team objectives.

This approach is crucial for career development, as it positions you as a valuable and reliable team member while also ensuring that your work aligns with the broader goals of the organization.

Managing up does not imply manipulation or ingratiating behavior; rather, it emphasizes effective communication, empathy, and a proactive attitude toward problem-solving.

By successfully managing up, you contribute to a positive work environment, facilitate smoother collaboration, and enhance your overall professional growth within the organizational structure.

Why is managing up so important?

Managing up is important for personal career growth, fostering positive team dynamics, aligning individual goals with organizational objectives, demonstrating proactive problem-solving, mastering effective communication, and adapting to changing work environments.

It is a valuable skill that contributes to both individual and organizational success. Here’s why it is so important.

1. Career advancement and visibility

Effectively managing up is crucial for career advancement. By understanding and aligning with your supervisor's goals and priorities, you position yourself as a proactive and valuable team member.

This visibility can lead to increased opportunities for career growth, promotions, and recognition within the organization.

2. Enhanced collaboration and team dynamics

Managing up fosters a positive working relationship between employees and their supervisors.

When there is a clear, shared understanding of expectations and effective communication, collaboration within the team becomes more seamless. This, in turn, contributes to a positive work environment and enhances overall team dynamics.

3. Aligning individual goals with organizational objectives

A key aspect of managing up is ensuring that your personal and professional goals align with the broader objectives of the organization.

This alignment helps create a cohesive and focused work environment, where individual efforts contribute to the overall success of the team and the company.

4. Proactive problem-solving and initiative

Employees who manage up are more likely to proactively address challenges and anticipate the needs of their supervisors.

This proactive approach demonstrates initiative and reliability, making it easier for managers to trust their team members with responsibilities and leadership opportunities.

5. Effective communication and feedback

Managing up involves mastering effective communication with supervisors. This includes understanding their communication styles, providing regular updates on progress, and seeking constructive feedback.

Strong communication skills help build trust and ensure that both parties are on the same page regarding expectations and goals.

6. Adaptability in changing work environments

In dynamic work environments, being able to manage up becomes even more critical.

Adapting to changes in leadership, organizational priorities, or project requirements requires a keen understanding of how to navigate upward relationships. Those who can effectively manage up are better equipped to navigate and thrive in evolving work situations.

How do you manage up the right way?

Employer and employee having a conversation
How do you manage up the right way?

By combining the following strategies, including the use of employee surveys as a feedback mechanism, you can manage up in a way that fosters positive relationships, aligns with organizational goals, and contributes to your professional growth within the workplace.

1. Understand the priorities of your direct manager

To manage up effectively, take the time to understand your supervisor or manager's priorities, goals, and expectations.

This knowledge allows you to align your efforts with their vision and contribute meaningfully to the overall success of the team and organization.

2. Open and transparent communication

Establish open and transparent communication channels with your manager and supervisor.

Regularly update them on your progress, share challenges you may be facing, and seek feedback. This not only keeps them informed but also demonstrates your commitment to transparency and accountability.

3. Anticipate needs and provide solutions

Proactively anticipate your supervisor's needs and offer solutions before issues arise.

Taking initiative and demonstrating problem-solving skills will showcase your reliability and make it easier for your supervisor to trust your judgment and decision-making abilities.

4. Seek feedback and act on it

Actively seek feedback from your supervisor on your own performance reviews, projects, and contributions.

Use this feedback to make improvements and show your dedication to continuous learning and professional development. Constructive feedback is a valuable tool for managing up effectively.

5. Employee surveys as a tool

Utilize employee surveys as a tool for managing up. Surveys provide a structured way for employees to share their perspectives on workplace dynamics, team collaboration, and management effectiveness.

Pay attention to survey results and use them as insights for improving your own work and contributing to a positive work environment.

6. Adapt your communication style

Be adaptable in your communication style to match your supervisor's preferences. Some may prefer detailed written updates, while others may prefer concise verbal conversation summaries.

Understanding and adapting to their preferred communication style enhances effective dialogue and minimizes misunderstandings.

7. Show initiative and take ownership

Demonstrate initiative by taking ownership of your responsibilities. Be proactive in identifying areas where you can contribute beyond your assigned tasks.

This proactive attitude signals to your supervisor that you are committed to the success of the team and the organization.

8. Build a positive managerial relationship

Invest time in building a positive and professional relationship with your supervisor. This includes being respectful, displaying a positive attitude, and being a team player.

A strong and healthy relationship with your boss forms the foundation for effective management and collaboration.

Manage up challenges

Employer being confused in the workplace
Manage up challenges

Successfully overcoming the following challenges requires a combination of self-awareness, effective communication, adaptability, and a proactive approach to problem-solving.

By addressing these hurdles head-on, employees can enhance their ability to manage up and contribute positively to their workplace.

  • Differing communication styles: One of the challenges in managing up is navigating varying communication styles for both you and your supervisors. Misalignments in preferences for communication frequency, level of detail, or preferred channels can lead to misunderstandings and hinder effective collaboration. It can be even more difficult for remote employees.
  • Balancing assertiveness and respect: Finding the right balance between being assertive and respectful can be challenging. Employees need to advocate for their ideas and contributions without appearing overly pushy or undermining the authority of their supervisors. Striking this balance requires finesse and a keen understanding of workplace dynamics.
  • Navigating hierarchy and power dynamics: Hierarchy and power dynamics in the workplace can pose challenges for managing up. Employees may feel hesitant to express their opinions or propose ideas if they perceive a significant power differential. Navigating these dynamics while still asserting oneself and contributing meaningfully requires careful consideration.
  • Adapting to different leadership styles: Supervisors often have diverse leadership styles, ranging from hands-on to more hands-off approaches. Adapting to these styles and understanding how best to work under each can be challenging. Employees must be flexible and responsive to their supervisor's preferences to ensure effective collaboration.
  • Handling conflicting priorities: Managing up becomes challenging when employees are juggling conflicting priorities from multiple supervisors or teams. Navigating these competing demands requires strong organizational skills, effective time management, and clear communication to avoid misunderstandings and potential burnout.
  • Providing constructive feedback: Offering constructive feedback to supervisors with a direct report, while crucial for mutual growth, can be challenging. Employees may fear that their feedback will be perceived negatively or impact their relationship with their supervisor. Striking a balance between constructive criticism and maintaining a positive working relationship requires tact and careful communication.
  • Resolving conflicts with supervisors: Conflicts with supervisors may arise, whether due to differences in opinion, work styles, or project-related issues. Managing up effectively involves addressing and resolving these conflicts professionally. Navigating these situations without causing lasting damage to the working relationship requires strong interpersonal skills.
  • Adapting to organizational changes: In dynamic work environments, organizational changes such as restructuring or leadership transitions can pose challenges for managing up. Adapting to new expectations, priorities, and leadership styles while maintaining continuity in your work can be demanding and requires a high level of adaptability.

Managing up do’s and don’ts tips to be aware of

Employer being confused between yes and no
Managing up do’s and don’ts tips to be aware of

Here are the top do’s and don'ts tips to be aware of for managing up:


  • Understand your supervisor's goals: Take the time to understand your supervisor's priorities, goals, and expectations. Aligning your efforts with their vision contributes to a positive relationship.
  • Communicate proactively: Establish open and transparent communication channels. Regularly update your supervisor on your progress, share challenges, have key questions, and seek feedback to ensure alignment and understanding.
  • Anticipate needs and offer solutions: Proactively identify your supervisor's needs and offer solutions before issues arise. Demonstrating initiative and problem-solving skills showcases your reliability and commitment.
  • Seek and act on feedback: Actively seek feedback from your supervisor and use it as a tool for improvement. Demonstrate a commitment to continuous learning and professional development.
  • Adapt communication styles: Be adaptable in your communication style to match your supervisor's preferences. Tailor your updates and messages to ensure the most effective employee and clear communication.


  • Avoid micromanaging: Micromanage your supervisor, boss, or team members. Trust in their abilities and avoid over-controlling aspects of the work that may hinder collaboration.
  • Don't assume: Assume you know your supervisor or boss's style and priorities without seeking clarification. Avoid making assumptions about their expectations or preferences.
  • Don't overload with information: Overwhelm your supervisor with excessive details. Provide concise and relevant information, respecting their time and preferred level of detail.
  • Avoid being overly critical: Provide feedback in a way that comes across as overly critical. Be constructive in your feedback, for example by focusing on solutions rather than just pointing out problems.
  • Don't overstep boundaries: Overstep your role or responsibilities. While showing initiative is important, avoid taking actions that may be perceived as going beyond your designated job scope without proper communication.

What is managing up leadership?

Managing up leadership is a leadership approach that focuses on effectively navigating relationships with one's superiors or those in positions of authority within an organization.

It goes beyond the traditional hierarchical model of leadership, emphasizing collaboration, communication, and proactive engagement with upper management to achieve shared goals.

In managing up leadership, leaders not only lead their teams but also actively work to understand and support the objectives and expectations of their supervisors.

This leadership style involves a keen awareness of the needs, priorities, and working styles of higher-ups.

Leaders practicing managing up take the initiative to align their team's efforts with the top of mind of broader organizational objectives, ensuring that their actions contribute to the success of the entire enterprise.

Effective communication is a cornerstone of managing up leadership, as leaders must be adept at conveying their team's achievements, challenges, and contributions to superiors in a way that resonates with organizational goals.

Moreover, managing up leaders exhibit a proactive approach to problem-solving and decision-making, anticipating challenges and providing solutions before issues escalate. They seek feedback from their superiors, using it as a tool for personal and team improvement.

By embodying adaptability, strong communication skills, and a commitment to mutual success, managing up leaders fosters positive working relationships and contribute to a culture of collaboration and shared achievement within the organization.

3 Manage up at work examples

Employer working effectively to achieve the goal
Manage up at work examples

Here are three examples of managing up at work.

1. Proactive communication

In a managing up scenario, an effective employee also consistently communicates proactively with their supervisor. Instead of waiting for instructions or feedback, they provide regular updates on their projects, share challenges they are facing, and propose potential solutions.

This proactive communication not only keeps the supervisor well-informed but also demonstrates the employee's initiative and commitment to the team's success.

2. Aligning individual goals with organizational objectives

A team member actively manages up by ensuring that their individual goals align with the broader objectives of the organization. They take the initiative to understand the company's vision and strategic priorities.

Subsequently, they align their personal goals and projects in a way that contributes directly to the organization's success. This alignment showcases a proactive effort to support the overall mission and demonstrates a commitment to shared success.

3. Seeking feedback and continuous improvement

An employee practicing managing up consistently seeks feedback from their supervisor and acts on it to enhance their performance. They view feedback as a valuable tool for personal and professional development.

By actively engaging in discussions about their strengths and areas for improvement, employees feel they not only show a commitment to growth but also strengthen their working relationship with their supervisor.

This approach contributes to a culture of continuous improvement and fosters a positive and collaborative work environment.


Managing up at work is a strategic and proactive approach that empowers employees to build positive relationships with their supervisors, align individual goals with organizational objectives, and contribute effectively to the overall success of the team.

By embracing open communication, seeking feedback, and demonstrating initiative, individuals can navigate workplace challenges, foster collaboration, and create a conducive environment for professional growth.

Successful managing up not only enhances personal career development but also strengthens the cohesion and productivity of the entire organization, ultimately leading to a culture of mutual success and accomplishment.



Santhosh is a Jr. Product Marketer with 2+ years of experience. He loves to travel solo (though he doesn’t label them as vacations, they are) to explore, meet people, and learn new stories.