Relationship-Building: Managing Up

It’s not always clear to employees why they need to manage relationships upward unless it’s for political maneuvering or brown-nosing. But it is a valuable skill to know how to consciously work with your boss to obtain the best possible results for you, your boss, and the organization you both work for. 

This is important because you and your boss are mutually dependent on one another. Your boss needs your help and cooperation to do his or her job effectively and you need your boss’ support and guidance in doing your job effectively.

We often make either the mistake of seeing ourselves as not very dependent on our bosses or assuming that our bosses will magically know information or help we need from them without asking for it.

The keys to managing our bosses effectively are:

  • Have a good understanding of your boss and of yourself – each of your strengths, weaknesses, work styles, goals and pressures.
  • Use this information to develop and manage a healthy working relationship – one that is compatible with both people’s work styles and strengths, where expectations are mutual and shared, and where each person’s most critical needs are met.

It’s important to understand your boss - not just initially when you first begin working with one another, but throughout your relationship.  On an ongoing basis, it’s important to communicate as priorities and concerns change.

It’s even more important to know yourself and your strengths, weaknesses, work style preferences, goals, and pressures. Developing self-awareness and then learning to apply your knowledge in order to have more effective relationships is an important ongoing learning process that we all need to and should engage in.

Learning more about your own and others’ preferences for how they take in information, make decisions, structure their day, and communicate is something that can serve as a foundation for understanding work styles and strengths.

Find ways to regularly communicate your expectations to your boss, receive feedback and ask questions about his/her expectations, and influence him/her to your point of view on important issues. But realize that your boss, just like you, is probably limited in his/her time and energy, so make sure that you use his/her time wisely.

Creating Healthy Manager-Employee Relationships

Questions to Ask Your Supervisor or Manager

  • How would you describe your management and leadership style?
  • What are your goals and top priorities for this team?
  • What is your definition of a “top performer”?
  • What does “success” for this team look like to you?  How do you expect this team to help contribute to the goals of our organization?
  • What is the path that lead you to this job? 
  • How do you prefer that I communicate with you – email, in-person?
  • How do you like to be approached regarding an issue or challenge?
  • How often do you want to meet with us as a team and on a one-to-one basis?

Questions to Ask Your Employee

  • What are the biggest challenges you expect to confront in this role?
  • What are your biggest strengths?
  • What are your biggest opportunities to develop?
  • What do you believe your manager/supervisor should expect of you?
  • What are you expectations of me?
  • What excites you most about your job?
  • What motivates you to do a good job?
  • How do you like to communicate with your manager/supervisor – phone, email in-person?
  • What do you think your objectives should be for the next 30/60/90 days?