The Struggle of “Managing Up”

As public administrators, our jobs are to direct, instruct and give insight within a business, agency or organization. Often, we have to know the ins and outs of our jobs and the jobs of others. It is more than a notion to manage employees, but managing leadership can be very puzzling, worrisome and stressful.

My own professional journey to managing up has always been something I have rejected. However, time has shown me that managing up is a skill that is very necessary in the workplace. Not everyone gets the opportunity to manage contractors and employees, but also top management. It is not always the easiest task. It requires long hours and a positive attitude to bring the best out in employees, encourage solutions and constructive deliverables.

“Managing up sounds simple, but administrators need to learn this basic concept” says Richard L. Knowdell, author of Building a Career Development Program: Nine Steps for Effective Implementation. “If we want someone to understand what we have to say, we must learn to speak their language, rather than expect them to learn ours.” Adam Khan’s Self Help Stuff That Works suggests that the way to manage up is go above and beyond.

Some managers pay attention to managing either their bosses or those people that report to them. But if you are a manager at any level, you have to think about managing both up and down.  According to Turk, there are certain aspects of managing up that are essential to all administrators. Here are 10 suggested steps that are helpful:

  1. Communication
  2. No Surprises
  3. Provide Solutions
  4. Be Honest and Trustworthy
  5. Be Committed
  6. Understand your Boss’s Perspective and Agenda
  7. Recognize your Boss’s Weakness
  8. Depend on your Boss’s Strengths
  9. Request Feedback
  10. Understand your Own Management Style.

These are all excellent points. However, they do not make the job any easier, the decisionmaking less complex or the workload lighter. In addition to Turk’s 10 steps, I have found that the key to being successful is to understand your own management style, be accountable and take responsibility and recognize your strengths and weaknesses.


Submitted by Shirmel Hayden

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