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What Does it Mean to 'Manage Up'?

Three ACS Career Consultants break down what it means and how you can get started

Joe Martino, ACS Career Consultant
Joe Martino, ACS Career Consultant

"... Engage your supervisor in a conversation."

“Manage up” means to persuade your supervisor to do something which supports your work. To do this, engage your supervisor in a conversation. State what you would like to have done, give your reasons why, and – most importantly – support your reasons with relevant data. Doing this should strongly persuade your supervisor to support you. Understand that a supervisor can still say “no” but appreciate that you have done everything possible to leverage your position. The ACS offers a short course – “Leading Without Authority” – which gives more detail on this.

Marciano Bagnoli, Quality Manager, Georgia-Pacific LLC
Marciano Bagnoli, Quality Manager, Georgia-Pacific LLC

"Get to know your bosses’ strengths, the organization’s goals ... to reduce the overall workload."

Managing Up refers to leveraging your bosses’ strengths to build yourself as an employee. Another way to think about this is how to complement their work style to produce excellent results.

Get to know your bosses’ strengths, the organization’s goals, and how you can bridge both to reduce the overall workload. This should be mutually beneficial, reducing the effort across the team. This can build not just your relationship but also earn you the opportunity to share and implement your ideas.

This does not mean to suck up or agreeing with everything your boss thinks. Rather, you should mutually challenge ideas to produce the best outcomes for the organization.  

Lori Ana Valentín, Forensic Scientist, New York State Police
Lori Ana Valentín, Forensic Scientist, New York State Police

"... Respecting the chain of command is critical..."

In a bureaucratic environment such as a government agency, one must be mindful of the framework within which the organization is structured. These frameworks are often rigid and involve very specific channels through which requests are made and approved. Before making any moves, take the time to understand these channels and the mission of your agency. Identify who reports to whom and how each individual’s role contributes to the mission.

In a paramilitary organization such as the state police, respecting the chain of command is critical, so all formal requests go through my first line supervisor.  This may be more relaxed at other government agencies. Once you identify the appropriate channel, be sure to clearly articulate how the idea or project aligns with the agency’s mission. Practice your pitch with a colleague and ask them to identify any issues that may arise so you can be prepared with solutions. And finally, eliminate the words me, my or I. Instead, use inclusive terms such as we, us, and our when describing the idea and the positive impact it will bring to the agency and the people within it. 

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

ACS Career Consultants are experts and leaders working in the field of chemistry who have volunteered to support other ACS members’ career development through one-on-one career counselling. They can stimulate your thinking, ask important career planning questions to help clarify goals, provide encouragement, teach strategies for making meaningful career decisions, and aid you in your job search. Connect with an ACS Career Consultant today!

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