Managing up posted on 07 March 2024

You should learn to manage up. While managing up is often associated with a bad manager, it is actually a soft skill to “get the most value” from your manager, even if you have an amazing one – side note, mine (Mainak Sen) is good and is hiring for Trust & Safety 😄

Beside filing all the paperwork (perf, compensation etc.), your manager is also your best ally to shield you from irrelevant escalations, support your efforts with staffing, do back channel alignment etc. For your manager to perform at their best, you need to help them – this is what managing up is about..

Your manager is busy – you’re likely not their only report and they still have to deal with tons of other things. It’s your job to make sure they can understand your work, your plans and your vision, this means:

  • Effectively communicating with them – there’s not one format to rule them all, every manager is different, do what works best with yours (e.g. some prefer written documents, some are more technical, some prefer short docs etc.)
  • Making sure they have all the context on what’s happening – other managers may escalate issues about your work to your manager. You should make sure they have the relevant context/information to have an opinion on the issue and to be able to push back if needed.
  • Make sure they understand what you are and will be doing – this would allow your manager to better argue for you (e.g. for your performance during calibration, for staffing planning etc.)

In general, managing up is just a soft skill directed to your chain of management – you should have the same skill for your peers and every person you work with.

Fun fact: I was trying to generate an illustration of a software engineer bringing a box of ammunitions to their manager who was firing at incoming requests, but it got blocked because the content wasn’t deemed safe – so you have a more casual illustration here

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