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Manage Upwards: 5 ways it creates value

For the relationship between manager and team to function well, both sides need to be empowered to communicate effectively.

But often organisations focus on the downward relationship a manager has with team members. When you train employees to manage upwards you equip them to develop stronger and more positive working relationships with their manager. The result? Everyone’s jobs are easier and more rewarding.

In this blog, we look at the benefits of including upwards management in your training roster.

Do you remember the first time you realised how to manage your manager? The moment the communication clicks is often a game-changing moment in your career. Apart from the immediate feeling of liberation, you probably felt good about gaining some control.

According to Harvard Business Review managing up means “being the most effective employee you can be, creating value for your boss and your company.”

Here are some of the ways managing upwards can create value:


Employees who manage upwards can communicate how they work best and what they need from their manager to do their job well. This removes the guesswork and saves time for their manager.

They also use their knowledge about their manager’s management style and goals to develop strategies to work effectively together. Is the manager someone who likes to complete work days ahead of a deadline or someone indecisive? These employees accept they can’t change their boss’s behaviour. Instead, they focus on the things they can control and channel their energies into these areas.

Clearer communication

Similarly, “People who successfully manage upwards have mastered the art of asking good questions and developed strong listening skills”, says Paul Hodder, BiteSize Learning Director.

“They have a more realistic understanding of the pressures on their manager together with the organisational context. They recognise that people have different communication preferences and adapt their communication for better results.”

Effectively utilising the knowledge gained in this way helps to deepen trust with the boss. Moreover, it helps to secure better outcomes for the tasks at hand and in dealing with problems as they arise.

Promoting challenge

Challenge is a vital behaviour in any organisation committed to continuous improvement and people engagement. And leaders need to be prepared to be challenged as well as challenge others themselves. Training employees to manage upwards also helps them to communicate assertively to check, clarify, and respectfully challenge the manager’s expectations. As a result, work quality and deadline issues, as well as friction, demotivation, and burnout, are avoided.

Influencing others upstream

In addition, people who manage upwards drive change and innovation. They are good at promoting new ideas by actively influencing and communicating in ways that work for senior leaders. They raise issues and develop links with others above them, not just their immediate reports, and secure support or resources for projects.

Having employees like this in the business helps senior leaders gain a better picture of what is happening on the ground.

Staff retention and development

Finally, the most significant factor affecting job satisfaction is the relationship an employee has with their manager. Above all, people are more likely to stay and progress in a workplace which empowers them to develop strong, positive, and well-balanced relationships with their leaders.

Lessons from a very public leader

England manager Gareth Southgate has cultivated a loyal following among the young players of the England team. One of his many attributes, as reported here in Personnel Today, is encouraging communication from the team.

“I like the players to speak up in meetings – I like them to have an opinion on the game, because in the 85th minute they have got to make a decision that might win or lose the game and we can’t make all those decisions from the sideline.”

Want to help your team step off the benches and be a bigger part of the game in 2022?

Find out more about our bite-size personal effectiveness courses by contacting [email protected]




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