Boss-splaining: How to Manage Up

Sarah Cooper recently wrote a useful article is the Financial Times: “A Guide to Letting Your Bosses Know they Haven’t Got Clue”. It presents several ways to for employees to manage up to their bosses.

Managing up is an essential career skill. A common growth barrier for people starting their careers is a belief they need the authority to legitimate power and lead people. Everyone has some degree of power if they apply it. We’re all leaders at all levels.

Consider a clerk at a Department of Motor Vehicles. They have the power to process your application and see you through the required licensing. They can also deny you assistance and make this a difficult task. The most productive people show leadership in their existing roles. They also show the same traits of the best managers by managing up to customers and supervisors.

A clerk that goes the extra mile for customers will clarify the Goal, state the Reality of the situation, present Options from their unique knowledge, and advise on the Way forward (GROW model). It is the same GROW model taught to supervisors to manage subordinates. Using the GROW model is also how to managing up.

  • Goal – clearly state what you want to accomplish
  • Reality – take an honest look at your current situation
  • Options – using your unique knowledge and experiences to provide different solutions
  • Way forward – decide which solution to use and take action!