Small Firm Life: Managing Up

When I read workplace success books and articles or receive career advice from mentors everyone always reminds me of the importance of “managing up.” The concept of managing up is to try and work with your boss to obtain the best results for both your boss and the company.  Rather than kissing up to your boss or trying to change him/her, the idea is to try and understand your boss and use these tools to your advantage.  I think it is a great concept on principle but I have always found it difficult to put into practice.  My boss is an intense micro-manager, he wants to be involved in everything but he is not around enough to actually be involved.  As a result, projects and cases sometimes remain unfinished because he is not present to review them and he insists that he must review the project/case before it is filed.  This has been so frustrating to me in the past that sometimes I purposefully have not told him about cases so that I can make sure they are done on time.  In turn, he believes that I do not communicate enough with him even though the clients are happy and the cases get approved.   

Recently I received some very specific advice on managing up, so if your boss is like mine, I would like to share the following examples of how to “manage up” with a micromanaging boss.  So far they have proved to be helpful for me.

1. When something needs to be sent out, send an e-mail with the document that says:  Attached is X document it needs to be filed by (provide a specific date and time).  Please review it and let me know if any changes need to be made.  If I do not hear from you by (provide a specific date/time) I will assume everything is correct and I will file the document.  (This one is my favorite.  I have already tried it and I get much quicker responses from my boss than I ever did before.  This is a great example of managing up because you let your boss micromanage while ensuring that deadlines are met). 

2. Schedule client meeting late in the afternoon so he can not catch you for meetings. (This tip is great because my boss likes to put off meeting with me until late in the day and as a result I am often forced to work late just because I am waiting for him.)

3. Prepare a weekly or biweekly status report on cases:  Organize it so it can be updated easily but gives the impression of good organization.  (I was already preparing a case report for myself but now I send it to my boss as well.  I know that he has not actually looked at it but it allows him to feel involved in my cases.)

3. Catch him first thing in the morning to give him updates or questions.  Even if he does not respond or is too busy, he will know that you were conscious of his time and tried to give him the full day to get back to you with answers. 

 4. When you receive a comment from a customer pass it on to him especially if it is positive. 

5. If you find something interesting in your review of the law pass it on to him and if it is not entirely clear ask his opinion.  This will let him see that you are interested and independent but also that you value his opinion. 

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