What does it really mean anyway? Well, according to dictionary.com it means: to build a successful working relationship with a superior, manager, or employer. Others have defined the practice as a way to work towards the mutual benefit of both the employee and manager.
Fine, those things are important. And they ARE key to an employee’s success in many ways. What I struggle with is the responsibility ‘managing up’ places with the employee. If I am an employee and am meeting all components of my job description, should I also be expected to ensure that the relationship with my boss is optimal? Barring any major personality or professionalism issues, shouldn’t that be assumed when the employee is performing well? If anything, the onus to ensure the relationship is effective, and communicating any issues or deficiencies, should lie with the manager.
I suppose that there are some supervisor/supervisee dynamics in which ‘managing up’ is easy, and comes naturally. The working relationship is mutually understood, expectations are clear and the benefits to all parties (the manager, the employee and the company) is obvious. However, there are likely just as many, or more, situations in which the employee struggles to figure out what her boss wants (or requires) outside of the basic components of the job description. The employee then is expected to anticipate her boss’ needs and know in which format, quantity and medium these needs should be met without much direction. Is this managing up?
In my perfect professional world - taking initiative, working hard and respecting your supervisor are the qualities of a dedicated, professional employee and should be the norm. These should be the ways to ensure success in the workplace and, in turn, that of the manager and organization.