Call it encouraging your higher-ups to be more ~*interactive*~ if you wanna be gentle about it, but sometimes you have to wrangle your relationship with your boss to produce better results. Some call that process managing up, but what is managing up, really? It’s different things to different people. Basically, it’s about learning and leaning into your boss’ management style, adapting to them as a leader in order to make life better for them, for yourself, your productivity and – ultimately – your career. Managing up obviously has a lot to do with the individuals involved, but here are five nearly universal tips that (eventually) empower you to do less and look good doing it. 

1. Anticipate Your Boss’s Needs

So much of managing up boils down to this: identify your boss’s communication style, work priorities and preferences (you’ve gotten enough 11PM Slack notifications to know all of this by now). Notice they like to talk in-person? Talk to them in-person. They focus on data points in a pitch? Approach them with more hard data. You get it. Once you identify the patterns in these personal stylings, a psychic thing starts to happen where you anticipate your boss’s needs before they express them to you. 

The second part here is acting on needs before the request comes in. And no, that’s not brown-nosing. Oftentimes, it’s cutting out a mundane workflow step all while greasing the wheels of your relationship to make for a meaner machine.  

2. Identify Pain Points

While you’re doing all of that self-reflecting (and boss-reflecting), here’s an easy one: figure out your boss’s pain points. Even if they’re not vocal about them, you should be able to notice them when their eyes glaze over in a meeting or when they send a ranting reply all email. Maybe it’s Excuse making. Maybe it’s using tired-ass IB buzzwords like “leverage,” “agile,” or “Web 3.0”? Keep track of the things that make them a little bit irritated to what makes them see red.

Step two: don’t do them. Now watch your relationship improve. 

3. Check In, and Fast

When good news comes up, share it with your boss ASAP. When bad news rears its head, do the same – that’s how you cross the line from “ingratiating suckup” to “genuinely helpful and communicative.” Spend less time waiting for the “right” time and just plain communicating like a human. 

When a new project pops up, do your own analysis and risk assessment and send it your boss’s way, or share it out on your VDR. Stuff like this makes you a natural asset, and it makes your managers more willing to listen when you propose things that could actually improve workplace culture or workflow pipelines, which straight-up makes your life easier in the long run.

4. Hone In on Priorities

Whether you’re working your way up the hedge fund ladder, managing compliance or hustling as a financial analyst, your higher-ups likely all have one thing in common: they’re obsessing over your company’s goals this quarter. And, in a super convenient twist, they’ve probably laid out those priorities in whatever sort of quarterly State of the Union you had to sit through.

Now it’s your turn to prioritize them, too. Save whatever side projects you have in mind for just that – the side. Do whatever you can each quarter to work on things you know your boss is hyper fixating on. That makes day-to-day operation and culture smoother with one hand while getting you noticed in a tres positive way on the other. Plus, it eases choice paralysis by giving you something concrete and specific to start your work day with. 

5. Be a Helper

Look, we’ve seen enough gen-Z TikTok to know that even on (over) work-obsessed Wall Street, going aBoVE and BeYOnD just ain’t it anymore. That’s not what we mean. That tired old nugget comes with a sense of artificiality, a “do this for brownie points vibe.” When it comes to managing up, so much of curating that relationship between you and your higher-ups boils down to making yourself a true communicator and a legit help. 

Harvard Business Review’s Dana Rousmaniere says it best:  “the most important skill to master is figuring out how to be a genuine source of help — because managing up doesn’t mean sucking up. It means being the most effective employee you can be, creating value for your boss and your company. That’s why the best path to a healthy relationship begins and ends with doing your job, and doing it well.”

In a study of 2,865 financial services leaders, HBR also found that positive relationships between workers and bosses don’t just make work easier, they categorically benefit work satisfaction and upward career mobility. That’s just not managing up, that’s managing your ass all the way up the chain.


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