You’ve probably heard the saying, “People don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses.” It reflects the research that shows that one of the most—if not the most–important predictor of job satisfaction is your relationship with your immediate supervisor. How they view you impacts the opportunities and access you have to interesting work and resources.
Managing up is an art. It’s about developing a genuine, collegial relationship with your manager—one that benefits both of you. This is not to be confused with “kissing up.” Insincere flattery is disrespectful to the other person; at some level you’re assuming they’re unable to see through your blatant attempt to manipulate them or their opinion of you.
As in any relationship, it is important to understand your manager as a person. What do they care about? What are their interests? What areas do you have in common that can serve as a foundation for you to build upon? Spending a few moments every day connecting on a personal level will help you build the understanding you need so that you can anticipate what your manager will want in different situations.
Adjust your style and deliverables to suit your manager’s priorities and preferences. If your manager prefers PowerPoint slides, plan to deliver your work that way. If they like lots of numbers and rationale, make sure you’ve included them. Your job is to make their job easier while getting work done efficiently. Being flexible in your style will serve you well.
Every manager is looking for people who come to them with solutions. Do your own thinking and approach your manager for counsel when necessary. Keep your manager informed appropriately so they are never caught unaware. Share industry news regularly to encourage him/her to do the same.
Finally, express appreciation when it is warranted. Remember, your manager is human too.