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Managing Up: The Best Way to Deal With Difficult Bosses

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Managing up

We’ve all been there. You started a new job and the interview process went spectacularly. After a couple of months in, you discover a side of your manager you wish you’d seen on day one: a monster. Or, you’re well established at your company and your manager—for whatever reason–is replaced by a vicious creature. You begin to hate your job. Or even worse, you start hating your life. What do you do? Managing up is the answer.

What is Managing Up?

According to Culture Amp, “managing up is about using the traits of a good manager to help bring out the best in you as an employee. When done effectively, managing up makes your manager’s job easier, as well as your day-to-day job.”

You don’t necessarily have to be a manager to create a pleasant atmosphere. In fact, you can act in ways that make it easier for you and your peers to deal with a stubborn boss.

1. Be empathetic

Easier said than done, putting yourself in the shoes of your manager might change your work environment perspective. Perhaps your manager isn’t so bad after all. It might be that they are going through a rough patch. Being empathetic could lead you to have a healthy one-to-one with your higher-up, and ultimately manage up.

2. Know what’s important to your boss

Sometimes a manager’s ambiguous message could cause miscommunication. They might be sugar-coating hard-to-chew news to reduce anxiety and tension in the office. In doing so, messages might get lost in translation—leading you to believe a certain task is more important than another. Try to be clear with your boss and ensure you’re understanding priorities.

3. Ask questions

The ability to read minds is as tactful as the self-application of sunscreen to your back without breaking your arm. Unfortunately, humans don’t possess these skills (yet). What we do possess is the ability to communicate efficiently. It certainly takes a lot of practice to learn when and how to ask proper questions. Mastering asking the right questions will be a key ingredient to managing up.

4. Anticipate likely responses

Being one step ahead of your boss can reduce a lot of friction at work. When the inevitable happens, it’s good to know how your boss might react or what they could say. Being prepared for their upcoming behavior can reduce a lot of work stress for you and your peers.

5. Document everything

If and when it all hits the fan, having proper documentation can save you if you’re at risk of losing your job. Sometimes a difficult boss means having to deal with them trying to get rid of you—even if you’re great at your job and you deserve to be there. Proof of email conversations and messages might be the difference between having a job tomorrow or not.

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Find out more about our language training services and helpful topics like managing up here.