The Power of Managing Up to Advance Your Career

Most of us have a boss, and while it might sound counterintuitive, experts say that knowing how to make your boss look good and shine will advance your career.

Unless you own your business, you likely have a boss who decides promotions and raises that help you climb the corporate ladder. Even a CEO of a massive corporate company has to report to board members. Being an efficient and productive worker are keys to job success, along with the ability to manage up and make your supervisor look good.

“Managing up is incredibly important,” says Heather Huhman, careers and workplace expert at Glassdoor. “It’s the idea that you should always be anticipating [what he or she needs] before he or she requests it. Your boss has a boss, just like you.” When you make your boss shine, you’ll shine too.

Experts recommend knowing your role, your boss’s role, and your company’s culture to learn to  recognize your boss’s routine tasks and anticipate any needs. “It saves her time and energy that she can direct back to you,” says Nicole Williams, connection director at LinkedIn.

For example, learn what your boss needs for the weekly Monday morning meeting, or if your boss asks for five examples of case studies for a project, provide a few extra examples and any other relevant works.

“You should be thinking more analytically and strategically and understanding why you’re asked to do an assignment,” says Huhman. “It’s something that can be learned very easily over time.”

To ensure your efforts are in the right place, Williams suggests asking questions like “What can I do to help?” “What are your goals?” or “What are your priorities?” These questions show your boss you want to help and will orient them on helping you.

Don’t Get Stepped On

Good workers know how to make their bosses stand out, but that doesn’t mean they should get all the credit.

“You want to talk about your accomplishments and contributions in business terms and how they’ve helped the business with their goals,” says Julie Jansen, career coach and author of I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This. “If you want to promote yourself, you want to be very complimentary of other people. It’s more collaborative. If you always promote yourself, it’s too obvious.”

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, chief career writer and partner at Career Trend, suggests communicating through quick and focused conversations. When possible, include quantifiable results of your achievements, such as the dollars or numbers affecting the business’s bottom line.

“Once a week or every other week, send your manager and your manager’s boss, if appropriate, an email that says what your big accomplishments are,” suggests Huhman. The paper trail of accomplishments will be handy when you’re updating your resume.

Meetings are also a good place to talk about your accomplishments, says Huhman. To show that you’re a team player, use inclusive language like “we” or “us” unless you’ve genuinely done something on your own. Being a team player doesn’t have as much to do with managing up but is important to your career.

“If your boss isn’t reasonable, look for opportunities that are visible,” says Williams. “Sometimes you need to get credit for yourself, and you bury it in the team.” Williams suggests writing a positive note to your team thanking them for the idea that you implemented or for suggesting that you work on a particular project. “You’ll take the sting out if it you position what you’ve delivered in a thank you,” says Williams. This way, your boss and colleagues will be more willing to reciprocate.

How to Get Credit Without Stealing the Spotlight

How to seek recognition for your work depends on the corporate culture. “Some organizations advocate going above your manager’s head but you have to be careful and know what’s acceptable at your company from a communication and behavioral standpoint,” says Jansen. “You can’t go above your boss’s head if that’s not your company’s culture.”

If you don’t have a relationship with higher ups, you can strategically develop one. “Sometimes your boss will block you from their boss,” says Williams. “It’s hard to begrudge personal congratulations.” Williams suggests finding something personal that’s publicly known throughout the company to help establish a relationship and prevent your boss from going against you. A simple congratulations or travel suggestion can start a conversation.

Experts don’t suggest taking credit for every little small task though. Sometimes giving up credit for a great idea can be very strategic and smart. “There are times when you have to swallow your short-term pride for your long-term best interest,” says Williams. Even if you give up credit, it may still come back to you when it’s time for promotions and raises. “Don’t hoard a good idea because you’re afraid it’ll get stolen,” Williams says. “There are a lot of ideas but there aren’t as many people willing to do the work and see it to fruition.”

“Your career is no time to be a shrinking violet,” says Barrett-Poindexter. The business environment is competitive, but being collaborative means you have to express yourself from time to time, in a professional, clear way, to ensure your ideas and work contributions are credited to you.