Managing Up: Two Tips for How to Communicate with Your Manager

managing upIn an article for Forbes ‘How to better communicate with your manager’ Shelcy V Joseph refers to research by which shows that

·         63% of people surveyed feel their teams can better communicate needs and goals

·         28% of people reported not really knowing how they spend their time at work

·         37% feel their manager does not have an accurate understanding of how they spend their time


The article then goes on to offer some sensible tips for improving communication between employees and their managers. Never one to be reluctant to hold back on sharing tips myself, I thought I would add a couple of ideas of my own

Let’s start with communicating goals

Managing up: get clear on goals (or objectives)

Some time ago I wrote an article ‘Using performance objectives for managing upwards’ based on my experience of asking people ‘what do you want from your manager?’ and their (overwhelming) response being ‘I just want to know what my manager wants from me!

My idea with the article was to encourage employees to take the initiative; for them to encourage their manager to more clearly articulate their expectations. Without repeating the whole article here, a summary of the tips I gave are:

a) Getting clear on what they needed clarity on (i.e. which elements of their job they and their manager had not discussed)

b) Having a conversation with their manager about expectations; asking for clarity around specific goals or objectives

c) Considering drafting some goals, objectives or performance standards to share with their manager (in other words, doing the work of clarifying expectations for them!)

d) Writing a ‘dear manager’ email attaching the goals, objectives etc they’ve drafted

You can read the full article HERE

The whole point, of course, is to take control (or at least to attempt to!) of the process of gaining clarity.

Managing up: help your manger understand what you do with your time

Half the battle in helping your manager understand what you do with your time is won by getting clear (as above) on expectations. If you and your manager agree what your goals and objectives are then it follows that they will have a clearer understanding of what you are doing all day.

Another technique employees can use is to take responsibility for monitoring their own performance against the goals and objectives. In that way when they do have conversations with their managers about their performance they have ‘evidence’ of their performance to share.

Here’s how to monitor your own performance against goals or objectives

1. Decide on monitoring methods

You can see a whole range of monitoring methods HERE for the quantifiable elements of your job (those parts of the job that can be easily counted or measured). You simply need to decide which methods are most relevant and easy to use.

There are two monitoring methods you can use for the behavioural elements of your job (i.e. ‘teamwork’ ‘managing change’ ‘customer service’). The first is simply to keep a record of examples of when you have demonstrated these behaviours. For example, if you have agreed a goal or objective around managing interruptions (because you’ve a goal to improve your time management) you simply keep a record of times when you’ve done this

The second method is to collect third party feedback – from customers, suppliers, other team members; anyone who can give you ‘evidence’ that you are meeting your goals or objectives

2. Make a monitoring plan

This is just about bringing a little discipline to the process – about planning to monitor our performance. You can see a simple monitoring plan HERE (it’s written for a manager, but you’ll easily see how it can be adapted)

Managing up: why bother?

It’s a good question; why should you be doing the work that, in theory at least, your manager should be doing – communicating needs and goals and getting clear on what you are doing with your time at work? Well I guess it’s all about consequences. If your manager doesn’t understand what you do all day, what are the consequences to you? None? Then as you were – no action needed. But if your managers lack of knowledge means (as it often does) that you are not getting the support you need, or the recognition you deserve then maybe taking control and doing at least some managing up might be worthwhile?


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