Tips on How to Effectively Manage Upward

Irene Chan

Product Lead at Treering



"I worked in a company where one of the senior business leaders loved to fire off emails in the middle of the night. And we're not talking about short notes or remarks, but lengthy expressive emails. Of course, the hour that they were sent made it seem like each one of them contained something urgent, yet most of them weren't. It reached a point of 'when everything is important, then nothing is important.' So my strategy changed and instead of responding and feeding into the at length late night emails, I decided to not respond. Now I admit that this may be bad practice but this is just one example of managing upwards. Here are a few alternate methods for managing up."

Actions taken

  • Know each of the people that you are dealing with and work with them differently. For example, if you know that you are dealing with a manager who likes to micromanage, who needs details and will certainly ask questions, then update them yourself before they ask. If you know it is coming and hate when they ask, take the initiative to get a jump start and explain yourself ahead of time. A general rule, understand your audience and work with each of them differently.
  • Another thing about managing upwards is never hear about a problem from your boss. You should know what issues are happening, deal with them among your team, but acknowledge them and tell your superior. You don't want information filtering up to them from somebody else. You also don't want them, or yourself, caught off guard. Simply approach them, inform them of what is happening, and let them know that you are on it.
  • Lastly, always give your superior the facts. Don't be subjective in your delivery and decision-making process. Provide stats, information, and background information about why you came to that particular decision and be able to back up your point of view with data points. This is the decision I made, this is the reason why I made it, and here is the information that led me to that decision. Sometimes you might not have all of the information necessary at the time or your decision may change but be transparent about this and articulate that you might have to reassess at a later date.

Lessons learned

  • "I think people try to find a general rule that can be applied to all managers. That usually doesn't work. You have to figure out who the person is, what they are looking for, and what they expect of you. There is no single rule that will work with every manager. Each manager is different."
  • "Bring solutions not problems. Nobody really wants to hear about the problems. Of course they arise, but pick your battles carefully. I once had a manager ask 'Is this the thing you want me to worry about?' Since then, I have learned to focus on the most important problems that need to be addressed. Solutions not problems are especially true the higher up the ladder you are. You don't want to ask your CEO or COO to solve problems. They rely on you to solve those problems. So part of this is self-recognition about what level problems should be brought up."

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Irene Chan

Product Lead at Treering

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer Growth

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