The Art of Managing Up

Needed when the boss can’t manage down

(One of the 83 quick and practical life & work lessons from Sh*t Sandwich: Quick & Practical Success Lessons for Practically Anyone.)

cartoon The Art of Managing UpThe Art of Managing Up

Okay, you’re pretty sure your boss is an asshole, but you have no place else to go. Now what? Certainly, living a miserable work life is never an option; so what’s Plan B?

You can always manage up. It’s an art, not a science; but for those who are successful at managing up, work can become quite rewarding.

There really are two primary goals to remember while you’re managing up: First, you want to be happy with the work you do; and second, you want to make yourself irreplaceable to your boss.

The shit sandwich you’ll need to eat here is that asshole bosses don’t make managing up an easy task.

You should start this journey by working to anticipate his needs. This means determining what his goals really are and working backward from there to help him achieve these.

For example, let’s say that your boss doesn’t like dealing with outside salespeople, so he strings them along until they’ve pestered him into a near fit of rage. As a subordinate who is aware of this and is trying to anticipate his needs, you should ask your boss if it would be okay if you handled a particularly pesky salesperson.

It’s highly likely that your boss will jump at the chance to have you do his dirty work. The key now is to be polite, though direct, with the salesperson and let them know in no uncertain terms that your company has decided to pass on their offering. Then, report back to your boss with a brief recap that “it’s all handled.”

This was just an example, and it’s your job to discover these for yourself. Though understand that by taking unpleasant tasks off your boss’s plate, you’ll start to be viewed more like a coworker and less like a subordinate. Once this happens, your opinions will begin to carry weight and you’re on your way to positively impacting how this manager leads.

But, there are two more steps you need to take in order to become a true influencer:

  1. Above all else, stay positive in your boss’s presence. No one likes negativity added to their life, especially when one is already a bit of an asshole.
  2. Do just a bit more than expected. No need to go overboard, but if your boss asks you to provide him with last month’s sales on a spreadsheet, why not add a comparison to the same month last year and a year-to-date tally, as well? It’s a way to provide a bit more than expected without appearing to be a sycophant.

Can you do these little things? Then, congratulations, you’re now managing up! (Yes, it really is that easy.)

Sh*t Sandwich is available in paperback at and is free on Kindle Unlimited.

From TheManager