Chronic Communication at Work: Manage Up to Your Boss
Learn how to build a better relationship with your supervisor and prevent your health needs from becoming a problem at work.
By March 15 268 1
Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist who specializes in helping clients deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
Jason has to take a day off tomorrow for some tests his doctor ordered. He is managing his chronic condition well, and hasn’t had to take a sick day in a couple of months. So he figures that his boss won’t mind if he takes off tomorrow.
Jason was surprised at his boss’s reaction when he informed him that that he would be out for a day.
“Jason, it would have been better if you had let me know a few days ago that you wouldn’t be in tomorrow,” his boss said. “It also would have helped to tell me in advance what you’re working on along with what your plans are for making sure your responsibilities are covered.”
After talking with his boss, Jason realized he could have done a better job of planning ahead for his day off. And a big part of that planning would have been communicating with his boss. To take things a step further, Jason realized that his ongoing communication with his boss hasn’t been all that great lately, and he decided he could be doing more on that end as well.
“Since I had to miss a week of work back in October, I’ve been kind of trying to stay under the radar with my boss. I realized today that I need to manage up with him,” Jason said to his wife that evening. “I think that’s especially important for a guy like me with a chronic condition. I need him to know that I want to do everything I can to be successful in my job. After all, that helps him to be successful in his job.”
Managing up strengthens communication with your boss
Manage up with your boss. Have you heard that phrase before? Basically, managing up means to be sensitive to what your boss needs and how to deliver it. Examples of managing up include keeping your boss informed about what you’re working on, speaking in a way that your boss can listen to and understand, and performing your tasks based on your boss’s preferred workstyle.
When you manage up, you are more likely to earn your boss’s trust, as well as have a more positive day-to-day relationship. Managing up also helps to ensure that your boss will be more likely to cut you some slack when you need it—like when you’re having a bad day, or need to take a day for a medical test or a doctor’s appointment. As Jason said, staying under the radar with your boss isn’t necessarily going to benefit you.
Not sure how to manage up? Here are some ideas for you:
Don’t wait for your boss to initiate a contact. Too often, employees operate under the assumption that if their boss needs something from them, or needs them to know something, they will reach out. Sure, that’s true. But that doesn’t mean that the reaching out can’t be two way.
Keep your boss in the loop. Let your boss know what you’re working on. It doesn’t have to be every day; use your judgment here. But from time to time, fire off an email to your boss, with something like, “Just wanted to let you know that the ____ project is going well. Here’s where I am on ____.” I have always believed that your boss shouldn’t have to ask you what you’re working on—that it’s your job to keep your boss informed.
Run ideas past your boss. I am not suggesting you should ask your boss how to do your job. But when you see something that could be improved, touch base with your boss and make a suggestion. Or, if you encounter a situation you are unsure of, come to your boss with a couple of alternative solutions. This shows you are on board with the company goals and thinking about how you can contribute, and that you value your boss’s input.
Look for opportunities for casual contact. You won’t be a pest if you lean into your boss’s office and say hi once in a while, ask him or her about their weekend, or share something good in your life. A little friendliness can go a long way toward building a relationship.
It’s not only words but deeds that matter. Of course, communication is important. But so is getting the job done and done well. Make excellence your goal each and every day. Bosses appreciate performance; their job is to get the best results from their employees. Your boss should not only be able to see the fruits of your labors, but should also be able to observe you doing your best to produce those results. Well organized. Diligent. Cooperative.
You and your boss. Communication needs to be two way. And frequent. So learn the best way to keep communication on track with your boss and then take responsibility for doing your part. Manage up!
Have a success story you’d like to share about improving your relationship with your boss? Add your comment below.