If your boss incessantly asks you why your tasks take so long, you need to manage up. And if you convince your boss to give you a raise, keep you on staff, or acknowledge your existence, you’re an all-star up-manager. But you shouldn’t have to be.
The crux of the practice is this: my managers will fail to manage me, so by managing them, I receive the respect I’m entitled to in my workplace. But is this something we want to be good at? I’m not sure, because if it were a desirable skill, people would brag about it on LinkedIn.
Managing up is undesirable because the conditions under which you must practice the skill are when you managers fail to acknowledge you, harangue you over minutiae, or wonder why you’re doing your job instead of what they told you to do – in other words, conditions under which they don’t trust you. And if they don’t trust you, why the hell do they manage you?
Without mutual trust, a team cannot operate as a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The employee fails to receive appreciation for their hard work, and management fails to inspire exceptional performance because they’re too busy asking why you keep going to the bathroom. And as long as managers presume their reports are guilty until proven innocent, they encourage deviant behavior and frequent 3-hour bathroom breaks.
In a trusting environment, managers believe in your greatest potential, and no one discusses ‘managing up,’ do they? I never had to manage my boss at Bloc, we trusted each other implicitly. However in a distrusting environment, managing up isn’t just another skill, it’s a survival mechanism – it’s coaxing favors from your prison guards.
Because when you work a job that requires upward management, you don’t have a job, you have a death sentence – and you’re doing whatever you can to run out your clock.
On May 2nd at 9:00 AM, my clock ran out.
I was fired by a distrusting single-celled troglodyte, and in case you live in a cave, that word is a pejorative for people who happen to live in caves – don’t worry, your cave smells nice, and is well decorated I swear.
I was fired without warning, quietly, and in secret, which is precisely how troglodytes prefer to run through their todo lists. But that wasn’t at all upsetting; what upset me was that they failed to consult my team, the people who I built deep relationships with over the past 8-months, and who’ve come to trust me to protect them from the paint-sniffing oaf snarling at their doorstep.
The same oaf who prohibited me from saying goodbye or wishing them farewell. It’s not all bad, though.
By firing me surreptitiously, my employer saved a good deal of money. But now every one on my team knows they’re not at work, they’re in prison – and beginning today, the prisoners plan their escape.
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”