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Managing Up as a Way to Get What You Want

Learn how managing up creates a more effective relationship with your boss.
By Dawn Rasmussen, CMP

Managing up as a way to get what you want is a great trick. I got my first glimpse of this technique when a former boss once spoke about management by attraction. This is the process by which you create such a great work culture that it simply draws people in organically versus having to work hard at promoting it. Managing up as a way to get what you want is actually a microcosm of this concept.

What you are doing is managing the person in a way that draws them to you without realizing that you are actually using this process to help manage them and their behavior. Don’t worry. Managing up is not an evil skill. A lot of times, we end up with bosses or supervisors who really have no clue what they are doing, and because they are your boss, you can’t really tell them that.

Managing up as a way to get what you want means learning what their interests, strengths, preferences, habits, and weaknesses are so you ANTICIPATE their needs. When you use managing up to get what you want correctly, you can actually be an influencer that helps the boss get what they need while fulfilling your needs.

Let’s break this down. Ways for managing up as a way to get what you want:

Know your supervisor.

This is the most obvious yet sometimes the most daunting thing to do – ask the boss what their goals are. As a result, you gain clarity on their expectations which informs your work so you can stay aligned to those goals.


Sometimes bosses are caught flat-footed when they are asked to supervise people whose jobs they are not intimately familiar with. The boss may feel that it undermines their authority if they have to ask the employee what something means or how something works. Take the sting away by volunteering the information proactively so they simply don’t have to ask.

Helping out.

Offer to help when you can (not brown-nose!) to demonstrate your commitment to the team and for making the boss look good to their supervisor.

Asking questions.

Asking for assistance from a boss perfect for managing up as a way to get what you want. Don’t ask them how to do something, however. Ask them for their opinion, which makes them feel valued.

Personal Rapport.

Building rapport (not being besties, however!) with a boss is a great way for managing up to get what you want because you are using the opportunity to get to know them. Idiosyncrasies, likes, dislikes, and other insights can inform how you approach the boss and float ideas out to them.


Finding ways to collaborate to help the boss achieve their goals while advancing your own is a great way. Find mutually beneficial strategies that work for both of you for managing up to get what you want.


Putting yourself in their shoes is a powerful technique you can use for managing up to get what you want. By articulating what a manager might be thinking or worried about creates understanding and can make the boss might be concerned/worried about.

Be proactive.

If you know you are going to need an action from your supervisor, then you can start to think about managing up to get what you want. Use some of these techniques above BEFORE it is crunch time, and that will give you more leeway to adapt to suggested alternative options.

Managing up to get what you want requires employees who have empathy and can see the supervisor’s viewpoint to anticipate their needs. The more you can do that, the more likely you can help get them into the right headspace to give you want you want.

About the Author

Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is a certified resume writer and the president of Portland, Ore.-based Pathfinder Writing and Career Services. Clients from across the United States and Canada and from all career levels have benefited from Dawn’s highly-focused and results-oriented resume, cover letter, and job search coaching services. Many professional groups as well as colleges and universities have appreciated the insights and expertise she shares during presentations on career management topics, and she is a frequently requested national speaker as a result. Dawn also has shared her knowledge as the official “Get the Job” columnist for One+ Magazine, distributed to over 26,000 professionals worldwide, and written as a jobs expert for the “Career Oxygen” feature on, a job resource site for creative and marketing professionals.

Additionally, she has been a recognized career expert on, which is a top 10 world-ranked career advice blog, and is a regular contributor to the weekly’s #Tchat meeting of the career industry minds on Twitter. Dawn has been quoted in the Chicago Tribune, CBSMoneyWatch, and on career-related topics.

When Dawn isn’t writing career documents, teaching, or speaking, she enjoys hiking in Oregon’s spectacular outdoors.

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