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Best Practices for Creating a “Manage Up” Culture

Dwayne Weppler

March 24, 2020 · 4 min read

Strong relationships between employees and managers are one of the cornerstones of a successful organization. When managers and employees work together well, productivity increases, employee engagement grows, and you see effective collaboration across all levels.

For something so important, however, it can be difficult to achieve. Research finds that only about one in 10 people possess high talent to manage, and only 18 percent of those currently in management roles demonstrate a high level of talent for managing others. But while there’s certainly room for improvement among managers, there’s also a role employees can play. It’s a concept commonly known as “managing up.”

What does it mean to manage up?

The Harvard Business Review defines managing up as, “Being the most effective employee you can be, creating value for your boss and your company.”

Employees who are successful at managing up often possess strong organization, time management, and communication skills – because they’re essentially performing their role, while also assisting their manager with theirs. As you can imagine (and if you ask any manager), these employees are quite valuable to have and should be celebrated for their contribution.

So, how can an organization make this practice more widespread? By building it into the very foundation of its culture. Let’s look at 7 ways to do that, using your intranet as the primary vehicle.

How to create a “manage up” culture

Here are some ways to build a “managing up” culture within your organization, using technology to help.

1. Establish a consistent feedback loop

Ensure managers meet regularly with their direct reports. This is the best way for both managers and employees to keep track of their various projects, ask for help, and discuss any issues or roadblocks they might be facing. A culture of managing up starts with having pathways to communicate.

Encourage honesty. While employees don’t “coach” their managers in the same way managers coach employees, employees are uniquely positioned to provide useful feedback their manager can use.

It’s also important to create feedback channels on the intranet where employees can voice their opinion and know they’re being heard by HR and upper management.

2. Use digital tools to over-communicate

Use modern digital workplace tools to create project rooms so employees can collaborate and provide regular updates, ask questions, see important dates, and access the information they need, without having to go to their manager constantly.

Employees can use the @mention feature to loop their manager in on certain activities or posts – letting them know what they’re working on or involved in. This is a great way to keep everyone in the know without spending more time in meetings.

3. Encourage personal relationships

Provide space for employees and managers to get to know each other. While it’s important to maintain professionalism, it can still be helpful to encourage some transparency among teams.

Small bits of personal information can be incredibly illuminating, from external pressures that could temporarily impact work performance to communication preferences, these conversations can only happen when employees have time to just be together.

As employees get to know their managers, they may start to learn what makes them tick. This is great information to have. When employees make efforts to accommodate their leader’s work style, it doesn’t go unnoticed.

4. Empower employees to recognize each other

Teamwork makes the dream work, truly. It’s important to foster an environment where teammates praise and recognize each other. Managers are busy and they can’t see and hear everything at once. Encouraging employees to celebrate each other’s success will ensure they get the recognition they need, without it always coming from the manager.

Share the love. Create a “kudos corner” on your intranet where employees can take the load off managers by recognizing their peers for a job well done.

5. Take the mystery out of how to succeed

Make sure objectives are clear and visible – at both the organization and team level. If employees know what’s expected of them, they’ll be able to demonstrate to their manager that they’re doing a good job. Post company and team objectives on the intranet so they’re always front and center – and don’t forget to update them whenever priorities change.

6. Reward employees who are doing it well

Create a company culture that celebrates initiative. Odds are, managers have a lot on their plate. When you encourage initiative, employees learn to take more things on and look for opportunities to step up – because they know their efforts are valued.

Another way employees can show initiative is by anticipating their boss’s needs. For example, if a manager routinely forgets to take meeting minutes, an employee can offer to take them and publish them for everyone to see.

7. Reward managers who are doing it well

Manager-employee relationships can be challenging at times. If someone in the company is doing a great job at managing their team, including how they empower them to achieve, tell them so! Ask them to share what works for them, maybe even feature their team on the intranet. Let them know you see what they’re doing and you appreciate the impact their leadership style and team are having on the company.

Management made easy with digital workplace solutions

By managing up, employees can demonstrate their own unique qualities and position themselves as both a problem solver and a team player. At the same time, managers feel supported in their workload and know they can expect honest feedback from their teams. None of this is possible, however, without the right tools in place.

A managing up culture relies on tools and resources that connect teams across offices and cities and allow for a number of different communication pathways. As the workforce continues to become dispersed, it’s important to leverage technology to do what we used to be able to do in person, for all management.

Learn more about how Igloo’s digital workplace solutions can help you boost employee engagement in your organization.