Have You Thought of Managing Up?
Over my long career, I have interacted with hundreds of nonprofit professionals. I have seen many fresh faces come into the nonprofit sector while others have asked for information about the sector. I have also seen many nonprofit professionals say they are burned out and either quit, get fired quickly or work in unhappy work situations for many years.
In fact, if you study the literature, nonprofits have a high turnover rate. While employees who have worked in the sector for decades are the exception, most employees I have hired over the years averaged three to five years in tenure.
The younger-aged employees typically left sooner while the older workers stayed on longer. The youngest person I hired was probably 21, and the oldest full-time person I hired was at least 67. She stayed two years, fell in love and said she was tired of working. According to TechImpact, people quit jobs for a variety of reasons including poor communication, no mentoring program and poor leadership. Many of these factors point to your relationship with your boss.
As a nonprofit executive, you spend countless hours managing your staff. At one position, I managed at least 20 people until I divided my management organization into sub teams. Having concentrated downward on my staff, I could not totally concentrate upward on my relationship with my boss. According to an article in the Happy Manager, you should also attempt to manage your boss.
If you cannot manage your boss, at least you can better understand how to work with him or her. Some ways to manage up with your boss are to try to understand your boss, don’t try to be a transformer, build on strengths and focus strengths on things that matter.
In a Project Manager article that focused on managing up, a few practical tips for managing up include:
- Develop a positive relationship with your boss
- Embrace the mission and support their successes U
- Understand your bosses goals, objectives and desired outcomes
- Be proactive and not reactive
- Never blindside them
- Do your job well
According to Psychology Today, to succeed with a bad boss, you need to more effectively learn to manage up. Tips for managing your boss without your boss knowing it are observing your boss’ behavioral and management style, and tailor your style of communication accordingly. Additionally, think about what is in it for me each time you approach them, place yourself in your boss’ shoes, be a proactive communicator, help support their weaknesses and do the best job you can do.
Muse points out that many times, an employee has a problem with their supervisor because they do not prioritize building a good relationship with them. You need to have a solid employee and boss relationship to survive the stressful times in your job.
Idealist defines managing up as a method of career development that is based on consciously working for the mutual benefit of yourself and your boss. Understand your boss’ position, and make yourself a stellar employee by exceeding expectations. This focus will enhance your job satisfaction and help you with career advancement internally or externally.
According to Idealist, to succeed in working with your boss, remember the following do’s and don’ts:
- Understand your boss’ role and what they are trying to accomplish.
- Understand what they value most personally and professionally.
- Note their style and how they make decisions.
- How have past career experiences influenced what they do today?
- What role does the boss envision you playing in their plans.
- Try to manipulate by being a “yes man” and always flattering the supervisor.
- Attempt to cover everything up by lying — own the situation immediately.
- Do not get involved in office politics, stay professional, treat everyone the same and leave your personal baggage at the door.
Have you ever thought of managing up? If you have a poor relationship with your supervisor, I suggest you begin with managing up today. In this process, you may also learn techniques that you can share with your staff in working more effectively. All of us spend many hours each week at work.
Your organizational goal for success should be both internal and external. Think of the food chain theory. If you enjoy a good relationship with your boss, you are more likely to share happiness with your staff and your direct reports. Your staff are very smart. They will know if you have a rocky relationship with your boss, and this, in fact, may weaken you in their eyes. At the end of the day, strive to manage up and down, effectively. It will improve your health and improve your chances for longevity on the job.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.