‘Up Management’ Skills

Often, one of the most important challenge one faces in an organisation is ensuring smooth relationship with one’s reporting authority or manager. These superiors, besides differing in various temperaments, shapes and sizes, also vary in age (generation), gender, education, experience, values, attitudes, socio-economic background and competency. The ones with a ‘know it all’ attitude, adept at finding fault, will never find anything you do laudable. Then there are the ones who, by virtue of their inheritance, occupy the coveted position - heirs of family business who brag about being open-minded but are dogmatic and consider employees slaves and expect them to be at their disposal 24x7. Then there are the young guns, impatient, callous and self-centred; they want work done at any cost. Another kind, the megalomaniacs need constant pampering of ego. And, then there are the insecure ones, always wary and critical of subordinates’ work and do not hesitate in stealing the thunder from them.

But the most trying ones are the foolish ones, with neither expertise nor knowledge, incapable of thinking, who occupy the leadership position for reasons other than deserving it. It is impossible to penetrate their wall of ignorance and imbecility. This kind can be likened to that of a herder, good at wielding a stick ensuring the flock stays disciplined, always breathing down subordinate’s neck. There is no dearth of varieties and this is not an exhaustive list, with many more possibilities arising out of combination of these categories.

Whatever the type, the fact is, your expertise in technical skills, knowledge or even interpersonal skills have little weightage in organisations, if you do not possess ‘up management’ skills which is entirely different from managing subordinates. You may be a high performer, but if your manager does not think so the probability of your reaching great heights in professional career will hit the proverbial glass ceiling. Therefore, this critical ‘up management’ skill is essential for survival in any organisation, as people in leadership positions can ruin or salvage your career. An advice is to spend considerable time understanding your manager and mastering the art of managing the manager. Competencies will get you entry into your dream organisation but to continue the journey up is another ball game. As it is often said, exceptions are always there and if you strike lucky, you will get a manager who as a mentor and genuine well-wisher will help you realise your potential and achieve greatness. But since exceptions do not make the rule, it is better to hone your ‘up management’ skills or ‘manager management’ skills!

by Vandana Madhavkumar