Managing Upwards

by Ian Saunders

What is managing upwards?

In simple terms, it means doing whatever is necessary to get ‘what you want’ from your boss and your relationship with your boss. The alternative is to ‘put up with what you get!’

Managers often complain about the treatment that they receive from their boss, yet make little effort to influence how they are managed or the kind of relationship that they have with their boss. If you want to manage and lead effectively, you should focus your attention upwards just as much as downwards and sideways.

For example:

  • If you never see your boss, how about making an effort to call by their office more often!
  • If you never hear the things you want to know, how about asking, rather than waiting and moaning!

The emphasis is on ‘doing something to get what you want’. In this section, the ‘doing’ entails choosing to take the necessary actions that will allow you to operate in the way that you want to the full extent that is possible within your situation.


Most of us tend to exercise only a few of the full range of choices open to us.