Managing “up” — while on the job and on the hunt

March 22, 2010 at 12:06 am Leave a comment

One of the major reasons that employees leave their jobs — and especially good jobs, where pay is not an issue — is because of differences with their immediate supervisor. And though an employee often presumes the problem is with his or her boss, often the fault lies at least partly with the employee and their inability to respond to the demands facing their boss — also known as “managing up.”

Because of budget and personnel cuts, supervisors are under more stress than ever these days. Employees — and supervisors themselves,  as nearly everyone has a boss! — often can improve their work life appreciably by learning how to anticipate and then respond to their supervisor’s needs, sometimes even before they express them. This is important for job seekers, too, as figuring out your potential supervisor before you accept a job can save you a lot of headaches later on, and in some cases, may lead you to decide you don’t want the position.

And no, managing up is not the same as “sucking up.” These tips, based on online dialogue with some career experts and a psychologist as well as my own experience, can help you manage up and develop a better working relationship with your supervisor or prospective boss:

*First, accept that responding to and anticipating your supervisor’s needs is a relevant and key part of your job, no matter what role you have in the organization. Maintaining a good relationship with your boss should not fall entirely or even mostly on their shoulders. This is often difficult for journalists — who aren’t always gifted, shall we say, at playing nice — who may see this not only as “sucking up” but also as a form of manipulation. Yet in any relationship one needs to figure out how to make it work and to give sometimes. That’s part of what’s important about managing up. By taking responsibility for your part of this relationship, you already will be working to improve it.

*Figure out what’s most important to your supervisor and what they don’t care as much about, and prioritize your goals accordingly. Most managers value dependability, diligence, responsiveness, meeting deadlines, working well with others on your team, organization and planning. And that’s in addition to the skills for your particular job. Some will want regular — perhaps daily or several-times-a-day — updates from you on projects, others will want to hear from you only when the story or project is completed or there is a problem. Some want to be heavily involved in your day-to-day work and others will give you a lot of room. Some like to chat in person or on the phone, others prefer email for all but the most important conversations. Find out what times of the day and week your manager is most stressed and try not to interrupt them then. And for job hunters, try to determine your prospective manager’s leadership and communications style and respond accordingly throughout the hiring process.

*Let them be the supervisor. Often, this is where problems start — when the employee doesn’t agree with a particular decision a supervisor has made or has a personality conflict of one sort or another with their boss, and rather than airing this issue, begins to resist their manager’s overall leadership and supervision. When you suspect there is a problem brewing, whether it be in understanding your supervisor’s priorities or instructions on a project, or if you don’t think you’re being given enough time or space to effectively do your work, talk to your supervisor. Don’t wait for them to bring it up, even if you think they “should” because they’re in charge. Often, they make not think it’s a problem even if you do, but I assure you, if you start to resist their management you will soon have a big problem. And even if you don’t think you need much supervision, give them the chance regularly to tell you what they think about things. Years ago, as a business editor, I had a managing editor new in their job who didn’t know much about business, but clearly wanted to communicate with me and give me ideas. I set up a weekly meeting between the two of us and made sure it happened, and it solved a lot of potential problems. I listened and even when I didn’t think the ideas were great, I was at least allowing the relationship to develop and my manager to supervise. Everybody — even, and sometimes especially, bosses — needs to be heard.

*Live by the “doctrine of no surprises.” Most managers hate to be surprised by problems and especially hate it when others in the organization know about problems in their own area before they do. Show respect by telling them right away about potential issues affecting your work, your team or anything else that may become a bigger deal. Ask yourself a simple question: If I were in his or her shoes and running this department or team, is this something I would want to know? And don’t assume they know. Let them know early on before something becomes a major issue and then they can decide how they want to address it. This is true not only for problems but also potential good news or just everyday decisions that need to be made.

*Figure out where you and your boss mesh and where you don’t. You may have a complicated working relationship with your supervisor because you are very different but there likely are values and commonalities you share, and you should use this to your advantage in establishing a smooth working relationship. For job hunters, it’s key to go beyond the gossip and general perception about a potential supervisor and try to find out just what they would be like to work for. If you are someone who wants a lot of direction and give-and-take on projects, for instance, and your prospective supervisor expects their employees to figure things out for themselves, this may be a potentially bad fit.  This relationship, again, often makes or breaks a work situation for many employees, so it’s wise for job hunters to make this a key component of their decision on whether to accept a position.

*A few upcoming educational sessions might be helpful for job-hunting journalists:

*Northwestern University’s Alumni Association on Thursday, April 8 will hold a Webinar on writing challenges, including writing letters to prospective employers. And those who sign up early will get a free consult with a career expert:

A webinar about writing for everyday life.

Clear, impactful writing is the key to opening doors of opportunity and making your best ideas come to life.
Learn to tackle your biggest writing challenges by signing up for Northwestern’s exciting new webinar, Writing for Impact: Harnessing the Power of Your Words.

Career expert, business consultant, and author Rob Sullivan (GJ90) will present a framework to help you write in a way that is memorable, conversational, compelling, and relationship-driven. This session is for people who want to improve the way they communicate with a new networking contact, a prospective client, a potential employer, a current boss, or a colleague.

Learn how to:
– Apply a writing framework that leads to better results
– Communicate your message in a way that creates a  connection or advances business relationships
– Write with your audience in mind

Date & Time
Click here to find your time zone
Thursday, April 8
12 – 12:45 p.m. CST – Presentation
12:45 – 1:15 p.m. CST – Q & A


Webinar. A webinar is an online event requiring a computer, Internet access, and functional speakers or headphones.  The audio is not available via telephone.

$25 per person

Register here. Space is limited.

The first 25 registrants will be eligible to win one of three 20-minute feedback sessions with Rob Sullivan using a writing sample of their choice.

Questions? Contact or (847) 491-5648.

All registrants will receive a link to a recording of the session after the conclusion of the program.

To get the most out of this session, and to help Rob address the issues most pertinent for the group, it is strongly recommended that you include the following information when you register online:

1) Explain your biggest writing challenges.
2) Submit a writing sample in advance to This will allow the presenter to make audience-specific suggestions. Note: Please edit your writing samples to protect anonymity. Writing samples may include: a cover letter, a LinkedIn profile, an e-mail introduction, a self-appraisal, or a memo to your boss.

*This upcoming writing session could help you polish your skills. The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) is holding a narrative writing workshop at the University of Maryland at College Park on April 3. Information can be found at this link:

Society of Professional Journalists Narrative Writing Workshop

*And a variety of job leads to consider at the start of the work week, with a focus today on public affairs, communications and PR/marketing openings:

*The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) has an opening in D.C. for a Congressional affairs writer:

ICBA is currently recruiting for a Congressional Affairs Writer for the congressional relations group in the Washington, DC office (see position description below).  If you are interested in this position, please submit your resume and cover letter to Human Resources.


The Congressional Affairs Writer will interact with members of ICBA’s lobbying and regulatory affairs teams to understand and analyze key issues and develop persuasive communications that reflect the association’s legislative positions.

Duties & Responsibilities

Write, edit and/or contribute to various communications, including but not limited to:

Congressional testimony

Letters to Congress

Issue briefs and white papers

Grassroots alerts

ICBA committee reports

Legislative review articles

ICBA legislative policies

Legislative “Top Issues & Recent Successes” summaries


Bachelor’s degree in public policy, communications or related field

5+ years of professional writing experience with particular emphasis on persuasive writing, preferably within a public policy or legislative affairs environment

Experience within the financial services arena, including related industry associations, strongly preferred

Demonstrated ability to understand and analyze a range of finance, banking and related issues, policies and regulations pertinent to the association’s membership

Ability to interact effectively with internal staff and committee members/leaders to understand and convey the association’s position

Suzanne Considine

Human Resources Coordinator

The Independent Community Bankers of America

1615 L Street NW, Suite 900

Washington, DC 20036

*The United Nations Foundation has two openings in its D.C. office — one an online communications officer for the Better World campaign (a sister organization that advocates for the U.N.), and the other for a Web producer/project manager:

Online Communications Officer, Better World Campaign:

Web Producer/Project Manager:

And as always, there are other UNF positions available. Please see the full list here:

*The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards in D.C. is looking for a director of public relations:
Director of Public Relations
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. – Washington, DC
a public relations/communications professional at the… technologies; and strong verbal and written communications skills including public speaking. Interested…
From RetiredBrains

*Howard University in D.C. has what sounds like an interesting opening for a placement services assistant in the dean’s office of the School of Communications  to serve as a liaison to faculty, students, alumni and representatives from industry, foundations, and professional organizations  on career development issues:
Placement Services Assistant, Dean Office-Communication
Howard University – Washington, DC
of the School of Communications. Maintains job… and implementation of the Annual Job Fair in Communication. Assists in the distribution and collection…
From Howard University

*George Washington University’s Medical Center in D.C. has an opening in its communications and marketing department for a director of Web communications to help redesign its Web sites as part of the university’s “Unified Web Presence” project:
Director of Web Communications
GWU – Washington, DC
and communications experience Proven success managing several large-scale web communications projects and development, design, and/or communications teams…

*AppleOne in D.C. has a nine-month contract opening for a Spanish managing editor:

Spanish Managing Editor –
AppleOne Corporate – Washington, DC
Editor Position Features: This role reports to the Executive Producer, en espanol Managing Editor will… in journalism, communications, Spanish or related… $60 – $70 an hour
From AppleOne Corporate

*There is an opening in Chantilly, Va., for a proposal coordinator/editor:

Proposal Coordinator / Editor
Mission Essential Personnel – Chantilly, VA
Bachelor’s degree in communications or other relevant area and 4 to 6 years RFP response experience as coordinator, editor or contributing writer. Advanced…
From Mission Essential Personnel

*And to wrap up today’s leads, Discovery Communications in Silver Spring is looking for a director of field marketing:

Director, Field Marketing (Washington, DC Area)
Discovery Communications – Silver Spring, MD
management training.8. Director will also manage biweekly Sales strategy meetings and quarterly field marketing off sites, establishing an ongoing training…
From Jobfox

Happy hunting and happy spring!



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Tips for a successful informational interview When to consider a tryout or audition for a job

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