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Millennials Managing Up: How Doing So Can Impact Job Satisfaction

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Sep. 9 2022, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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In an era where entrepreneurship is at all all-time high and many people resigning, millennials are still the largest generation in the workforce. They need to thrive in their 9-to-5. To do that, they must practice the skill of managing up, understanding how to create and sustain productive relationships with their leaders.

Managing Up Or Brown-Nosing?

Many confuse the two, but there is a difference. The former takes a proactive approach to creating winning exchanges for you, your leader, and the organization. The latter is simply trying to please your boss, with no care to whether it creates great results for your team or the organization.

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How To Manage Up

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In managing up, you benefit from identifying the power webs in your organization and utilizing them to turbo charge your career. It's knowing who to build relationships with to get things done and be rewarded when you do.

This means first identifying who has the power to impact your work life. Who has direct influence over your rewards and recognition (e.g., pay raise or promotion), the resources you need (e.g., project approval), or the people and connections you need (e.g., can sponsor you for quality opportunities).

Build A Solid Relationship With Your Boss

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Once you’ve discovered the power players you should manage up to, the next step is uncovering what’s important to them. It’s not about you at this point. Starting with your immediate boss (and their boss), it’s critical to understand how they operate. Understanding their quirks, preferences, priorities, and communication style, gives you a better read so that you can work effectively with them.

Even if you have a bad boss, this information will show you how to manage them. What are they hoping to accomplish? What are the stressors they are under? How can you make them look good? This information helps you to make better decisions to create a bigger impact.

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Demonstrate Your Value

The next step is to make yourself useful to your team. Competency and consistency are needed here. You will be judged on how much you contribute to helping your boss achieve team goals. This garners goodwill that you can tap into for rewards. When your leaders believe that they can rely on you to get the job done, and that you want them to succeed, you begin to build allies in the organization.

Think Win-Win

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Now, determine what you need from your bosses — are you looking for a mentor, sponsor, autonomy, or all the above? What do you need to advance your career? *Sherry, a middle manager in the insurance industry, needs a leader she can learn from. As she says, “I work really hard to prove myself and be of value to my boss, so that he doesn’t hesitate to share his knowledge and experience to help me build my skills.”

Foster those relationships. In exchange for your hard work and value-added activities, good leaders are more willing to be sponsors and allies you can call upon to get growth opportunities.

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What if You Don’t Get Along With Your Boss?

There’s a reason why people leave bosses not companies. Bad bosses lead to a toxic work life. If you don’t get along with your boss (e.g., they are unethical or unscrupulous), figure out your exit —either to another department or a new company. Until then, navigate around them and protect yourself. Document everything you do and pick your battles.

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So, what does managing up look like? It means building a solid relationship with your leaders, using your relationship to anticipate their needs, and communicating with them effectively. Building goodwill and allies to help you grow, develop, and advance in your career.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy

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By: Sonia Layne-Gartside

Sonia Layne-Gartside is an accomplished Global Consultant. She works with C-Suite and senior leaders in Fortune 500 companies as a strategic partner to lead Organization Development (OD), Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and HR strategy execution activities. Sonia holds advanced certification in change management from Prosci®, and she is certified as a Master Trainer, DEI Specialist, Case Writer, and Instructional Designer. Her undergraduate degree is in Business Management and her master’s degree is in Education. She is an International Speaker and author of the book Workplace Anxiety: How to Refuel and Re-Engage. In acknowledgement of her work and innovative practices, Sonia was recognized as the 2021 “Leader of the Year” by the Pittsburgh Human Resources Association’s (PHRA). She describes herself as a cheerleader for people and ideas.

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