Man-Woman-talking-iStock_000008569312XSmall1More often than not, I hear from my clients that they have great relationships with their team and their colleagues, but don’t know how to manage the relationship they have with their boss. This could be due to a variety of reasons. Maybe your personalities clash. Maybe your boss is not supportive of your ambition. Maybe he or she is too busy to engage with you on a regular basis. Perhaps you work in different locations.

Whatever the reasons for your not having a strong relationship with your supervisor, it is critical for your advancement to learn how to manage up. Chances are that your boss has power and influence over your career and therefore, it’s important to have a great working relationship. It’s critical to have a relationship of trust.

Here are some suggestions for managing up:

  • Understand what’s important to your boss. What are their goals? What interests and motivates them?
  • Understand how your value proposition can help them achieve their goals and look for ways to contribute to support their goals. When you can contribute to their success, it becomes a win-win relationship. They appreciate your contribution and you earn more credibility and visibility in the process. This also takes the pressure off any personality issues. Each party understands how they can help each other succeed. While it’s great to have your boss like you, it’s more important to have them respect you for your contribution.
  • Request regular one on one meetings, preferably weekly.
  • Create a status report for each meeting that outlines everything you are currently working on along with your progress, accomplishments, challenges for each project. This report becomes the agenda for your meetings. Ask for suggestions for other items to be included in the report. Send the report before your meeting so he/she can be prepared.
  • This weekly report can be used to keep track of all of your accomplishments. At the end of the year, it provides a written record that can be used for your performance review.
  • Regularly ask for feedback on your performance. Make sure your request is as specific as possible to get the feedback you need. For instance, “how am I doing?” will typically only get a vague response of “fine”. It won’t give you the type of constructive feedback you need to improve.
  • Listen and observe your boss to get a better idea of their communication style. Pay attention to how they respond to you and others in meetings and what seems to resonate with them. Make sure you communicate with them based on this information. For instance, do they response positively to clear direct communication? Do they appreciate hearing the results first?
  • Communicate your career goal. Ask for input on what type of skills and experience you need to reach that goal as well as realistic time frames. Get their buy in and support for this career path. Ask for their ideas about which stakeholders you need to build relationships with and if they will provide introductions. Letting them know your goals is important. If they don’t support you, you can look elsewhere in the organization for a mentor or sponsor. You can ask HR for some direction as well. You never want your boss to feel that you are going behind their back to get ahead. When you are clear about your goals, they can either help or not but at least you have been upfront your aspirations.
  • Understand what interests your boss? What outside activities are they involved in? Do they like sports? Do they play golf? What do you know about their family? Find some commonality or things to discuss beyond work.


In summary, pay close attention to what motivates and interests your boss and identify what they want to achieve. Use your value proposition to help them be successful. This showcases your skill in a way that will get their attention. Understand that at the end of the day, your boss needs to respect you and value your contribution. Focus on how you contribute to positive business outcomes. Position yourself as a winner but not a competitor. Your success is their success.