The workforce trends of 2023 focused largely on employee burnout and decreased job satisfaction, as seen through such trends as quiet quitting, “bare-minimum Mondays” and “boreout,” the TikTok sensation.
Yet with the latest viral career trend, “managing up,” there seems to be a shift in focus.
Three job experts weighed in on how this latest trend is affecting employees, managers and the U.S. corporate culture — and what workers need to know.
What exactly is ‘managing up’ and why is it growing in popularity?
“Managing up,” long a concept in the work world, involves intentionally developing meaningful relationships with supervisors and upper-level management within an organizational structure.
“When they ‘manage up’ well, employees increase their overall effectiveness, thereby contributing a higher value to their supervisor and the organization,” said Beth Radtke, vice president and chief human resources officer with Ketjen, a global specialty chemicals manufacturer in Houston, Texas.
How can workers implement ‘managing up’ practices?
A good starting point is to understand a manager’s leadership and communication styles, said experts.
“It is advantageous for employees to directly ask their managers about their leadership style and how they like to communicate,” suggested Radtke.
“Think of it as an operating manual for the manager,” she said. “When employees know this information, they can tailor their approach, packaging information for their manager that is easy for them to digest, whether it’s in a face-to-face meeting or a weekly recap email.”
In turn, the employees will learn more detailed expectations, such as how often a manager expects updates and/or when to escalate any potential issues on the job, she said.
“Once employees know this crucial information, they can provide exactly what the manager needs and the manager doesn’t get frustrated with too many updates or, conversely, the feeling they need to regularly follow up with the employee for the project status,” said Radtke.
How can the employee-manager relationship blossom?
Managing up includes the genuine goal of fostering strong workplace relationships — and the employees’ intentions are almost always good, experts asserted.
“It is important to note that managing up is not about excessive flattery, manipulation, circumventing managers or taking over their responsibilities,” Radtke told FOX Business.
Rather, “managing up is built on the employee-manager relationship and starts with an employee understanding what’s expected of them.”
She added, “More than that, it is a critical relationship in the workplace built on mutual trust and respect where the employee feels comfortable demonstrating transparency, courage and humility.”
Why is a good working relationship based on mutual respect so important?
Respectful relationships generally advance open, honest and clear communication, said Rue Dooley, HR knowledge advisor with the Society for Human Resource Management (shrm.org) in Alexandria, Virginia.
“When people, managers or not, feel respected, they are, in my experience, much less likely to be silent about matters of significance and more likely to express their ideas and concerns freely, resulting in more effective collaboration,” Dooley said.
“Respect is fundamental to building trust and trust is crucial in all healthy relationships, maybe even a working relationship, especially,” he said.
Furthermore, when people respect each other, they’re less likely to have visceral disagreements — and more likely to approach reconciliation with a mindset toward compromise rather than escalating tensions, he noted.
“Basic respect is the foundation of a collaborative environment,” Dooley said.
What’s the difference between sucking up and managing up?
Sucking up has negative connotations, said Dooley.
In contrast, he said, “managing up refers to a tried and proven workplace behavior with different roots and fruits.”
Sucking up or brown-nosing is generally the attempt to get special or unwarranted praise by being a so-called “yes” person, agreeing with everything a manager thinks, says or does, said Dooley.
“Those behaviors are disingenuous and self-serving,” he said.
In contrast, managing up can benefit both employees and managers in valuable ways, said the experts.
“Managing up is showing up and supporting your manager with honest feedback to help accomplish the best outcome for the organization,” said Vanessa Matsis-McCready, associate general counsel and vice president of HR Services with Engage PEO, based in New York City.
For example, if a manager is about to make a mistake that will negatively impact the company, she said, the employee who is not managing up might automatically say, “That is a great idea.”
Yet a true partner who is managing up and who has the company’s best interests in mind will share concerns about any negative impacts respectfully — so that a manager has a chance to change the trajectory if needed, she suggested.
“Managing up involves great communication, empathy and understanding,” said Matsis-McCready.
“It is mutually beneficial to both the employee and the manager.”
She added, “With managing up, employees learn about and anticipate their managers’ needs and priorities. They then use this knowledge to problem-solve, meet their mutual goals and help their managers achieve the company’s goals.”