Our Take On Managing Up

Every Wednesday, we bring you new and exciting entrepreneurial content ranging from helpful business tips, to marketing trends to follow, to interviews with small business owners we think are amazing.

by Jessi Burg

“Managing up” is a term that’s been gaining popularity in the business world. If you’re new to the phrase, then you are in the right place – keep reading!

*Author side note: We are taking a slightly different approach in this blog than what you’ll see in many other managing up articles. Most of the resources on managing up focus on what the employee can do for an effective boss. Instead, we’re assuming that in order for this strategy to work, you have to know what you need as a manager, which will make it much easier for your staff to accommodate you.

Managing up describes a manager to employee relationship that relies on back and forth communication in order to determine what everyone needs to be successful. When an employee “manages up”, they are performing their job in a way that works best for their boss. In order for them to do that, managers need to be clear about what exactly they need. 

People start business for all kinds of reasons. But for many people, becoming management isn’t one of them. Lots of business owners have never been managers before. It can be a tough skill to learn, so establishing a good relationship with your staff can make that process much easier. 

Here are some tips for teaching you (and your employees) how to manage each other. 


Knowing the type of communication that each employee and manager responds best to is a great way to start. For example, if you are a visual learner who needs to see a task or deadline in written form, what are the chances you will forget to do it if it is verbally relayed to you rather than sent in an email? 

  • Make sure employees know how to communicate with you. Do you respond faster through phone, text, email, a workplace chat platform, or a software like Asana where they can add items to a physical to-do list?
  • Set up a place for questions. Will staff be able to ask you questions in team meetings, one on one meetings, or designated office hours? Are you making time for questions about existing projects and ongoing professional development?
  • Create a safe space for them to offer their opinions. Working effectively with your team involves not only hearing their ideas and suggestions, but taking them seriously. 

Set Expectations

Setting clear expectations is the key to any successful managerial position, so you will want to set employee expectations early and often. Keep expectations attainable and realistic, and set clear metrics followed by feedback and regular employee performance reviews.

What are the important deadlines? What happens if a deadline is missed? How often do you want updates on your employees work? What format should they use for those updates? How often and in what format should they expect to receive feedback from you? Do you accept feedback from them?


Make sure your staff knows what your work hours are. Be clear with what your available hours are for them to pop in, schedule a meeting, or that you’re normally out of the office. 

If you have an office, what are the hours the office is open? Does your company do work outside of those hours? If you are a remote company, how do you track your working time? What are the methods of communication you use most often?

*Tip: We love using chat platforms such as slack for our inter-office communication. Slack lets you adjust your notification settings based on your working hours, so regardless of when someone sends you a message, you can opt to not get the notification until you’re back to work. 

If you want your staff to be able to work independently, then practice managing up by being clear about exactly what you need as a manager. Communicate, set clear expectations, and make sure your staff has all the information they need to do their jobs the way you want them to.

Everyone’s job becomes a lot easier because your staff knows exactly what to expect and how to deliver information to you. In turn, this makes your company significantly more efficient. And let’s be real, efficiency is everything for small businesses.

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