Manage That Difficult Boss or Client by Learning How to "Manage Up"

Glory Borgeson

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Have you ever had the need to manage up?

"Managing up" is what many of us need to do from time to time as we work with a particular client or boss. (See? Entrepreneurs are not exempt from the need to manage up. ) Most clients and bosses (thankfully) need no managing whatsoever. It's only a few who get us into the managing-up-mode.

About a year and a half ago I coached a client to manage up. It was great fun for me as a coach. Transformation took place as the client adopted new strategies, and in a matter of weeks the client's boss needed a lot less managing.

Alas, many times in my life God allows me a taste of what other people go through in order to sympathize, empathize, and be a better coach because "I've been there, too. " But I thought my managing up days were over. In the past. Finished.

So I find myself in a situation where I need to manage up.

As I write this, today is Monday. The two-day weekend was not enough to recover. I was still tired going into Monday. All weekend I wanted to write the Business Express e-zine article for the coming month, but I felt stressed out and didn't feel inspired to write. I got home Monday evening, changed clothes, and lay down on the living room floor amidst several dog toys, while my little dog brought me another toy, and begged me to play. Out loud I said, “Managing up stinks. " The dog ignored me and continued to urge me to play. “Wow, " I thought, “even dogs need to manage up. "

So there was my article topic for the month. Normally I would wait to write on a topic until after I completely went through a situation, processed it, and felt calm and de-stressed about it. But it's much more fun this way.

So I poured a glass of wine, gathered some chips and salsa, and sat down outside to pull my thoughts together.

What types of things is a client or boss doing when you find you need to manage up? Basically, the person is a moving target. Just when you thought things were ticking along as they should, he or she goes and does something surprising that you didn't dream they would do.

  • She doesn't invite you to a meeting to which you should have been invited.
  • He goes around you to communicate important issues to people who are your direct contacts (your internals clients or employees).
  • She constantly drops the ball regarding important issues that affect your work.
  • It appears he is attempting to do his job and your job at the same time.

What is so hard about managing up?

The hardest part is probably the lost energy, which translates into lost time. I forgot how draining it is to have to manage up!

There is also the loss of trust and the fear factor to deal with. The issues that arise which cause you to need to manage up are the same issues that erode trust. This can be very stressful on a business relationship. Trust is a foundation upon which good business is transacted over time. Erode that and you're starting from scratch.

The fear factor is more than just a gross TV show that I refuse to watch. For many, managing up brings fear because of a fear to confront the obvious issues with someone who appears to have some, perhaps, irrational tendencies. ("If I bring this up, what will she say?" “What will he do?" “If she doesn't see what she's doing when it's so obvious, how will she respond if I try to discuss it?") So fear takes over, and what happens? We never bring it up for discussion. And so we dance the dance between wrestling with the issue without discussing it and wrestling with the moving target (client or boss).

Right now, I don't have any specific answers for myself, except that some of this needs to be discussed or headed off in some way by the end of the week. I'm way too stressed out for this to continue; it's affecting my performance. And one of my associates, bless her heart, has taken more of the brunt of this than I have, when the wind abruptly changes the direction of her sails nearly every day (by surprise).

So I've finished the chips and salsa, one glass of wine, and the sun's gone down. The slight headache I had all afternoon is gone, and I think I'll have a bowl of soup (I think I mentioned in a previous article that comfort food can be a de-stressor).

Meanwhile, if you have a client or boss who you do not need to manage in these ways, let him or her know how much you appreciate them and why. (By the way, these memories of managing up will make you a much better client or boss, too. )

© 2005 Borgeson Consulting, Inc.

Glory Borgeson is a business coach and consultant, and the president of Borgeson Consulting, Inc. She works with two groups of people: small business owners (with 500 employees or less) to help them increase their Entrepreneurial IQ, which leads to increased profit and decreased stress; and with executives in the “honeymoon phase" of a new position (typically the first two years) to coach them to success. Top athletes have a coach; why not you?

Click here for Borgeson Consulting, Inc.

This article was originally published in The Business Express, Borgeson's free monthly ezine. You may subscribe by clicking here: Ezine


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