What often goes unsaid is that the same holds true when the roles are reversed, that is, if an employee doesn’t believe their manager is performing at an adequate level.
Certainly it’s not in an employee’s job description to confront a poorly performing manager; the manager’s manager should identify and deal with it. But business isn’t a game of perfect so this doesn’t always happen, and in these instances, it’s up to the employee to take the initiative and ‘manage up’.
How long should you wait before ‘managing up’? If your manager’s behaviour needs to be addressed, don’t wait for a second—take it upon yourself to manage up immediately!
What’s the best way to redirect a manager’s behaviour? First, depersonalise the situation. If it comes down to you versus them, you’re begging for things to blow up. Consider what negative impact the manager’s actions are having on the business and the team and what the benefits would be if they were to change.
You should also think about the manager’s style: Do they like to develop their own solution, do they like to build consensus or do they like to be presented with options? Whatever it is, approach them with ‘your concerns’ seeking their help, and in a way that is both non-threatening and discreet—you do not want to show them up.
Tell them what your problem is, how it makes you feel and why you believe it is having a negative impact on the business. Get their opinion on your concerns and offer suggestions as to how they could be addressed.
Finally, formalise a plan of action with them. This last step is important; don’t leave any grey areas, otherwise your manager may regress.
It shouldn’t have to fall on an employee to manage up, but absence of anyone else taking the initiative, it’s incumbent on you to do so. Otherwise your manager’s habits will continue unchecked and they may drag you and the entire team down with them.