Mastering Upward Communication: Effective Strategies for Connecting with Superiors

Post by: Abbey Baldacchino
Published: 10 August 2023


Whether you’re in all female workplace, or the only woman on your team, managing relationships with superiors can be a bit tricky. As women in tech and tech sales there’s enough uncertain and uncomfortable ground to navigate without adding an unharmonious relationship with your boss into the mix. You see the cliche quotes on LinkedIn stating ‘You don’t work for your company, you work for your boss’, and it couldn’t be more true. Superiors have the potential to make or break your workplace experience, we’re going to choose to take control of the situation and get the most out of it. 


Understanding the Concept of Managing Up

Managing up refers to effectively communicating and developing a positive working relationship with our superiors. It involves proactively taking charge of our professional growth and ensuring that our supervisors are aware of our contributions and capabilities. It is not about manipulating or ingratiating ourselves with our bosses, but rather about building mutual respect and trust through open and honest communication.

When it comes to managing up, it’s vital to understand that it’s a two-way street, not just about us trying to impress our superiors, but also about them recognising and appreciating our efforts. When this works (because sometime’s superiors aren’t open it) we can create a symbiotic relationship where both parties benefit and contribute to the success of the organization.

Self-awareness is incredibly important to managing up. It is crucial to have a clear understanding of our own strengths and weaknesses, as well as our career aspirations. This allows us to effectively communicate our goals and needs to our superiors, enabling them to provide us with the necessary support and opportunities for growth.

The Importance of Managing Up in the Workplace

Managing up is essential for several reasons: 

Alignment: it allows us to align our goals and objectives with those of our superiors, ensuring that we are working towards a common vision. This not only helps us stay focused and motivated, but also enables us to contribute meaningfully to the organisation’s success.

Influence: managing up enables us to have greater influence and impact within the organization. When our superiors understand and value our contributions, they are more likely to support our initiatives and provide us with the resources we need to succeed. This increased support and recognition can lead to greater opportunities for career advancement and personal growth.

Collaboration: managing up helps in creating a positive work environment by fostering collaboration and effective teamwork. When there is open and honest communication between superiors and subordinates, it creates a culture of trust and mutual respect. This promotes a sense of belonging and satisfaction among employees!

The Role of Communication in Managing Up

Communication is forever important in the workplace, but especially when wanting to strengthen your relationship with superiors. This involves not only transparently conveying information but also actively listening to our superiors’ expectations and concerns. 

Non-verbal communication is just as important as verbal when managing workplace relationships. Our body language, facial expressions, and overall demeanor convey a lot about our attitude and professionalism. By being mindful of our non-verbal cues, we can project confidence and competence. 

Building a Positive Relationship with Your Superiors

The Importance of Trust and Respect

Trust and respect form the foundation of any successful working relationship. It is essential to demonstrate integrity, reliability, and accountability in our work to earn the trust of our superiors. When we consistently deliver high-quality work and meet deadlines, our superiors can rely on us, which strengthens the trust between us. Additionally, being transparent and honest in our communication helps to foster trust and build a positive relationship.

Respect for our superiors’ expertise and position also plays a vital role in building a positive relationship. Recognizing their knowledge and experience shows that we value their insights and are willing to learn from them. By seeking their guidance and feedback, we demonstrate respect for their expertise and willingness to grow professionally.

Strategies for Building Rapport

Building rapport involves finding common ground with our superiors and fostering a sense of connection. You can do this by: 

– Show genuine interest in their work

– Seeking opportunities to collaborate

– Offering our support when needed 


Practical Strategies for Managing Up

Advocating for Yourself and Your Ideas

It is crucial to advocate for ourselves and our ideas in the workplace. This involves confidently expressing our opinions, providing well-reasoned justifications, and showcasing our unique perspectives. By effectively advocating for ourselves, we can gain recognition for our contributions and ensure that our ideas are considered and valued by our superiors.

Our top tip: always enter these conversations with proof, whether that’s number surrounding your performance, statistics on something’s effectiveness or examples within other companies. 

Navigating Difficult Conversations

Difficult conversations are inevitable. Effective communication, constant maintenance of respect and confidence is the way to navigate them. Here’s our formula for approaching these: 

1. Set time aside by putting a meeting in your superior’s calendar. If you can email them before the meeting with a brief explanation on why you need to meet with them.

2. Write out your primary talking points to ensure you don’t miss any major details

3. Maintain an even tone, kind language and a respectful manor while navigating your issue

4. Always thank them for their time, and meeting with you even if you didn’t get what you wanted from the conversation.

Overcoming Challenges in Managing Up

Dealing with Difficult Superiors

It’s happened to all of us, working under management that doesn’t quite align with us for whatever reason. When faced with difficult superiors, it’s important to remain calm and professional. Seeking to understand their perspective and acknowledging their concerns can help defuse tense situations. Maintaining clear and open communication can help bridge any gaps and find common ground. 

Managing Up in a Toxic Work Environment

Toxic workplaces are an entirely different issue. Although management is often a major part of this equation, often effective upward communication isn’t effective. In such situations, it is important to prioritise self-care and seek support from mentors and colleagues. Additionally, maintaining clear boundaries and focusing on our own growth and development can help mitigate the negative effects of a toxic work environment. It may also be time to move on, finding a role with a team more positively aligned. 

Interested in more content from WITS? Click here