No Image Available

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

How To Influence Upwards


The ability to manage and influence colleagues effectively is the key to professional and personal success. However, managing co-workers does not just mean your peers or those below who you are responsible for. It includes managing those above, including your boss. Apart from making your job easier, upward management has many benefits such as better understanding, co-operation and team work, more productivity, problems better addressed, less frustration and stress, and of course, recognition, promotion and potentially an increased salary.  It is important to understand this does not mean using ingratiating behaviour or flattering your superiors. It is about mutual support, trust, respect and integrity.

Follow these ten guidelines to managing up efficiently and effectively:

 1.    First and most important is, understand your boss
In “The Effective Executive”, management guru Peter Drucker points out that some people are “listeners” and others are “readers”. Understand whether your boss prefers visual or auditory communication. When explaining your point of view, you need to match his preferred mode by showing him visuals, discussing with him or letting him read your brief first.
 2.    Learn how he works
This is necessary in building and maintaining rapport and relationship. Understand your boss’s working context and management style. Is it top-down or bottom-up, is she formal or casual. Be confident, but polite and professional. With self-belief, assurance and using positive verbal and non-verbal cues, you will be able to connect with either type of boss.
 3.    Build on your boss’s strengths
Consider what she does really well and then support her by asking yourself what she needs from you to do it better. You may have to anticipate such needs at times. Always follow through on your commitments.
 4.    Learn to negotiate
Supporting your boss does not mean saying yes all the time. Make him aware of your saturation point and the consequences to him, you and the company, of being overloaded. Prioritise.
 5.    Be specific in your needs
Never exaggerate or stretch the truth. Overstating a case will rob you of credibility and you will not be taken seriously in future.
 6.    Don’t suck-up to your superiors
If you do, in time, you will be seen as a brown-nose incompetent and lose the respect of your colleagues. This will also reflect on your lack of leadership abilities which will not pave the way to the boardroom.
 7.    Learn to admit mistakes
Although it is best to avoid them, mistakes happen. Even your boss is not exempt. The best and in fact the only option is to take responsibility for your mistakes. This shows character and courage. Own up and clearly show how you will rectify them. This will increase trust in your ability and respect for your integrity.  
 8.    Be a team player
You do not need to snuff out another’s flame to make yours burn brighter. Have empathy for other members of the team, including your boss, and learn to see things from their perspective even if you do not always agree. Acknowledge and compliment good work from others.
 9.    Be patient
You need to create trust and rapport which may not happen all at once. Building credibility takes time.
 10.    Work with a mentor or coach if necessary

Recognise your limitations and get help where and when needed.

If you follow these tips, you will not only make your work easier but also make your boss more efficient. The important thing to remember, though, is that the starting point of managing your boss’s performance is managing your own. The best action point is perhaps Drucker’s: “Think through these and other guidelines, then think through your values. Do not apply your strengths to a position that will destroy your values.”

Cathy Wellings is Head Of Intercultural And Communication Skills Training at Communicaid a culture and business communication skills consultancy.


No Image Available

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!