Who’s Managing Whom?

Who’s Managing Whom?

Are you a manager who feels your team, or possibly a team member, is managing you?

Or are you an employee who feels you need to manage your manager?

Both of these situations are more common than you’d expect in the workplace, but why does it happen, how do you know it’s happening, and how do you prevent it?

Why Does Managing Up Occur?

There can be a number of reasons a team member or team feels the need to manage up. 

Most people don’t like to be out of control. It’s human nature. There are varying degrees of control individuals want, but everyone wants some level of control, which is directly correlated with their wants and needs.

If employees aren’t receiving what they want, there can be a sense or perception of a lack of control, in which case they, or possibly another team member, will likely insert themselves to fulfill it.

A lack of trust, clarity, or slower decision-making are other examples of why an employee may feel the need to step in and manage up, especially if a leader is a more conscientious decision-maker who needs more time or one that makes quick decisions without input from the team. 

At the end of the day, the main reason employees feel the need to manage up is because they are missing something they need to effectively do their job.

What Does Managing Up Look Like?

It’s important to note that managing up is not always a bad thing. There can be productive and effective ways to manage up that support the whole team, including the manager or leader. 

Healthy managing up looks like rising together, allowing for respectful collaboration, and accepting that while you may not have all the answers, your team does. Everyone mutually is focused on the team and has the best interests for the team.

There is also ineffective and unproductive managing up, which can be detrimental to a team and cause tension and anxiety, and eventually, turnover.

Unhealthy managing up may look like outspoken team members directing conversations and unwanted decisions. It may also look like frustration with your team or team frustration towards you.


The question is: are you turning a blind eye to it or addressing it?


3 Ways to Prevent Unproductive Managing Up

  1. Create Clarity: Team members need to understand and take ownership of their roles within the team. They need to know who the decision-makers are if you’re focused on collaboration, what your core focus is, your team goals, and any other pertinent information to successfully do their job.
  2. Be Transparent: What are the expectations of each team member? Being transparent with expectations and boundaries is vital to maintaining a healthy balance of control and support.
  3. Build Trust: Trust is one of the biggest pillars of a healthy foundation a team can be built on and a leading reason employees feel the need to manage up. This means getting to know your team, their styles, their motivators, and yes, even their personal lives, to build trust. This also means listening and supporting their needs.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the biggest symptom of managing up derives from a lack of understanding of your individual work style and each team member’s work style, which is the makeup of your team culture.

You don’t get to pick your team’s work styles, but understanding each person’s style and how they work effectively will eliminate the need for unproductive managing up and may even promote healthy managing up. 

As an Everything DiSC® Authorized Partner, I not only assess but also interpret an individual’s work style to create a health plan to support adaptation and interaction with others to create a win-win for the individual and the team as a whole. 

If you’re run down and frustrated with feeling like you’ve lost control, it’s time to schedule a 15-minute assessment with me to determine the healthiest path forward.

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