It’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with the realities of corporate life, but I remember it well. Here in Silicon Valley, it was always interesting (and sometimes highly entertaining) to notice who managed well.
And by managing well, I mean it in the broadest sense of the word.
Some people manage “down” very well. They have the skill and the knack of making their direct reports (a nicer word than subordinates or underlings) feel good. They do an appropriate amount of nurturing and can still be firm. They know how to get performance out of people.
That also applies to the ability to work with people who don’t report to you, whom you don’t perceive as powerful in your sphere, and how you treat them.
“Managing down” is what we called it.
You’d think it would be highly valued. But managing staff and others wasn’t always the key to corporate success.
Corporate success usually came to those who did a great job of “managing UP.”
In other words, if you understood how to work your boss, chances are you’d do well. You’d get opportunities that others wouldn’t, and maybe even promotions. Sometimes it meant kissing your boss’ ass but other times it meant just knowing how to work appropriately with him or her. Making the boss look good is key to “managing up.” Or at least making them think you’re making them look good.
I once worked for a boss who slept with her boss. It was a full-out affair, and an extreme case of managing up and doing it effectively, at least until the board of directors dumped her. Just after they dumped HIM.
Yes, managing up” can be tricky.
Some people are equally effective at both managing up and managing down. They have the talent to know how to interact with anyone in an organization. And those were people I respected and admired.
But it was always the most fun is to watch people who only manage up really well and who think that no one notices that they discount everyone else.
I’m around a few organizations these days, and I’m someone who pays attention, even when what’s going on doesn’t involve me.
In fact, just saw someone very full of themselves define the word “obsequious” in a meeting with people they thought were influential, and then, at a later meeting, with people they thought were inconsequential, behave entirely differently.
Yes, watching someone manage up, but not down, can be very entertaining for disinterested onlookers.