Managing Up | How to Provide Feedback to Your Manager was originally published on Idealist Careers.
You have a new job, or a new manager, and something isn’t working. You and your boss aren’t seeing eye to eye and you’re getting frustrated—or worse, you’re starting to check out.
Or maybe you’re finding that you and your manager have similar points of view and you want to standardize how you communicate. Perhaps you’d like to grow more comfortable with delivering feedback, but you’re not sure how to begin.
Whether you’re hoping to change your relationship with your manager or are just looking for a shift in communication, it’s up to you to voice your perspective and manage up.
Managing up at work
Managing up can help you learn how to structure your professional relationships and take ownership of your work—more than that, it’s a powerful communication skill.
We often communicate with people in the manner with which we want to be communicated; to develop a relationship with someone who is above you in the hierarchy, you’ll need to adapt your communication method to one that works for them.
Maybe emails are a great way for co-workers to get in touch with you, but you know that your manager tends to gloss over them. Perhaps they prefer Slack messages when it comes to day-to-day work or in-person meetings to present important project updates. Ask them which modes of communication work best so you can find a useful middle ground.
Once you recognize how to talk to your manager, consider any tasks or questions you may have that affect your professional relationship. Our friends at The Management Center have a fantastic resource on how to get aligned with your manager on specific projects or in your day-to-day work. You can also apply their 2×2 feedback form to structure your check-ins with each other.
Here are some topics to think about when you’re ready for this conversation:
- Communication preferences
- How to prioritize the work
- Management styles
- What success looks like
- When and how to debrief after a project is completed
How to provide feedback to your manager
If you don’t have experience managing up, it may feel daunting to start. But remember that feedback is an important part of the manager-direct report relationship, so if something isn’t working for you, speak up!
Here, we share five ways to provide feedback to your manager, depending on the situation:
1. When you want to set up regular check-ins
Hi [NAME OF SUPERVISOR],
I’d love to schedule a series of check-ins with you to ensure that we have an opportunity to align and communicate on a more regular basis. It would be really helpful for me to give progress updates on certain projects and be able to ask for guidance or feedback in a structured manner. What do you think about setting up a weekly or biweekly meeting?
2. When you’re looking for clarity on a project
When you’re put on a new project, it’s important to touch base with your manager one-on-one when you need to clarify certain details. Here are a few talking points that may be useful for this conversation:
- Mention that you’re excited to begin working on the new project, but that there are a few details you’d like to go over.
- Restate what you believe is your role in the project and ask your manager to clarify if you misunderstood anything.
- Be specific about what you find confusing and ask questions about expected deliverables.
- Set up at least one follow-up call or meeting to share a progress update to ensure you’re on the right track.
3. When you’re feeling overworked
Sometimes the work piles up and your manager may not be aware of how much you have on your plate—it happens! Here are some ways to flag your manager and ask for help with managing tasks:
- Make a list of your tasks, as well as their respective deadlines, so you have a clear view of everything you’re working on.
- Provide an overview of your schedule to highlight which tasks you need help managing.
- Ask your manager if they are able to help with your workload, deprioritize certain tasks, or delegate work to another team member.
4. When you’d like more feedback on your work
After completing a project, you may want to discuss the work with your manager to learn what you did well or where you could improve. Here are some ways to ask your manager for feedback:
- Let your manager know that you’d like to talk about the project for the purpose of gathering feedback. If you need help structuring this conversation, The Management Center has a great debriefing template you can fill out with your manager.
- Share which aspects of the project you felt were successful, as well as whether you feel there is room for improvement.
- Ask your manager for their perspective on how you managed the work, and ask clarifying questions to gather specific feedback.
5. When you want to share positive feedback with your manager
Hi [NAME OF SUPERVISOR], I wanted to let you know that I loved your presentation on [NAME OF PROJECT]. The presentation clearly took a lot of time and work, and I specifically appreciated how you outlined the project goals and obstacles. I thought the end result was incredibly clear and engaging.
As you grow more comfortable with managing up, you can start to share positive feedback in less formal ways, such as a Slack message or during one of your in-person meetings. Not only will it allow your manager to see that you appreciate their work, but it will also encourage them to share more casual, positive feedback with you.
Recognizing how you and your manager like to communicate is essential to managing up. But what if you’re not sure how to describe your communication style or are working with someone who has a different style than you? Take our quiz for helpful descriptions and tips on interacting with co-workers.