How to Manage Up And Build a Relationship With Your Boss


The relationship you have with your boss/direct manager has a huge influence on your experience at work. Whether your boss is your bff or you're dealing with a difficult one, there are ways to strengthen the relationship so that you're creating a productive work environment where you feel supported. Ideally, your boss will become an ally who will advocate for you for the rest of your career, wherever you go. 

Image by    Laura Salaberry

Understand your boss' objectives, goals, and dreams. 
When we're just starting our careers, it's easy to be laser-focused on how we're doing and advancing. But no matter how senior your boss is, they have their own set of objectives and goals they're trying to achieve, whether on a business level (ex. grow the team X% and set the standard on how strategy is done at [agency]), or a personal one (ex. establish better work-life balance). The more you understand what your boss is working towards, the better you'll be able to help them get there in ways big and small, and to empathize with what else is on their plate. Don't forget to learn more about who your boss is outside of work too—that personal connection will give you insight into how they operate in the office.

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Overcommunicate about what's going on.
You'll hear this from multiple sources and anecdotally from managers: being caught off guard is not a good look or feeling for your boss. Be sure to keep them updated on your progress towards a deadline or the status of a project. Flag roadblocks or issues early. Again, your boss has a lot on their plate, so help them keep up with everything so they feel like they have a handle on what's going on. Be sure to find out your boss' preferred format for these updates, be it a quick message on Slack, bulleted email, or an in-person pop-in. You want these updates to be informative, not irritating.

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Be vocal with your feedback.
Contrary to popular belief, managers don't know everything. Many become managers before they feel they're ready, and are figuring it out as they go, just as you are figuring out your role when you start in the industry. Help them become a better manager for you by giving them feedback, insight into your superpowers, and how to get the best work from you. Whether it's how they oversaw a project you were on, or whether their tough love approach to mentorship is effective or not, be sure to let them know what is and is not working. Bring solutions and suggestions to keep the feedback constructive—you're goal is help them grow, not tear them down (which should be the way your manager gives you feedback too).

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