Managing up. A fancy term for manipulation? Or a negotiation strategy?
Updated: Feb 25
“Typical workplace ass-kissing.”
This comment caught my attention. The author wrote the comment in response to hearing me describe the “managing up” strategy I teach the leadership teams working with me. This conversation took place on The Podcast with Dr. Kevin Pho.
The commenter and I don’t see managing up in the same way. And this discrepancy got me thinking. About the power of learning to manage up. And about my core belief that I can influence my environment by building relationships.
I recognize that many people may have a cynical view of building relationships in the workplace. And I want to challenge that cynical view. I’m also curious to hear from you. What do you think? Is “managing up” simply a cynical way to manipulate people with more power? Maybe you’re not sure.
Let me explain how I see managing up. And then I’d love to hear what you think.
Managing up involves empathy and a willingness to set aside your agenda while you commit to learning about another person’s perspective on a challenging situation. It requires listening deeply to the person in front of you until you uncover what matters most to them in this moment and this situation. And then, this strategy requires that you persistently engage with the individual until you develop common ground, a place of shared values that will allow both sides to move towards a common goal.
Managing up is a long-term strategy to engage higher-power individuals in negotiation.
We cannot negotiate alone. As Alexandra Carter says in Ask For More, negotiation is like “navigating” a complex waterway.
As healthcare leaders and changemakers, you and I are in a canoe with many other people. Some have more power than you do. Some have less. But we will not navigate the rapids successfully unless we develop shared values and bring the people paddling with us together to achieve a shared outcome.
Managing up is not easy. It’s not always successful. And when it works, it can take years.
p.s. Now it’s your turn. What do you think about managing up? Is it a term to sanitize "workplace ass kissing" and manipulation? Or is it a sophisticated strategy to negotiate policy and culture change in healthcare?
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