Know When to Manage Up – And Down


Transitioning into a new position is challenging on a number of different levels.

Getting to know your new colleagues and direct reports… settling into a new routine… learning where the coffee is located… it’s exciting, stressful, and regenerative, all at the same time.

A transition that is usually overlooked, but vital to making a smooth entry into a new job, is the transition from managing up, into managing down.

What do I mean by this?

Well, throughout the interview process for your position, you’ve been catering to a coterie of folks who held your career in their hands: hiring managers, search committees, HR staff, your new boss. Your focus has been on selling yourself to these decision makers and influencers. Managing up, as it were.

But now, you have the job. And you must transition into managing new relationships with the people who work for you: managing down.

Perhaps this seems like a silly distinction.

But over the years, I’ve seen hires who are better at managing up, rather than managing down, or vice versa – and it colors everything within the organization; from corporate culture, to strategy development, to operations and customer service.

If you’re doing a great job at managing your boss, but a terrible job of managing your team, this might be a winning stratagem – until your performance metrics catch up with you. Likewise, if you are a “player’s coach”, but lose the faith of your team “owner”, you also place yourself in a very precarious position.

Career success is predicated largely upon the way you manage your relationships. Successfully navigating between the people you report to, as well as the people who report to you, is a fine balancing act. It isn’t a static system.

It’s not uncommon for hires to fail, because they are incapable of making this existential transition, from candidate to employee.

For those hiring into your organization, help shepherd them through the process, with a strong program of onboarding.

And, if you find yourself going through the process, focus on when it’s time to stop managing up – and  being staking your ownership in this next step of your career. By learning to manage down.

Go, and be you.