Managing Upwards

Managing upwards is as important as managing your reports. When done correctly it establishes a productive relationship between you and your manager. Managing upwards is mostly about clearly set expectations. For example, you can make sure they don’t forget about previous discussed action points. Or you taking ownership of something they had assigned to themselves. Instead of them delegating tasks for you, you volunteer for those tasks. You are basically taking things out of their plate. These can be:

  1. Writing processes.
  2. Facilitate a post-mortem.
  3. Lead a new squad.
  4. Find a solution for a particular technical problem.
  5. Write an RFC on observability, or identify bottlenecks in the system.

All these things result in your manager having more time to focus on other problems. It also builds trust. Your manager starts to rely more on your ability to get things done. A good manager will allow and welcome being managed upwards. In fact, they should encourage this from their reports. A bad one will think they are losing control and will take offence if this happens. As you go higher in the hierarchy, it’s expected that you will find problems and solve them by yourself. The higher you go, the less guidance you will get. You are hired to identify issues and facilitate their resolution. This is true both as a manager, but also when you go beyond Senior Engineer. The latter is not so clear to ICs. They imagine that Staff and Principal roles are doing the same, but earning more. Nothing could be further from the truth. We will discuss this at a later point.