How Well Do You Manage Others Up?

In late 2019, an insurance company ran two different commercials that suggested “good enough” was not really good enough when choosing insurance. One of the commercials showed a mechanic who spoke poorly of their track record and qualifications, leading the customer to wonder if their brakes were truly fixed. The other profiled a surgeon who told a patient he was “pretty good” at the pending procedure. Both presented the opposite of “managing up.” Managing up in the workplace is the sharing of positive information about another person, place, or process. Every employer wants their teams to manage up the service they provide and each other. This is as simple as saying great things about the services and the team.

One of my tenets for managing up is what I call Grandma’s Rule. Grandma’s Rule is “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Doing so serves no purpose. Conversely, managing up another person, place, or process serves the purpose of instilling confidence and reducing anxiety.

One of the best examples of the value of managing up exists in healthcare. Who doesn’t want to hear positive things about the team that is taking care of them, or the facility they are visiting, or the procedure they will be receiving? Telling me that you are an expert phlebotomist before you draw my blood absolutely lessens my anxiety. Hearing that my physician is the best in her field, and that she has performed hundreds of the same procedures serves the purpose of putting me at ease. Often, we hesitate to manage ourselves up fearing that it sounds like bragging. Bragging serves the person who is doing the bragging and managing up serves those receiving the information.

As you might expect, managing down creates the opposite effect. Hearing negative things about someone or something related to a service I am seeking causes me concern and potential angst. Sometimes the manage down is inadvertent and borne of an intention to commiserate. An example would be when the nurse manages down the physician stating that “he is typically late in meeting with his patients, because he takes on too many in one day.” Hearing this only serves the purpose of making me feel badly for being one of those patients requiring the physician’s time. It makes me part of the problem. I would certainly prefer to hear, “Dr. Jordan is running a bit behind. He spends quality time with each patient and will be with you in less than five minutes. He is amazing and you are in great hands.” These words help me appreciate the physician, understand his tardiness, and increase my willingness to wait without concern.


> What process or service did you manage up today?

> Who have you managed up today?

> How do you make managing up others, processes and services part of your daily expression?

> Who has benefited from your ability to practice managing up?

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Words We Choose. I'd love your feedback!

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