The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RLF Discusses Strategies for New Employees - Managing Yourself and Managing Up

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The RLF session for Thursday, October 18, 2012 featured two speakers, Meredith Wilson Chang ¹07 and Elizabeth Owens, both working for the Department of Defense. The focus of today's session was managing up, or how to work with upper level leadership from positions with less authority. One of the main considerations was understanding how to work with a manager in such a way that allows both the subordinate and the superior to succeed, for the relationship between employees and their bosses largely impacts the group effectiveness.

We broke up into groups where we worked through three different scenarios. In each, we discussed ways of addressing specific problems with upper level management. In terms of dealing with these sorts of issues, there were four key points to keep in mind: 1) Recognize that your boss has goals so that you understand his motivations for assigning you certain tasks, and try to understand those goals. 2) Understand the pressure your boss is under because he too has higher authorities to report to. 3) Realize that your boss has constraints because there may be some factors outside of his sphere of influence (try to find out what those constraints are). 4) Your boss has information needs and a communication style, remember that he needs to know certain information in order to make decisions and has a preference for how he wants that information conveyed to him.

Chang and Owens talked about emotions that may derive from any of the scenarios discussed earlier in the session and Sadhana gave us some great advice. She drew two circles on the chalk board, a smaller circle inside a larger one.  The smaller circle is our circle of influence, the larger is our circle of concern.  The circle of influence were things we can change ourselves or have a direct impact on, while the circle of concern were things that are beyond our control.  She advised us to stay inside our circle of influence.

The session ended with Meredith Chang stressing to us that managing up is not just about making our work environment better for ourselves, but that we should strive to see how we fit into the bigger picture of the organization.  If we can recognize the mission of the organization and strive to achieve that mission, we will soon become recognized as credible leaders and move us forward faster in our careers and because of that, our circle of influence will grow and our circle of concern will decrease.

-Zack Doherty '13

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences