How to “manage up” from home

I had the good fortunate of having a chat with The Economist about some practical strategies in raising your awareness inside your company while working from home. You can see the original article here, but I have C&P it below.

• • •

Telecommuting requires new interpersonal skills. That is especially true if you’re trying to stay on the boss’s radar or earn a promotion. Without brainstorming sessions and spontaneous coffee klatches, workers need to find new ways to strut their stuff and get noticed. Keeping your head down and focusing on your work isn’t enough.

  • Remote working is here to stay. This isn’t a short-term stopgap. According to an Upwork survey, 61.9% of hiring managers expect their workforce to be more remote after the pandemic. Businesses are rejigging office environments to minimise physical proximity, including at least part-time telecommuting.
  • And it’s a more level playing-field. “Sycophants are suffering during this pandemic,” says Leila Bulling Towne, an executive coach. Research from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that teleworking isn’t a barrier for employees with an eye on the corner office: its survey found that telecommuters and non-telecommuters did not differ in number of promotions.

So what’s the best approach? The experts we asked say that most “managing up” practices don’t change: keep learning, find mentors, take on more responsibility. But new tactics are needed when working remotely:

  • Be vocal about your work. “Be an advocate for yourself with readily available, concrete examples of achievements and strong performance,” advises Tiffany Glenn of ADP, a provider of human-resource software and services. Keep a journal or brag document in which you list your achievements and log outcomes. (This is handy anyway, for example when preparing for an annual review.) Every week, send a brief email summarising accomplishments (including tasks the boss didn’t know you were working on), challenges you’re facing—and how the boss can help.
  • Make the most of one-to-one meetings. A regular meeting builds trust and rapport, and ensures that your manager knows what you’ve done and where you aim to go. “Direct managers have the most impact on the engagement of employees,” says Katy Tynan, an expert on the future of work at Forrester, a consultancy. Teleworkers should insist on a regular, one-to-one meeting, she says. Use the time to ask for feedback, discuss professional-development plans, learn about corporate strategies, discuss career paths, get office scuttlebutt and connect personally.
  • Ask for help. Don’t be shy. Nobody can see if you’re struggling with a deadline. Or to put the advice more formally: “Network!” says Rebecca Wettemann of, a human-resources consultancy. In the absence of in-person scheduled or impromptu meetings, she says, “it’s harder to stay visible with management and identify other people who can help you advance your career.” So use your company’s networking tools, find mentors to connect with virtually and join professional groups, she advises.
  • Offer to help, too. Be generous and public with praise. Let everyone know when people around you do awesome things. This raises your peers’ profile and transitively raises your own. Ask your boss if you can “take something off their plate”. Doing so shows you can take on important work and can rise to a “level-up” challenge. “What important pre-crisis work is your manager not able to get to? Can you do the work, or learn it quickly? If yes, raise your hand,” suggests Phyllis Mooney, executive director of career services at Pace University.

But managing up isn’t just about impressing your line manager; taking a broader view of your company’s activities can help too.

  • Get noticed by people above your direct manager. Promotions happen when you impress the people who influence your boss. In the office, you might have had a hallway conversation with those executives, but that’s no longer possible. So “listen and learn from the CEO and senior leadership during all-hands meetings,” says Will Stewart, an economist and advisor for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. The strategies expressed by those execs will be pushed downwards to your boss.
  • Take the initiative. Alternatively, contribute to the new strategies—particularly because the pandemic means companies are more open to unconventional and creative ideas on how to turn things around, advises Mansur Khamitov, professor of marketing and consumer psychology at the Nanyang Business School in Singapore. Hatch a plan for something your organisation might test, improve or achieve. It’s more likely to be noticed—and so are you.

Above all, look for opportunities, not necessarily a promotion. Although working at home presents new opportunities for career advancement, look for ways to improve your skills, right now, rather than angling for a raise. “Crises are not a time to negotiate increased titles and compensation,” says Ms Mooney. “Jump in and do the work, learn new skills, build your network, and don’t be afraid to fail. When the time is right, the actual promotion will come, either at this company—or in your next job somewhere else.”

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