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Managing from the bottom: How I influence my boss

27. January 2020 / general

“Is it really possible to manage my boss?” You may now be asking yourself this question. The answer is: Yes! I know from experience that the most important thing is to gain the complete trust of your superior by showing him* that he has your full backing. The second step is to find out what is important to your manager and what makes him tick. You can then start to exert a positive influence over him. Managing from the bottom up requires patience, intuition, good observation skills and a tactical approach.

I once had a very well-known boss – the CEO of a major bank. He was highly respected by employees but his very confident demeanor and authoritative approach meant that few people dared to tell him the unvarnished truth … but I did. And he was the best boss I ever had, even if he came across as “somewhat bad tempered”, as my mother liked to say. He was clearly in charge of me – but I also managed him, and he allowed himself to be guided by me. I think we both benefited from this; it was an absolute win-win situation. And I am certain that he would confirm what I am saying.


Bosses are only human

Why is it that both sides can benefit from these efforts to manage from the bottom up? To avoid any confusion: I am not talking about ‘bossing’ your line manager around. The objective is to have a positive effect on your superior as you work together to achieve the same thing by trying to bring about certain decisions and positively influence behavior based on the idea that this is in everyone’s interests. Managers are not perfect. From experience, I would say that strong and confident bosses are aware of this and don’t simply want to ‘rule’ others based on their position; instead, they want to use the expertise and personal skills of their employees and they therefore take them seriously – which benefits both them and the company.

So what steps should you take to manage your boss upwards? You should begin by noting a few rules about how you should not treat your superior:



Gain his complete trust

So what can help you to influence your boss positively to achieve the best outcome for both sides?



If you have a poor boss, don’t play the victim. Instead, try to view his approach as a gift. You could learn a lot from him – e.g. how not to manage people, how you can stand up for yourself without risking an open conflict, or which strategies should be used to achieve your goal.

Managing from the bottom up calls for a lot of intuition, good observation skills and a tactical approach. If you manage your boss successfully, this can benefit both sides – since it is in the interests of you, your manager and the company.


*  I would again like to point out in this context that only the masculine form has been used in this article to make it more readable – although all of this content naturally also applies to female managers!


© Claudia Kraaz


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