Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Managing Up

How to make the best out of your inter-office relationships
Try to consistently be a part of the solution. If you begin to think about what the overall goal of your department is, versus the temporary goals of your daily job, then “managing up” will be a piece of cake.

Wherever you sit on the interoffice ladder, there’s a fair chance that part of your job is managing people. Even if you’re at the bottom, managing up should be a priority in your daily routine. What does this mean? It means that even though you may not be anyone’s boss, you still have to conduct yourself in a positive and constructive way when dealing with superiors to get things done. If you’re good at it, your job may even get easier. There are many ways of approaching this, but it can all be boiled down into one simple idea: consistently be a part of the solution. If you begin to think about what the overall goal of your department is, versus the temporary goals of your daily job, then “managing up” will be a piece of cake.

Begin by understanding the expectations of your office, and adhere to them. Is there an expectation that you be on time, or that you wear appropriate clothing? Don’t look at the person next to you and say “they aren’t wearing slacks, so I’m not going to.” The person to which you are comparing yourself may not be in the best graces with your boss, and following his example could lead to more problems for you. Adhering to the expectations, however, does not mean that you should make clear when someone is failing at them. Leave it alone, and only approach your boss when there is a problem of real significance to your, or his, overall goals. Even though you may be at the bottom, come prepared with possible solutions to the problem, but don’t be offended if he doesn’t take them. By doing this, you will look smart and well informed, and you will also show resilience. On the same token, if you make a mistake, or must deliver bad news, showing that you are committed to fixing your own problem will go a long way too. For example, you lost an advertising account because you were accidentally late for an appointment. Tell your boss that you will put in more hours of personalized research for the account, so you can approach them with a better sales and advertising strategy that they can’t refuse. He will probably think it is admirable that you are willing to take responsibility, not only for the mistake, but fixing it as well.

Take criticism well;don’t get defensive or act hurt. Take the criticism and use it to improve your work. No, your boss might not always be fair, but by shrugging off anything personal, and finding the key points of the criticism, you may be able to make a change that will benefit you in the long run. If you must argue a point with you boss—if there’s something that you don’t understand or vehemently disagree with—don’t lose your cool, but talk with him using his terms. As someone involved with sales, this should be an old hat. You talk to you customers using their terms, and in a language they understand. Do the same with your boss. Pick up words or phrases they use or find important, and integrate them into your discussion. This should bring you up to your boss’ level, making a discussion with you about problems seem more like a friendly conversation.

Finally, have a good attitude. You may not always have good things to say, but try not to be consistently negative. Negative comments that are given without an alternative often manifest themselves into frustration, not only with the problem, but the person who said them. Instead, accompany your negative remarks with something positive, like, “the auto repair shop decided not to do an ad package with us, but they do seem interested in social media.” Staying positive and providing a solution will keep your boss thinking that you are a team player with good ideas. He may even think of you the next time he wants to promote someone.

These tips are well and good if you are at the bottom of the office food chain, but what if you are at the top? This same structure can be used similarly, with a few adjustments, to provide a good working environment for your employees.

Set up a reasonable code of conduct and stick to it. Make sure that your employees are aware and informed of your expectations for them, but don’t fly off the handle if someone is five minutes late. Understand that mistakes happen, and as long as your employees consistently live up to your expectations, they shouldn’t be chastised. On the other hand, if you have an employee that is consistently late, or does not adhere to the dress code, let them know that something needs to change. Allowing them to slack while others follow the rules could make your employees resent each other and you.

If you make a mistake, own up to it. For example, if you dropped the ball and made a budgeting mistake that affects one of your employees, let him know and apologize, don’t allow him deal with the consequences on his own. Your employees will respect you for admitting fault and taking steps to solve both their and your problems. By showing them you aren’t perfect, your employees may feel more comfortable coming to you when they have made a mistake or need help. If they do, don’t overly criticize them. Make it clear where they went wrong, and if they don’t have a solution, help them come up with one. Do your best to disperse constructive feedback that isn’t personal. If your employees seem to have a hard time understanding what you’re saying, try changing the way you are communicating to relate to them better. And finally, just as you expect your employees to do, stay positive. Remember, you are often responsible for setting the tone for office behaviors. By staying upbeat and positive whenever possible, your employees will enjoy their time at the office and appreciate your good attitude.