Why the Strong Job Market Empowers You to Manage Up

With the second-longest economic recovery period on record underway and jobless claims at historically low levels, this employment climate may be just the ticket to manage up with a difficult boss or coworker. This is arguably an excellent time to encourage some behavioral shifts, with maximum potential and lower risks for your career.

Employees are quitting for greener pastures in record numbers in recent months and salaries are going through the roof. From January to May 2018, Americans who switched jobs enjoyed 48% larger annual salary boosts than those who didn’t change jobs.

That doesn’t mean you should jump ship. But it does put you in a position of greater control. It means you can take more chances to improve upon challenging relationships at work. I recently shared these four tips with Psychology Today on ways to manage up effectively.

  1. Be delicate in your approach. Observe anyone who’s sustained a long term personal or business relationship and you’ll notice they’re masters at diplomacy. For example: “Stop being so negative all the time!” versus “Is everything all right; can I help in some way?” When you can help your boss or colleague save face, or you can sandwich constructive criticism between genuine, positive compliments, your comments hold much more weight.
  2. Reinforce good behavior. Acknowledge the behavior you want to promote: “When you said ‘great job’ to the team, everyone was beaming. I wasn’t sure if you noticed it.” Even managers thrive on praise, so you’ll likely encourage your boss to think about the positive impact at the next opportunity. There’s always that fine line between positive reinforcement and patronizing. You can’t go overboard … and will have to gauge response.
  3. Don’t reinforce bad behavior. Consider whether your own actions could be rewired to achieve a different response. Maybe you have a boss who asks you to stay late consistently and you haven’t discouraged the requests. You might try: “Tonight, I have something important to take care of, but I’ll be focused in the morning and I’m sure I’ll make a lot of headway,” delivered with strong eye contact and a confident smile. This works the same way as it does with demanding toddlers. When they’re told, “No,” and are given reasonable alternatives, they adjust their expectations. (Of course, you can’t refuse tasks on a steady basis if you like your job, but boundary-setting is key in any relationship!)
  4. Recognize the importance of feelings. Try to understand what’s really driving the person to the bad behavior … from the most basic human perspective. Do they feel challenged? Hurt or embarrassed? Are they fearful of losing control? You’re leading with an emotionally intelligent approach—and providing motivation for change.

To learn more about managing up, be sure to read my entire Psychology Today article.