Managing Up Tips for Millennials | Managing Up Training and Tips

Managing up effectively can be a key to success in the workplace for millennials and early career professionals. These managing up best practices can help improve their effectiveness.

Managing up tips for millennials can often be a key to success in the corporate jungle.  Managing up doesn’t mean telling your boss what to do (not unless you’re looking for a quick exit).  It means taking the time to analyze your boss (or other senior leadership), their personality, work style, interests, etc. to determine how you can make their life easier and help them be successful.

As Millennials are often considered the greenest employees in the workplace, the concept of “managing up” can be an intimidating if not complicated one.  Millennials are often walking a delicate tightrope trying to balance maintaining humility and teachability while demonstrating leadership and being proactive.  So, developing specific techniques and best practices for managing up effectively can be tricky.  As a corporate trainer who has worked with hundreds of teams and individuals, I’m sharing a few of my favorite managing up tips for millennials.

Managing Up Tips for Millennials


Turn statements into questions for delicate topics

One of the trickiest scenarios for any employee (and moreso for millennials) is pushing back on a manager’s ideas, decisions, or recommendations.  While it obviously may not be appropriate to outright “overrule” your boss, it is important that you voice valid concerns when you have them.  You may have more detailed information, a unique perspective, or just a better idea, and the best employees will find a way to share that with their boss so they can make the best decision for the organization.  A great technique for doing this is turning your statement into a question.  For example, if your boss is recommending an expensive series of focus groups for market research, you might suggest alternate ideas by asking a pointed question like this… “Jim, I definitely see the value of conducting focus groups, but it looks like that could consume almost half our budget and if there are any glitches with the focus group schedule, costs could run higher.  I’m just wondering if incorporating a social media campaign with a survey and random prizes might provide a higher response rate with lower costs?  It’s just a thought….what do you think?”

Don’t hide your talents

While it’s true that newer employees usually have less experience and may be learning quite a bit during the first few years, it’s also true that as recent graduates (or new hires transitioning from other companies or industries), they also often have unique skills or perspectives that can be very valuable in the workplace.  If you think Prezi would be a better platform for the new sales materials or you could really enhance the website using the Java/Photoshop skills that you acquired during your last internship, speak up!  Managers need to best utilize their bench of talent, and they simply can’t do that if they don’t know who can do what!  So, don’t brag, but certainly speak up and volunteer to help out where your talents can help move the team forward.  Don’t necessarily wait to be asked to pitch in to help.

Propose new big ideas

A huge benefit of being new is having a fresh perspective.  Newer employees see everything with fresh eyes and that’s immensely valuable.  Part of the reason why companies often pay the big bucks to consulting firms to help them analyze their business is that they bring an objective, fresh perspective having gained best practices from a wide variety of companies.  Believe it or not, millennials often possess some of these same qualities.  It’s so easy for senior leaders to fall into the rut of doing things the same ways, using the same tools, etc. and that can lead to substandard results.  If you see a process that’s broken or can recommend a new sales template or application that worked well at your last internship/company, it’s an opportunity for you to not just make a recommendation but also show some leadership.

Use the 3 Magic Questions of Delegation

Let’s face it – all managers aren’t great at delegating…or communicating for that matter.  So, a key element of managing up is helping them clarify communications to ensure you’re on the same page (particularly when you’re being assigned a task).  As a corporate trainer I often teach leaders to ask these 3 magic questions of delegation when they’re assigning a new task:

  1. What is Your Understanding of the Task?
  2. What Will Be Your First Few Steps to Begin Work to Complete the Task?
  3. What Will the Final Deliverable Actually Look Like?

Unfortunately, most managers won’t ask those specific questions so get in the habit of answering them proactively when you’re being assigned a new task (particularly if you have any level of confusion about the task or goals).  For example, you might say something like this as you conclude a meeting where you’ve ben assigned a new task.

  1. Just to clarify, do you mind if I summarize my understanding of the task just to be sure I understood you correctly?
  2. Just to be sure I’m on the right track, I wanted to share my first few steps. First, I’m planning to get copies of the previous RFPs, then I’ll schedule meeting rooms for the interviews, then I’ll draft an email to send to last year’s respondents to invite them to an information session.  Does that sound good?
  3. I have a good idea of what you’re looking for with this business plan, but just to be sure I’m not missing anything and I’m giving you exactly what you want, could I email you a sample template to show you what I’m planning to include and exclude in the business plan?

Of course, it’s always important to take time to proactively clarify the who, what, why, when, where, and how of any assignment, but these 3 specific questions truly help avoid possible misunderstandings and most importantly help your boss get what they want the FIRST time!

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Dana Brownlee is the author of The Unwritten Rules of Managing Up: Project Management Techniques from the Trenches (to be published by Berrett-Koehler publishers January 2019).  President of Atlanta based Professionalism Matters, Inc., Dana is an acclaimed keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and team development consultant. She can be reached at Connect with her on Linked In or Twitter @DanaBrownlee.