Managing Up

Managing Up: So, You Think You’re Smarter Than Your Boss?

It’s an age-old dilemma: You find yourself in the unfortunate position of feeling like you’re the brilliant mastermind stuck under the thumb of a bumbling, incompetent boss. Well, join the club! You’re not alone in this predicament. But what can you do about it? The answer is to buckle up and learn the art of “managing up.”

Managing up is the delicate dance of making your boss’s life easier while showcasing your own talents and abilities. It’s about supporting your boss, even if you secretly think you could do their job better than they can. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into the do’s and don’ts of managing up when you’re smarter than your boss. Grab a coffee, and let’s get started.

1. Be Honest with Yourself

Before you start complaining about your boss’s incompetence, take a moment to reflect on your own skills and qualifications. Are you truly more qualified or skilled than your boss, or is it possible that you excel in some areas while your boss excels in others?

It’s essential to be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, and to recognize that being smarter than your boss doesn’t automatically make you a better leader. To be successful in your role, you need experience, strong relationships, social capital, and emotional intelligence.

2. Keep Quiet and Avoid Gossip

If you have concluded that you are in fact more qualified or skilled than your boss, think twice before discussing this with others. Complaining about your boss’s incompetence can reflect poorly on you and damage your professional relationships.

Instead of bad-mouthing your manager, focus on being respectful and professional. Venting to trusted colleagues may provide temporary relief, but be cautious about sharing your frustrations too widely.

3. Focus on Doing a Good Job

Instead of getting caught up in feelings of resentment or frustration, focus on your own responsibilities and performance. By excelling in your role and demonstrating your value to the organization, you can position yourself for future advancement.

Remember that your primary goal is to contribute to the overall success of the company, not to engage in interpersonal conflict with your boss.

4. Help Your Boss Be Better

One of the best ways to manage up is to find ways to support your boss and help him or her be more successful. Look for opportunities to complement their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses.

By offering your expertise and assistance, you can demonstrate your value as a team player and enhance your own professional reputation.

a. Offer Your Skills and Expertise

If your boss lacks a particular skill or area of knowledge in which you excel, offer to share your expertise or provide assistance. For example, if your boss is struggling with a particular software program that you know well, offer to help him or her with a project or provide a quick tutorial. Not only will this demonstrate your willingness to help the team, but it will also showcase your own skills and expertise.

b. Step Up When Needed

Proactively identify areas where your manager could use your help and offer your assistance without being asked. This could include volunteering for additional responsibilities, taking the lead on a project, or stepping in when your boss is unavailable. By taking the initiative and demonstrating your ability to step up when needed, you can prove that you are a valuable asset to the organization.

5. Don’t Cover Up for Your Boss

While it’s important to support your boss and help him or her succeed, it’s also important not to cover up serious mistakes or shortcomings. If your boss consistently makes mistakes or demonstrates incompetence, it’s not in your best interest to keep cleaning up his or her mess.

Instead, focus on delivering high-quality work and achieving your own goals. If your efforts are being used to cover up serious deficiencies in your boss’s performance, it may be time to have a conversation with HR or someone higher up in the organization.

6. Find Something to Respect

Even the most difficult bosses have redeeming qualities, and it’s important to find aspects of their character or performance that you can respect. This may require looking beyond their professional skills and considering their personal qualities or accomplishments.

By focusing on the positive aspects of your boss, you can maintain a healthier and more productive working relationship.

7. Learn from Someone Else

If your boss isn’t providing the coaching or mentorship you need to grow professionally, look for other mentors within the organization or your professional network.

By networking and seeking guidance from experienced colleagues or an external coach or mentor, you can continue to develop your skills and knowledge even if your boss isn’t the ideal mentor.

8. Embrace the Opportunity to Learn

Instead of focusing on your boss’s shortcomings, look for opportunities to learn from his or her mistakes and grow as a professional.

By observing their management style and decision-making, you can gain valuable insight into what NOT to do as a leader. Use this knowledge to improve your own leadership skills and enhance your career prospects.

9. Be a Forward-Thinking Follower

Practice the art of being a forward-thinking follower by putting your ego aside and focusing on supporting your boss and the team. Remember that your primary responsibility is to help the team succeed, not to prove that you are smarter or more skilled than your boss.

By taking a collaborative rather than a combative approach, you can create a positive work environment and pave the way for your own career advancement.

10. Know When to Move On

If your relationship with your boss becomes untenable or you find that you simply cannot respect him or her, it may be time to consider finding a new job or pursuing another opportunity within the organization. While it’s important to try to make the best of the situation, sometimes the best course of action is to move on and find a more suitable place to work.



In conclusion, feeling smarter than your boss can be a challenging and frustrating experience. However, by adopting effective strategies for managing up and focusing on your own professional development, you can turn this potentially negative situation into an opportunity for personal growth and career advancement.

Remember to be honest with yourself, maintain a professional demeanor, and look for opportunities to learn and grow from your experiences.

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