Karen austin, consultant
'Managing up' is a term often thrown about in HR but, in reality isn't it all about managing in all directions at every level - including managing ourselves?
Surely it is a reasonable expectation that everyone should share the responsibility for keeping relationships at work on track?
In reality, this is going to be more difficult to start doing when there is already an issue and in particular when it is the more ‘senior’ person who is perceived to be the problem. In many of these cases, the more ‘junior’ party will feel at a disadvantage or vulnerable which may put them off challenging what they feel to be unacceptable or unhelpful. This is where the culture of the organisation a plays a big role in ensuring that:
- A culture of feedback is firmly established (from the bottom to the top and back down again!). Build feedback into the appraisal and regular one to ones and train both managers and staff on how to effectively give and receive feedback (360 appraisal is excellent for this if managed effectively).
- Competencies such as ‘self-reflection’ and ‘managing relationships’ are applied to both recruitment and management processes. Consider these as core behaviours that underpin how all staff operate and challenge those that don’t demonstrate them.
- Issues in relationships (your own and others) are addressed early and constructively before they breakdown. This will increase the chances of turning them around.
- Staff and managers have the tools, confidence and permission to constructively and professionally manage their own relationships. Ensure staff have no reason to fear the repercussions of constructively and professionally challenging their managers.
- HR (or equivalent) do not become the ‘fixers’ for other people’s relationships and that staff cannot hide behind formal procedures or anonymous appraisal forms.
- Mediation is only used where appropriate and both parties are open to re-building what has broken down. You can’t force people to like each other but you do have a right to expect them to work together and, where you need to impose this expectation, the disciplinary procedure will be more effective than mediation.
- Give managers time to be managers - build team building and pastoral management support into their job descriptions to allow them to set aside the day job when required to build relationships with their staff.
- Understand and manage staff perceptions and encourage others to do the same if you like your colleagues but they think the opposite, their perception is what defines the relationship.
I hope that the points above will help you to support staff at all levels to manage up, down and sideways to bring peace and goodwill in your organisation for the New Year and beyond!
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!