Upward management and the remote worker
"Upward management" is all about creating opportunities to demonstrate your value to the team and the organization as a whole, instead of merely hoping that a busy manager might notice your initiative and dedication.
A recent Harvard Business Review article highlights the anxiety around remote working, noting that nearly 40% of managers have low confidence in either their ability to manage a remote workforce, or in remote employees to do a good job, or both. Upward management can help improve confidence in both areas.
Upward management strategies for remote employees
When adjusting to remote work, the first thing to remember is to fight the urge to artificially recreate the relationship-building opportunities that would naturally occur in a physical space. It's much easier to make an impromptu visit to your boss' office to highlight your progress and achievements than it is to engineer a video conference call for the same purpose. Instead, harness the technology of remote work — along with the natural information flow inherent to working in a distributed setup — to set yourself up for success.
Provide proactive updates
Make a habit of pinging the appropriate office communication channel when you complete a significant task. Proactively providing updates to your colleagues and immediate superiors creates excellent opportunities to demonstrate your diligence. A once-or-twice daily update noting all the things you've been able to cross off your "project to-do" list will really start to cement your reputation as "productive" in your boss' estimation. Don't overdo it, though – you don't want your helpful updates to be perceived as annoying or intrusive.
Be digitally present
Make sure you leave a digital footprint on your company's communication platforms. Leave (a few!) lighthearted messages every now and then in designated social spaces. Respond to other people's public posts with feedback or praise. Chime in on group discussions with a unique perspective or tidbit of information. Being "seen" in a remote working context requires implementing strategies to be digitally present in your company's online office life.
Prove yourself a team player
Remote work offers a powerful temptation to disappear into your silo and hunker down with your assigned tasks. Instead, deliberately choose to be a visible "team player." Spend a few minutes checking in with co-workers, and don't hesitate to be helpful if they are being challenged with something that you have the capacity to assist with – anecdotes about you being a great team player will definitely filter upwards to your manager.
Part of effective upward management involves always being able to make a case for yourself in case any aspect of your work is challenged or questioned. Ensuring that you document your progress as you work means that you are able to provide clarity on any queries that may arise, show justifications for the different choices that you make, and nip any misunderstandings in the bud before they balloon into bigger problems.
Prepare for interactions
Successful upward management in a remote work setting relies heavily on demonstrating a high level of competence at every available opportunity. That's why being well-prepared for all interactions with your boss is key.
- Make sure you know what's on the agenda so you're ready to discuss the important topics.
- Jot down some notes before the interaction so you can ensure you hit your key points.
- Is there a way you can highlight a recent success by someone else that is relevant to the interaction? Remember, championing others boosts your reputation as a good team player.
- Come up with some good questions. That helps you to look engaged and eager to learn and improve.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 52% of US workers would prefer to remain working at home full time permanently. Employee/manager engagement is critical to get buy-in from higher ups. However because upward management does not necessarily come naturally in remote working environments, it's important to carefully implement upward management strategies such as the ones mentioned above, to ensure that your boss sees you as the valuable employee that you are.
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