2.3.4 Managing up (convert to lesson)


2.3.4 Managing up (convert to lesson)

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Sometimes the only way to get more time is to managing the inflow of demands on it – or get more people to do the work. So this next lesson is about negotiating with your boss to managing the flow of work, and your capacity to get it all done.


You know that there is an endless supply of work to be done and your boss is likely to just keep giving you more and more until you feel completely overloaded.  So whose responsible for calling it – for saying “enough already!”

Well both of you are.  As the manager of your own team you are responsible for knowing what work your team needs to do and who is doing it – and working out what resources and people you need to achieve this.  Your Unit Plan and reports will assist in this which we over later.  Hopefully your boss is taking the same interest in the work they are allocating to you as you are to your team.

However, it is also up to you to keep your boss informed of what work is on your plate, how it is progressing and the likely impact of adding more.  You need to have a good sense of your own priorities and time frames to report when things can be expected. And you should be able to expect this level of autonomy from your team members as well.  If they start feeling overwhelmed or unable to achieve what you are expecting, they need to feel that they can raise this with you and renegotiate the time frames, priorities or expectations.

However, in the event that you are being overloaded, you can either negotiate for less work, more time or more resources/people to get the work done.  Here’s some tips to help you:


  • Meet regularly to discuss priorities and report back on your work plan so it is clear what is on your plate.  Ask the question – what is the most important thing to get done now? Use your quarterly and monthly reporting templates to help here.
  • Be clear what you will need to give up or defer in order to take on new work.
  • Alternatively be very clear what additional support you will need to do the additional work if it is needed quickly.
  • Be ready to negotiate but do not expect to get ‘your own way’ or you could be disappointed which comes out as frustration and does nothing for your cause. Instead expect to share your perspective on the situation and to gain a better understanding of theirs – win win!
  • Prepare a pitch for more time, resources or less work by:
  • Identifying their problems they want solved through you doing more work (being empathetic is the best way to influence!)
  • Prepare a pitch for more time, more resources or less work by:
    1. Identifying their problems they want solved through you doing more work (being empathetic is the best way to influence!)
    2. Set out 2 solution that will fix their problems:
      • within the time and resources you have available (noting anything that could be deferred or ceased to make room), or
      • sooner but with more resources
    3. Finish off with the benefits and risks of each option and let them decide which option they prefer.  They might offer a third option.


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