Managing Up

Managing Up

How to Convince Your Manager That You're Right

June 10, 2024

There's a lesson in the 2004 drama film Crash that you can apply to your career as an individual contributor (IC).

> Farhad (business owner): Just fix the lock.
> Daniel (a locksmith): Sir, sir, sir, listen to me. What you need is a new door.

In this scene, Daniel (you, the IC), a locksmith, is hired to fix a problem. Farhad (your manager) wants the lock fixed, but Daniel realizes the door itself is the issue. This scenario is rich with lessons for effective communication and problem-solving in the workplace.

Understanding the First Misunderstanding

Your manager (Farhad) assigns you (Daniel) to the wrong job.

  • It's not their fault. Your manager isn't the expert—you are.

  • Identify and communicate the real problem. When you discover the door is broken, stop and inform your manager. Fixing the lock won't solve the underlying issue.

If the job exceeds your expertise, step back and communicate this. It’s okay to stop working when your skills are no longer needed. Focus on where you can add the most value and suggest alternatives or reassignment to your manager.

Handling Miscommunication

If you discover the door is broken after fixing the lock, don't panic. This is a common scenario.

  • Communicate effectively: Say, "I fixed the lock, but we have a problem with our door." This language turns the problem into a collective issue, inviting collaboration.

  • Empower your manager: By highlighting the problem, you give your manager the chance to take credit or reassign tasks, creating opportunities for growth and teamwork.

Resolving Conflict

If conversations with your manager aren't productive, it might be frustrating. Here’s how to approach it:

  1. Take a break: Sometimes stepping away for a nap or a meal helps clear your mind.

  2. Respect the relationship: Understand your manager's perspective and listen to their expectations. If they simply need the lock fixed for reporting purposes, acknowledge their constraints.

Remember, your manager has their own pressures and responsibilities. By understanding this, you can navigate the situation more effectively.

Repeat and Learn

In your career, you’ll encounter many “door” situations. Each manager and problem is unique, but the approach remains the same. The team you work with and the manager you report to are crucial. You’ll become an expert at solving specific problems, but always remember that addressing underlying issues is part of your job too.

Reflect: How would you resolve this door situation? What would you do if you were the manager? How about if you were the manager’s manager?

Contact Me