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To improve upward communication, such as with a boss or anyone with some authority over you, first analyze your relationship and then figure out ways that you both can benefit from changes in handling your relationship. Usually, managers endorse their responsibility to help their subordinates perform at their best. Typically, subordinates also want to enable their managers to succeed. By analyzing your relationship, you can better understand your boss’s point of view and take action to improve your interactions.
Analyze your own behavior dealing with subordinates. Make a list of the things that people you have some power over, such as younger siblings or children, do that annoy or bother you. Describe how you typically react.
Analyze the behavior of any person who has some authority over you. Make a list of things he does well, such as running meetings, teaching you procedures or providing corrective criticism. List the things he does poorly, such as hire new staff, learn new technology or communicate changes to deadlines. Choose the most important items in each list to reflect upon further. Identify things you can do to help your superior perform more effectively.
Analyze your own strengths and weaknesses. List the things you do best, such as complete reports, prepare presentations or handle customer complaints. List the things you do poorly, such as write business letters, organize email correspondence or make decisions. Choose the most important items in each list to further analyze.
Identify colleagues who have the best working relationship with people who have authority over you. List occasions when you and this person have worked together well. Identify characteristics of successful upward communication, such as shared goals, trust and integrity. List ways you can build a relationship with this person to work more effectively. Prioritize these items.
Choose one issue that you feel requires immediate focus. Arrange a meeting with your superior. Rehearse your approach with a friend or professional peer. Stay relaxed, positive and non-defensive. Improving upward communication requires concentration and commitment. Understanding your boss’s perspective helps you identify ways you can work better together to achieve long-term goals.
Communicating with multiple superiors to report timely information typically requires that you report in a concise manner. Propose multiple possible actions or solutions when you report bad news. Invite your superiors to ask questions and engage in meaningful conversation to resolve conflicts or mistakes. Avoid surprising superiors by missing deadlines, only providing good data, researching problems inadequately or refusing to take responsibility. Upward communication involves expressing yourself clearly to people who need to hear what you have to say. Avoid criticizing your superior in public.
- "Managing Upward: Strategies for Succeeding with Your Boss"; Susan Schubert; 1992
- Hodu: The Seven Rules of Upward Communication
Tara Duggan is a Project Management Professional (PMP) specializing in knowledge management and instructional design. For over 25 years she has developed quality training materials for a variety of products and services supporting such companies as Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq and HP. Her freelance work is published on various websites.