How “managing up” will tame your fight-or-flight reflex

I used to get emails from my boss that said “Call me.” They’d send me into a tizzy, I’d immediately start imagining the worst scenarios and would fear getting fired or yelled at. It made no sense – I was a top analyst, hard working and respectful. It shows how easily our fight-or-flight reflex can get triggered.

One way to liberate yourself from this stress is to over communicate. Most bosses, including this one, mean well. It’s just that once there’s some mental space, our insecurities will result in thoughts thinking themselves. I came up with a tactic to help combat this anxiety: The Managing Up email.

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Why Managing Up is important

Most professional relationships break down due to poor communication. People are busy. Bosses are busy. Don’t assume (although it’s tempting) that they spend all day thinking about their direct reports. Also, Managing Up is small behavior – an investment – that compounds over time and will benefit your career.

What is the Managing Up email

On a fixed date (usually a Friday or Weekend), send your boss a status update. This should include:

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  • What you completed
  • What’s still outstanding
  • Where you may need help


Please make sure to think through your work circumstances and adjust accordingly

What are the benefits

Do not underestimate the power of rituals. People love getting the same thing at the same time (each week or month). Think podcasts – you internalize the expectation of, say, the Friday morning release. This email is a total win-win. Since the boss is busy, you make their job easier, and you cover your bases with a thorough update. It also gets you ahead of any problems and provides a nice excuse for a humblebrag.


Before you start, consider this

Please, please, please. Ask your boss if this is helpful. Also, don’t bury the lede – if there’s a true problem, call them or send an email. And use a stopwatch to limit the time to 10-15 minutes; anythng longer will turn into a time suck, and you’ll stop doing it.

A presentation

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