Managing Up: A key Worker Survival Skill?

Managing Up: A key Worker
Survival Skill?
Carolyn Cousins, MSW, MEd(Adult),
Dip Mgt
 History of working in Child Protection, Health and Out
of Home Care (Australia and UK)
 Always had an interest in the role of supervision.
Expanded while working at the Tavistock & Portman –
psychodynamic processes and a particular model of
group work
 Private Practice and Management Consultancy over
the past 4 years
 Role of the Company: supporting, equipping and educating
workers to be reflective and increase the quality of provision.
Aim is to positively influence work with children and families
 Current supervision, both group and individual in the areas
of Mental Health, Child Protection, Domestic Violence,
Family Support and Early Childhood. In government, non
government (small and large)
 Also working with some large organisations around People
Management Skills / Management Consultancy
Struggling to Comprehend
 Basic Communication skills / people skills
 Relationships – not a linear progression
 Parallel Process
Not the Clinical Work
 So often, it is not, as the Vicarious Trauma literature
suggests, the difficult client stories that lead to worker
frustration and burnout, but rather issues with
bureaucracy and management.
 Some very interesting and thought provoking clinical
supervision – where the organisation pays.
 However, workers who seek out private supervision
often do so because of challenges with their direct line
Managing Up
 Concept from Management Literature – different
purpose, but relevance of concepts
 Links with supervisory games and dynamics
 Required in order to be, and stay, safe in the
 Can happen at any level of an organization.
Games Bosses Play
 Supervision when its also performance management
 Games of Abdication:
They wont let me (victim); I wonder why you said that really (projector); one good
question deserves another; I am so busy and stressed; I haven't sold out, really I
 Games of Power:
Remember who the boss is (iron fist); Its for your own good; no confidentiality; lets
be friends.
Understanding the Dynamic
 Learn your managers style and interests. Where are they coming
from? Empathy – skill we use with clients, why not them? What is
important to them
 Understanding does not mean agreeing
 What do they do well? What can you learn from them? Ask for
 Learn to read their moods and reactions – this is power
 Issues with ‘crawling’. We are all different – understand each boss
(1 in 3)
 Only one half of the relationship – know yourself
Know yourself
 Desire to be liked, praised – exploring relationships
with authority
 Considering expectations and past supervisory
 Keeping it professional
 Consider the ethics and appropriateness of your
reactions, alongside strategies for addressing
Remaining Ethical
 Handling your reactions
 Examining your strategies and motivations
 How do I observe others to manage – assessing
 Triggers and reminders
 Parallel process / Family Dynamics (Boland, 2009)
Getting Beyond
 Impact on the work / clients
 Impact on the career of the worker
 Gaining support elsewhere: value, validation, feedback
and growth
Tools to assist
 Learning Styles / Communication:
 Communicate in the way they best receive information –
written, verbal – tend to use our own ‘language’
 Theory of Situational Awareness:
Level 1 – perception of current situation
Level 2 – Comprehension of situation (interpreting)
Level 3 – ability to predict and anticipate (future preparation)
 Unpacking our own short cuts in reasoning.
 “For an organisation to be innovative and open, it is
neither possible or ideal that everyone gets along. The
qualities we like in people are not necessarily the ones
that make a group effective.”
 You learn more about management from being
managed badly.
 Ultimately, we have choices
If you are a manager
 How are you being ‘managed up’?
 Shift in Management approaches
Shifts in Management Style
Traditional Top
Accountability comes
from oversight,
scrutiny and
monitoring of
Individuals are not to
be trusted
Accountability comes
from empowering
individuals and having
clear expectations
Individuals will rise to
the task when
empowered and
 What are the dynamics I am currently engaged
in? In what ways are they familiar?
 What is the cost of the time and energy I spend
managing up? Is this acceptable?
 How and where do I honestly explore these
issues? Am I interested in doing this?
Managing Up: A key Worker
Survival Skill?
Carolyn Cousins, MSW, MEd(Adult),
Dip Mgt