Department: Leadership Q&A
The lowdown on managing down
Q I know what managing up means, but what about managing down?
There have been various uses of the term “managing up” in healthcare. In recent years, nurse leaders have understood it to mean promoting others to our patients.1 Managing down hasn't been so prevalently discussed. Put simply, managing up refers to the relationship you have with your boss and managing down is how you, the leader, relate to the staff members whom you supervise. Luckily, there are some common skills you can use with both. (See Common skills for managing up and down.)
What more is there to managing down? Other skills that can assist you in managing down include:
- filter. You're the filter or buffer for your staff. As the leader, you must filter information you receive from the leaders above you into a meaningful message for your staff members. Provide the information they need that affects their work.
- presentation. When providing information to your staff members, be straightforward without causing them undue stress. Presentation of information can be crucial in prompting staff members' reactions. Be calm and collected in your approach. If you know you're emotional about the topic, speak with a peer first so this doesn't translate to your staff.
- listen. This entails listening to your staff members when they share personal events, as well as their concerns about their changing work environment—a key concept in managing down. When staff members do share their concerns, ask if they're just venting or asking you to assist in the resolution of a problem.
- authenticity. Being authentic with your staff demonstrates that you're trustworthy and honest. You don't want to appear insincere in your interactions.
- give and take. Another key to managing down is to give credit to your staff when goals are attained. We all like recognition, but it takes the team to achieve a goal. Sing your staff members' praises whenever possible. But when something goes wrong or goals aren't achieved, take the blame and then work with your team to correct the issue.
- direction. Everyone likes the autonomy to perform their job, so don't micromanage your staff members; this can actually impede their potential. However, supplying direction is appreciated, which means that you need to provide a vision and expectations for your staff.
- follow-up. Keep notes when speaking with your staff members about issues and make sure you follow-up. The lack of follow-up can convey a message of not caring, contributing to doubt and mistrust. It's important to close the loop so your staff members know you did something about an issue.
The key thing to remember about managing down is that it's all about relationships!