Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, Vol 13, No 1-3 (2016)

Managing up: Is upwards feedback too great a challenge for leadership?

Janet Brady
Issued Date: 31 Dec 2018


‘Managing up’ is an activity reported to challenge many employees working in organisations and especially when it involves giving negative feedback about one’s boss to one’s boss. While it is largely a discursive practice, it has received little if any attention from applied linguists. This paper presents a case study of one such managing up activity in a Global 500 company. Using discourse analysis, the paper reports on critical moments that occurred prior to, during and following a sensitive meeting between one subordinate manager and her superior, and the withdrawal of support from and the enactment of power by their general manager to overrule the subordinate's managing-up initiatives, undermine their mentoring relationship, and erode the general manager’s influence through perceived lack of fairness. Analysis suggests that while managing up compromises the trust in and respect for the senior manager held by the subordinate, the experience offers an opportunity for her to critically evaluate the general manager’s practices against deeply-held personal values while offering those interested in leadership an opportunity to evaluate the senior manager’s leadership performance.

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DOI: 10.1558/japl.31837


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