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John Marvin

Managing Up to Get the Best Out of Your Performance

Tips for effectively communicating with whoever is in charge.




staff meeting

WHAT WE HAVE here, is a failure to communicate.” – Captain

This quote from the 1967 award-winning classic Cool Hand Luke is arguably one of the most memorable movie quotes of all time. If you were born after 1960, you should find it online and watch it. It’s one of Paul Newman’s best performances.

Communication is fundamental to a team’s working together towards a common goal. When there is a failure to communicate, it can be due to several different causes. But communication goes both ways and team members can help their manager get the best of their performance as well.

A large practice’s office team is typically composed of six to eight staff members and an office manager. The office manager reports to the practice owner. It is not uncommon for two to three staff members to have very little to no experience. Since everyone reports to the office manager, the manager cannot use a one size fits all approach to managing the office. Each of the staff members has different experiences, career goals, family responsibilities and motivations. So, whose responsibility is it for effective office management? It is everyone’s responsibility. That is where managing up comes in. Let’s share some ways to effectively communicate with whoever is in charge:

Understand and Confirm Expectations. Frustration occurs when the manager has an expectation not understood by the employee. If expectations are not written, they can be misunderstood. To help your manager, speak to them and tell them what you understand is expected of you for a particular task. Either the manager will agree or they won’t. Either way, the result is communication that results in a shared understanding of expectations.

Explain What You Want. Each person on the staff is an individual and has different reasons for working at the office. The office manager must understand these differences, so take the initiative to let them know what you want and why you are working. This effort will result in better results when it comes to the manager making decisions. If you want a career in the profession, let the manager know. There are education and training opportunities available. Suppose you are supplementing your household income and not interested in a career. In that case, that is important for the manager to know. Taking the initiative to let your manager know what you want will help you get what you want.


Communicate Often. Like any other productive relationship, communication has to be ongoing and frequent. If you do not have at least a monthly, one-on-one meeting with your manager, ask for one. During this time, you discuss working together. You should review performance and how job responsibilities can be improved. You should talk about whether or not each is meeting the expectations of the other. The best teams hold team meetings each week and individual meetings each month. This combination results in communication that is consistent and clear.

Be Transparent. Passive-aggressive does not work in any relationship, and it is no different in the office. If you are meeting with the one to whom you report regularly, be transparent during these meetings. If there are issues or problems you are facing, then bring them up and discuss them. Do this even if it involves how you are supervised. As someone responsible for managing a team myself, I appreciate and ask for suggestions for how I can be better at management. If the trust is built, the manager will listen and value the help for improving.

Be Your Best, Do Your Best. Communication is a tool that, when clearly, frequently and consistently applied, produces excellent outcomes in the office and the relationship with your manager. However, you can only control yourself and your attitude. If each day you commit to doing your best in the job and being the best co-worker and teammate, you’ll be amazed at the support given to you by your manager. Everyone likes appreciation, even your manager. When you have their support, let them know. After all, they also have a boss.

John D. Marvin has more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry. He is the president of Texas State Optical and writes about marketing, management and education at the blog. You can email him at


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