The 7 Rules of Upward Communication

Bit by bit, your workplace is changing.


As the old industries disappear, and along with them, control styles of management, so new structures and new systems are taking their place.


Where once the manager sat atop the pyramid, and issued commands to the team below, today there is every chance that it is the team that sits astride the pyramid and issues information to the manager below.


Today, it is teams that have the information and knowledge. It is the teams that know how the business’s customers feel. And teams that can manage by themselves.


All this means a re-think on the traditional nature of communication.


Where once the predominant flow of communication was from the top downwards, in a one-way flow, in today’s information age, communication is multi-directional and purposeful. It goes anywhere and goes where it is needed.


That can be up or down, horizontally across, and all ways diagonally.


And one of the key skills of this kind of communication is Upward Reporting.


This skill requires: knowing how to get and keep the ear of your boss; reporting in a timely fashion; knowing what he or she needs to hear; being short and accurate; balancing problems with solutions; and being willing to be questioned and cross-examined.


To illustrate Upward Reporting, here is a set of rules posted by a manager to a self-managing team on how she wants to be kept informed.


“When you report up the way, please remember…


Rule 1: Keep me regularly informed; I hate nasty surprises.


Rule 2: Don’t deadline me.  I know it’s been done to you, but please give me some time to think.


Rule 3: Only bring matters that you really can’t resolve.  Anything else will just go back to you.


Rule 4: Don’t leave out the bad points because you want to look good: tell me it all.


Rule 5: Give me at least three options for every problem.  I prefer to choose and it’s quicker.


Rule 6: Do your homework before you come; I don’t want you to have to go away and look something up.


Rule 7: Remember that this is how you’ll want your staff to report to you when you’re in my position!”


Communication is, and always has been, the glue that binds an organization together. Just because the predominant direction of that communication may have shifted from top-down to bottom-up, doesn’t mean it is any less important. Learn how to properly report up and you’ll master the new regime.


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