Rosanne Badowski tells us how to “manage up.”


Rosanne Badowski's Managing Up promises more than it delivers.

Rosanne Badowski's Managing Up promises more than it delivers.

Just about everyone has a boss, but not everyone knows how to well with her. 

Rosanne Badowski’s book, Managing Up: How To Forge An Effective Relationship with Those Above You, gives some ideas about how to do just that.

For 14 years, Badowski was the executive assistant to legendary CEO Jack Welch, whose hard-driving, no-nonsense and visionary leadership is widely credited with changing General Electric’s culture and delivering it to unprecedented heights. 

Badowski’s book is based primarily on her tenure working intimately with Welch, who wrote the foreword, so readers who wanted to learn more about the executive after reading the seemingly endless copy about him and/or his memoir, Straight From the Gut-a book I have not read-can do so.

She advances 15 principles that go into a successful working relationship with one’s supervisor, each of which receive a chapter’s worth of explanation and example.   Each chapter ends with takeaways that encapsulate what she has just written.  

A number of the chapter headings are those that characterize all productive and healthy relationships-chemistry, trust, purpose and passion, resilience and common sense are just some of the examples here.   As such, these chapters, while interesting, are not particularly useful. 

The book is a bit more helpful in its talking about simplicity, that is, the importance of distilling lots of information to hyper-busy bosses so that they can digest it quickly, make a decision and then move on to the next issue.  In a related chapter, Badowski also makes the related point that “Managing up is first and foremost about saving time.” 

In the end, though, the book promises more than it delivers, or, put another way, delivered something different than I had expected.

My understanding from the title and from hearing the work was that it would supply some insight into how to help a worker have more influence over a manager and the tasks that the worker does.   Badowski makes it clear that the boss’ agenda must completely subsume any ideas or projects that the worker has.  

Beyond that, she conveys the distinct impression that working for Welch was an utterly consuming cause to which she dedicated her entire life for more than a decade.  

The frenetic Welch would think nothing either of calling her at home on the weekend to find out where the key to a place he was staying at in Florida was, rather than contacting the local security office.  This pattern was not limited to Badwoski, who writes that Welch also repeatedly altered carefully laid plans that had been in place for weeks, if not months, on a whim or based on some information he had just gleaned.  While this gave her practice in offering up excuses for Welch and learning to gauge by the stunned silence on the other end of the line how massive the necessary change was going to be, it also depicted an environment that many workers would find challenging at best, and utterly intolerable at worst.

Indeed, the core message of Managing Up seems to be:  the way to work effectively with your boss is to subsume your entire life and do her every whim as fast as possible.

While this philosophy has reaped benefits for Badowski, who has continued to work with Welch in his post-GE, consultant years, I’m not sure how useful this will be to others.


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