How to Manage Your Manager – 9 Tactics for Better Communication with Your Boss
Posted: 12 April 2018
Do you feel underappreciated by your manager? Are you desperate for some (any!) feedback or input from them? Or are you tired of them constantly breathing down your neck, trying to control every little aspect of your workload? These situations can make you feel miserable at work, leading to feelings of resentment and a lack of motivation. But you have the power to make a positive change – one that doesn’t just mean packing in your job and moving on!
A survey from About.com found people’s biggest issue at work was a lack of communication from management. Finding a way to create a better working relationship between you and your manager starts and ends with communication – if you can figure out a way to do this that works for both of you, then you’ll be able to improve your overall job satisfaction.
9 tactics for better communication with your boss
1. Update them on your achievements
Sharing your successes and progress will show your manager that you’re valuable, hard-working and effective within your role. If you already have regular meetings with your manager, this is the ideal time to update them on your achievements. If you don’t have meetings scheduled, request one, specifying that you’d like to discuss your progress. You can be proactive and send them a meeting invite for a quick chat, 10-15 minutes will do – instead of going back and forth trying to figure out when they are free, presenting a ready-made option for them makes their lives easier as they can either accept, or decline if the time doesn’t work for them.
Keeping them updated on your achievements means you’re always on their radar, and might just mean you getting some recognition for a job well-done. Better still, if you’re keen on a promotion or raise then you’ll be in the fore-front of their mind as a valuable asset to the business.
2. Regular status reports on project work
When there’s multiple projects going on it can get confusing trying to keep track of everything. Whether your boss is a meticulous micro-manager, or a less-than-there entity, they will appreciate a regular summary to see how the project is progressing, and that you’re actively contributing to it. Sending a simple email along the lines of ‘Here’s a quick update on XYZ’, with bullet points on where the project is at will be enough to reassure them.
If you use project management software, such as Asana or Basecamp, be sure to actively utilise and update this, so you know exactly what’s going on with each project and what still needs doing – that way if/when your boss does approach you, you’ll be able to give them all the details.
3. Finding the optimum time to communicate
Everyone runs on a different schedule, with their individual preferences for when and how they want to be contacted. Find out when your boss is more likely to respond to emails, or is free to approach in person. First thing Monday morning or last thing on a Friday probably won’t be ideal for anyone. Figuring out what works best for your boss means that they’ll be in a more receptive mood when you contact them, and more likely to get back to you promptly.
It’s worth bearing in mind that some managers might not get that window of time within the normal working hours of 9–5. You could always try emailing in the evening, over the weekend, or earlier in the morning before work starts. Take note of when your boss emails you – if they regularly send emails at 10pm, this might be the time that works best for them, so try and work with it rather than against it. Also, it shows a strong work ethic if you’re willing to take a bit of your personal time to get in touch with them about work issues.
4. Identifying pressure points and how to overcome them
Are there certain situations that make your boss super stressed-out? Recognise when they are feeling the pressure and be quick to offer your services if it seems like they could use a hand. It might be a big presentation for board members, or relieving them of a tedious labour-intensive task, or as simple as doing some photocopying for them. Freeing up their time and easing the pressure will benefit both you and your manager – a less stressed boss is better for everyone, and your willingness to help shows loyalty, team spirit and compassion.
5. Make responding to emails simple
Time is precious, and your manager probably won’t want to trawl through long emails that require them to provide in-depth responses. Write emails that are easy to scan-read, so they can grasp the key points quickly. Use subheadings and bullet points, and keep paragraphs short, sticking to one point in each. Cut the waffle, and make it really easy for them to respond to questions. You could give them several options to choose from and ask them to put ‘Yes’ next to the one they’re happy with.
6. Be persistent and push for their feedback
Sometimes simply dropping your boss a solo email asking for their input isn’t enough. If you don’t get a response after a reasonable amount of time has passed (judge this on their current workload, how stressed they are, other big projects that are happening etc. – this could be a couple days, or a week) then send a follow-up email. Or approach them in person, ask if they’ve had a chance to look at your email, and see when they’re free for a quick catch-up. Things can crop up that suddenly take priority over everything else, so be persistent and don’t get pushed to the bottom of the pile.
7. Understanding your manager as an individual
It’s easy to forget that managers are still human beings, experiencing the same pressures and frustrations as everyone else, even if that may be on a different level to you. Each one will have their own personality and preferences, and getting to know these will help you to judge situations better, resulting in more productive and harmonious interactions with them.
8. Focus on what matters most to them
Your manager’s priorities and challenges won’t always align with yours – you’ll both feel that your issues are the most important and urgent, so better understanding from both parties is needed. Try and relate your queries and communications to what matters to them.
9. Show some appreciation
It’s a two-way relationship, and it’s not just about what your manager can do for you. Managers appreciate praise and recognition just the same as you would. If they’ve given you their time, attention, or support, express your gratitude in an email or letter.
It’s easy to get frustrated with the communication (or lack of it) from your manager, but there are steps you can take to improve this. If you don’t ask, you don’t get – they’re not mind readers, and though something may seem obvious to you, your manager probably has a million and one other things to think about, with many other people wanting their attention too. Don’t just sit and sulk if you’re not happy with how you’re being managed. Be proactive and work on improving communication for a working relationship that benefits everyone.
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