Communicating with Your Boss at Work

“The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”
–– Sydney J. Harris

The special relationship between a boss and an employee is one that cannot be overlooked. Your manager is responsible for overseeing your daily responsibilities, monitoring your progress and evaluating your work performance for the organization. It can often be difficult for a manager to understand how much you accomplish or the problems you are running into unless you communicate these things. By not taking the time to discuss these issues, you run the risk of your boss interpreting the wrong information and that might jeopardize your success in the workplace. It is a good idea to keep the lines of communication open and not wait for your boss to come to you.

Here are some tips that promote open and effective communication to help you create and maintain a relationship with your boss:

• Before you talk with your manager, organize your thoughts on paper so you can be certain you don’t miss anything important. Practice what you’re going to say to your boss. You can do this at home, in the shower or during your commute to work.

• Be clear and concise. Don’t hint at the issue and hope your manager will guess. Tell your manager directly how he or she can support you and clearly ask for what you need. When your boss makes a decision that supports you, give him or her praise and recognition.

• It is always best to use “I” statements and avoid “You” statements when communicating your needs. For example, avoid saying, “You probably think I sit around and do nothing all day, but I am really busy all of the time.” It would be better to say, “My day is really busy. I prepared a list of my daily duties so we can go over what I am working on.”

• Avoid discussions with your manager when you’re feeling tired, overwhelmed or emotional. If you can’t avoid the discussion, take a moment to organize your thoughts and compose yourself. Nothing will be accomplished if your boss feels attacked. He or she is more open to help if you outline the problem without blame.

• If you are aware your discussion might touch on a heated topic, let your boss know you would like to get his or her advice about a topic that may be difficult to talk about. Remember, actions speak louder than words. We may assume all managers feel comfortable talking about touchy subjects, but that is not true. Pay attention to what your boss says and how he or she physically responds to your comments. This will help you know when to take a break from the discussion or to change to a point that is less charged. Also, be mindful of your own body language. Your expressions and mannerisms can influence what people think about what you are saying.

A respectful, trusting and open relationship with your boss will afford both of you a pleasant and supportive work environment.

A Check List for Communicating with Your Boss 1-2-3
When you and your boss understand each other, you are more likely to communicate clearly and recognize when and how to be mutually supportive.

1. Make sure you understand your boss

Do you know:
• And acknowledge pressures he or she faces?
• His or her management style?
• Your boss’ goals and objectives?

2. Help your boss understand you
Have you shared:
• Your strengths and weaknesses?
• What motivates you?
• How you prefer to receive feedback?

3. Cultivate the relationship with your boss
• Develop mutual trust and respect
• Keep your boss informed
• Recognize when he or she is stretched and ask to help
• Show your appreciation for support

— First Sun EAP Employee Newsletter