How Can I Communicate Effectively with My Managers?

Communicating effectively with your managers can make things a lot easier at work. Organisations always tell you that they evaluate you on merits. But you must also know that your managers’ or bosses’ impression on you as a person plays a big part on your career advancement.

Work takes a large part of life as well. Sometimes you may wonder why your managers do not like you as much as they like others even if your work is of outstanding quality. In turn, you may have doubts on yourself. Such thoughts affect your emotions and work satisfaction. To tackle from the root, you need to deal with how you can communicate effectively with your managers.

Here go some tips on communicating effectively with your managers at work.

  1. Don’t be afraid to communicate with managers.
  2. Learn about your managers’ personality and work style before you communicate
  3. Think in your managers’ shoes
  4. Find an appropriate timing to communicate
  5. Provide at least two options to your managers
  6. Speak skillfully
  7. Be proactive and keep them informed
  8. Be true and avoid gossiping

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1. Don’t be afraid to communicate with managers

Some people are afraid of communicating with their managers. They fear they would create a bad impression if they speak something wrong. However, communication (especially face time) is important to remind your managers of your presence.

Managers certainly appreciate if you have strong execution ability. But if you do not, they will see if you show the right attitude. They love to see a hardworking and improving subordinate.

Therefore, even if your managers criticise you or give you negative feedbacks, it is not the end of the world. You have to seek advice from them. Most of the managers are very willing to give constructive advice for improvement. After all, they will see coaching as investments into their team members for future collaborations.

Advice from them means a lot to you for making improvements and avoiding repeating something undesirable. It also helps you understand what your managers are truly looking for.

Remember, don’t fear to communicate or make mistakes. If you do, your personal and career growth will become stagnant.

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2. Learn about your managers’ personality and work style before you communicate

If you do not understand who your managers really are as a person, it is almost impossible for you to understand the underlying rationale of their certain behaviour. Then, you will have difficulty in developing a good working relationship with your managers. Ultimately, it harms your career.

It is advisable to develop a slightly personal relationship with them. For examples, you can try asking them how they spent their weekend on Monday or how their kids are doing (if you know it is an exam season). Get connected with them.

Know their habit. For example, you should certainly learn which communication method your managers prefer – email, Whatsapp or face to face? Do they prefer long and detailed emails or just a brief verbal account of what is going on? Follow their preference.

Different communication skills should apply to different types of managers in order to achieve effective communication.

(1) Authoritative (or autocratic) managers

This type of managers ascribes great weights to the results.

When you communicate with them, you must be confident and to the point. They do not like spending much time on communication. Provide them with 2 to 3 options and elaborate more on the value of each option – what they can bring to achieve the goal you are pursuing.

If you cannot do something, bring them up immediately. Do not wait after the conversation is over.

Avoid communicating with them when they are in a bad mood unless it is something that can make them happy.

(2) Empathetic managers

Empathetic managers are usually good communicators themselves. They take the time to understand the message behind words and know how to spin the same message to show their empathy.

Facing them, you should be encouraging and positive. Encourage them and avoid judging immediately. Let them finish their words without interjection.

When you are providing options or giving your views, stay casual and natural as if you are speaking with someone you are familiar with. If suitable, smile and avoid unnecessary facial expressions (as they are reading them!).

(3) Peaceful managers

These managers are those preferring to be at peace with other people. They do not like aggressive people.

Give them room for thinking while speaking. Speak with a reasonably slow and calm tone with structure. Do not display yourself as very strong and arrogant.

If you need to explain something to them, you may want to explain it step-by-step as opposed to jumping right into the conclusion and end. When you express something negative or rejecting something, try to use some euphemistic language.

(4) Professional managers

These managers are pragmatic and like things to be professional. They prefer statements supported by evidence or authority.

Therefore, mention what is supporting your statements if applicable, and avoid making overstatements. Just like when you communicate with “peaceful managers”, explain things step-by-step and point out what the issues are.

Professional managers tend to believe they are professional and are proud of their professional knowledge. Unless it is very obvious, avoid casting doubt on their professionalism on the spot.

If something goes south, you should learn more about the details before going to your managers. Avoid any impulsive move.

(5) Adaptive managers

Since these managers are adaptive and good at communication, you just have to speak of the key points. There are not many special skills.

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3. Think in your managers’ shoes

Think from your managers’ perspectives and see what are leading their thoughts. By doing this, you can truly understand their requirements and offer appropriate solutions.

Also, if there is something that can make their lives easier, e.g. pinpointing the important pages of a report, do it. At the end of the day, who does not want to live an easier life?

Show respect and try to make them look good:

  • Avoid pointing out their mistakes in front of others.
  • Avoid doing anything that embarrasses them.
  • Be presentable and professional (because your behaviour reflects much how your managers are and how effectively they can lead you).

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4. Find an appropriate time to communicate

You should find a time that works well with your managers to speak to them. If you see they are in the middle of something or appear to be in deep thinking, that probably is not the right timing for communication.

Remember, they have emotions… If you go in at the wrong timing, it is unlikely they will listen or consider your words.

If there is a more relaxed setting, try to speak to them at that time.

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5. Provide at least two options to your managers

You are hired to provide solutions. You need to show your value. Many people can discover problems and complain but only a few can pragmatically resolve problems.

Anticipate what your bosses would ask for. Try to have an answer ready or resolve problems ahead. The more you can answer, the more likely you can impress.

Before you speak to your managers of your views, prepare Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. These must be practical. Let them choose which plan to go for. This gives the impression that you are serious about your job and demonstrates your problem-solving ability.

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6. Speak skillfully

Timing and plans, all there. You need to express yourselves effectively. Three key points:

(1) Be concise and to the point

Quality but not quantity matters. Your managers are busy. Therefore, if you are using 100 words to describe something which can be done in a few words, adopt the few words instead. Speak to the point.
No matter which types of managers you are dealing with, state the conclusions first.

(2) Be certain and prepared

Your managers like certainty. Avoid using “maybe”, “likely”, “probably” or “perhaps” these kinds of expressions. They depreciate the value of your words and undermine your efforts.
Get things 100% right. If there is anything unclear, figure it out before you communicate. Be prepared to be challenged and support your conclusions with data, examples and authoritative sources of your information. Even if you do not plan to spell them out, make sure they are in your mind. When asked, you can immediately demonstrate your professionalism and hard work.
Avoid overstatements. Just say what you are certain at and leave it for your managers to make the call.

(3) Be organized

Be organized and prioritize the items that you need to say. The key is to convey the core message to your managers first.
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7. Be proactive and keep them informed

Be proactive, accountable and report to your managers promptly.
If your managers are checking in the status or following up with you, that means you can do better. Never wait for your managers to follow up with you and ask you questions like how to execute and the progress of the project. You should have already reported to them before they ask you.
If there is an email chain, make sure to keep your relevant managers looped in.
For big projects or projects executed by phases, communication with managers can surround the below topics:
  • new progress or breakthrough
  • existing issues and difficulties
  • potential solutions
  • next step and work plan

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8. Be true and avoid gossiping

The ultimate goal of all the communications you are having with your managers is to build trust and confidence.

Avoid “over-communicate”. You should avoid doing things that can associate with any hidden agenda. Acts like buying gifts for managers or praising your managers out of proportion should be avoided.

Avoid gossiping despite it is common and tempting. Gossiping discredits you and implies you are not that genuine after all.

Talking at your managers’ back must be avoided. If it relates to work, it harms your reputation eventually as you are reporting to these managers.

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