3 variables for communicating with your manager

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Your manager is your most important customer. Thus, communicating with your manager is of paramount importance. The problem with managerial communications is that every person — manager — is different. Every person communicates in their own biased way, including you. If your communication doesn’t match up with your manager, there is a good chance you’ll not do as well with your manager as you could. And should.

Cubicle Warriors understand this communications dichotomy. They adjust their communications approach to better match up with their manager of the moment to ensure communications problems don’t become job performance problems.

What are the variables? Let’s take a look.

What is the communications Style?

Style of communications addresses the approach the manager takes to communicating with you and your other employees. Is the style “just the facts” and nothing else? Is there discussion at the beginning or end of non-business stuff to ease you into or out of the more dominate part of the communication? Does your manager use all sports metaphors, including with women employees?

By the time you hit five conversations with your manager, you should be able to figure this out. Once you do, start to match up your communications with the style your manager prefers. There is almost always a pattern. Use it to your advantage.

What is the preferred Medium of communications?

Are most of the discussions in your manager’s office or in the hallways? Does most discussion occur in meetings with other employees such as your team meeting? Is almost all of the communications via email? Phone calls? One-on-one sessions? Does your manager communicate differently after hours as compared to during normal business hours?

There is a preferred medium for communicating with the manager’s employees. Once you understand which medium your manager prefers, you need to be spot-on ready to bring up your agenda in that medium to maximize your interaction with your manager.

Level of Detail

Finally, you need to consider the level of detail your manager wants to hear and where your manager wants to hear it. Does your manager only want the three-paragraph high points in an email for communicating something you need? Or would a two-page email work better (hopefully not…). Do you create a PowerPoint and then provide another document with all of the specifics? Or does your manager love to live in the weeds of detail he or she should have no business in, but that’s what your manager does?

Well, you get in the weeds with your manager. Or you stay flying high above at that high level, whatever “high level” means to your manager.

This one is especially tricky. I had a manager once who said to walk in the door with a problem only if I had thought through possible solutions. So I always walked in the door with possible solutions. At my review time, I was told I had all the answers and a solution for everything. And that was bad.

After thinking about it for a bit, I started walking in my manager’s office with a problem but feigned no ability to come up with a solution. I was looking for his sage advice on how to solve this particular conundrum. It was like the manager received a gift from heaven. Off he went thinking through different solutions — yes, the same ones I already had in my head — and then finally coming up with the best solution for the problem.

But he got to be a sage, thoughtful manager who was helping his employee work through a problem. Not a manager who listened to solutions from the mere employee where he had to pick a way to go with no input.

As my father said, don’t listen to what the manager says, watch what the manager does. Trust what they say…but verify what they say is what they also do.

The key: match your communications to these variables your manager uses

Managers want to be communicated with the way they want and you’re not really going to change that. Your only option is to try and match your manager’s style, medium and level of detail. If you do, you’ll be perceived as more likable, listens better, and easier to get along with in your work. If you don’t, well, it won’t be a fun time. Guaranteed.

How well do you communicate with your manager?

  • Communicating style that is effective with the manager is basically about the manager’s preference. Employees are left to figure it out or adjust to it.

    • Darci Rowe says:

      Great comment, I would eit “figure it out AND adjust to it”…both things.

  • Great to see you coming back to employer/employee dynamics, keep it coming! The point on knowing when your boss is most likely to want to communicate and being prepared for that is spot on.

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