communicating with managers/bosses, soft skills, behavioral skills, ways to communicate, speaking with confidence
CAREER / 14 December 2016
5 Things You Need to Know BEFORE Talking to Your Boss
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Jon Miller

Starting a new job is a lot like starting a new relationship (with a little less drama). But when it is finally time to make a commitment and start the job, you should probably know how to communicate effectively. Communication is one of the most important building blocks of a successful relationship and to make sure you have the best experience, you should consider how best to prepare. 

Here are five helpful tips you should before communicating with your boss:

1. Email or phone?

Does your boss prefer being emailed or being called? This is important to know because if the boss never checks their email, your important message for them could never be seen. If they never answer their phone, email may be the way to go. This can save a few headaches from miscommunication. Finding the right method of communication also tells your boss that you pay attention to details, a soft skill that will come in handy when you are looking to impress hiring managers and recruiters. 

2. Walk-ins?

 Are unannounced visits to their office allowed? They sure aren’t welcomed in most settings, so make certain you know or find out if they accept people coming in at any time of day without a scheduled appointment. Some bosses are super busy and do not want to be interrupted by a non-scheduled visit. Make sure you know what they like so you’re more helpful than annoying. You can probably find out pretty easily from a secretary or managers that report directly to him/her whether or not you can drop by at any time of day. 

Different work environments call for different etiquette as well. If you work at a startup, you may find that many people work in a co-working environment, which is a big room with desks void of partition walls and anything else getting in the way of openly communicating with others. You will find at times even your CEO will be working alongside you. 

You can more easily conclude that walk-ins are more welcome in this type of environment. If it’s a more traditional company with a traditional set-up, then perhaps asking ahead is necessary so nobody gets offended. More and more companies (enterprise level) are finding that co-working environments increase productivity and good company culture. 

3. Open hours?

Even though you may be up at 3 AM binge watching Netflix, your boss might not be. Find out the appropriate times you can contact them before hitting "call" in the dead of night. Many smaller companies like to be pretty hands-on and usually encourage employees to reach out to managers as long as everyone agrees that that is what they want to do. More traditional companies and corporate companies have too many regulations protecting anyone from working which includes emailing during non-business hours. If it is a personal or urgent business-related message you need to get across to your boss, it is safe to assume that during business hours is the best choice (unless otherwise stated). If there is any uncertainty, this Business Insider article lets you know what the optimal times to send messages are. 

4. Timing? 

Learn the amount of time you need to give notice about upcoming matters such as absences, vacations, and questions about upcoming events. Some people want multiple months in advance while others just need a few weeks. This information is usually provided to most employees through their Human Resources department, but in the event that you don’t have a detailed description of what your time off policies is, ask! Ask anyone from the staffing department, other team members you are working on projects with or managers if you like. Some tech companies have "unlimited vacation" policies, and this does NOT mean you can leave 15 weeks out of the year. It DOES mean that the company understands that people may need to take vacations at different times, not necessarily when the time is accrued. 

You may take 2 weeks in August and a few days here and there, but the following year not take any. People that abuse the system are usually told by management how it really works and have to ask for permission to take their time off. Don’t be THAT person. Do your research and find out what you need to know. Also, keep in mind the work that needs to get done, For the most part, if you get your work done - you are able to get the time off when you need it. 

5. The level of formality and style?


When communicating, does your boss require a professionally styled email? Maybe they don’t care and a quick "hey boss" will do the trick. Maybe they want a business format with professional wording. Learn what your boss likes and adapt. If your boss walks around with basketball shorts on and baseball cap, it is safe to assume that there is less of a formality involved when speaking to him. On the other hand, if your CEO comes into the office wearing a suit and tie, always looking sharp with a clean shave, then maybe he is a more traditional boss. Definitely take note of those non-verbal cues that can tell you more about them. Also, pay attention to the emails they send out and match the tone when replying back to them. 

Following these 5 communication keys and learning about what your boss looks for in their employees will keep communication clear and functional. Remember that your boss is a person! They might want complete professionalism, but talking to them like a human being is a must. 

Let us know if you have any tips for effective communication in the comments below! (No need to use a professional business wording either. )