How To Communicate With Your Boss

A good working relationship with your manager is all about communication — but how can you ensure that you’re passing on the right information at the right time? In the best-case scenarios, managers will be clear about what they want to know and when they want to know it. Realistically, however, many of us will end up taking the lead on sharing information with our manager, a practice that is often called “managing up.”

Here are three ways to do it.

Share your progress

A recent post at Know Your Team suggests that the most important information your manager needs to know is where you are on a current task or project:

We recently conducted a survey of 355 people and learned that the #1 piece of information that managers want to know is the progress that’s being made on a project. As a result, you’ll want to ask yourself: Am I sharing the progress I’m making day-to-day or week-to-week? You can also ask your boss directly: “How can I give you more visibility into my work?” or “Are there any decisions or projects you wish I were more transparent about?”

If you meet with your manager to discuss a project and your manager doesn’t already know where you are in the workflow (and why you’re at that particular point), you’re not communicating effectively.

Time your updates

Of course, we’ve all had the experience where we send managers project updates that they never read, or find ourselves recapping information we thought we had already told them. That brings us to the second tip: Learn your manager’s work preferences, including when — and how — they like to receive project updates. As Know Your Team puts it:

The more you know about how your boss likes to work (e.g., how they prefer to receive feedback, when they’re most productive during the day), the more you can adjust your own behaviour to increase the likelihood of a positive relationship with them.

If you need to offer advice, keep it specific and task-focused — that is, focused on how you can improve your results, not them. After all, one of their roles is to help facilitate your work.

Know your expectations

One of your roles, on the other hand, is to be familiar with your manager’s expectations. (Yes, your manager should be sharing these expectations, but remember that we’re coming at this from the viewpoint that your manager might need a little extra help.) Know Your Team suggests that you “make it your mission to get clear on two things in particular: (1) What ‘success’ looks like (2) How to communicate well to achieve ‘success.’”

Once you’ve got those pieces in place, it’s just a matter of getting your work done — and sharing your process regularly in the method your manager prefers.


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