How to Communicate with Your Boss

Three Methods:Establishing a Clear Line of CommunicationCommunicating StrategicallyMaking the Most out of Your Interactions

Communicating effectively with your boss can increase your confidence level and your satisfaction with your job. It’s a way to refine your communication skills and to open up further learning opportunities and the possibility for career advancement. By keeping an open line of communication, you can make your value at the company known.

Method 1
Establishing a Clear Line of Communication

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    Set up an initial meeting. Use this as an opportunity to ask about where your job fits in the larger scheme of the company, how your job performance is going to be measured, and whether your boss expects your job responsibilities to change over time.[1]
    • Agree on your job responsibilities and establish expectations and common objectives. Ask open-ended questions like: “How do you see my job responsibilities shifting over time?” or “How does my role fit in with the larger structure of the company?”
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    Decide what the best way to communicate is. Ask your boss whether they prefer you contact them via email, phone, in person, or a mixture of any of the above for everyday conversations or updates. Inquire about whether they would prefer to communicate differently in the case of a work “emergency,” and clarify what would count as such an emergency. This could range from you not being able to meet a deadline to you being sick and not being able to come into the office on a given day.
    • Perhaps your boss prefers you email them if you have a brief question but set up a meeting if you’d like to discuss a project idea or a larger goal. Whatever the case, be flexible and adapt to their communication style.
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    Establish how often your boss would like updates from you. Some supervisors will like a daily update, whereas others will prefer an update at the end of each week or even bi-monthly. Follow your boss’ guidance and update them as they have stated they would prefer.
    • You could bring this up by asking: “I can update you on a daily, weekly, or bi-monthly basis. What would work best for you?”
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    Ask for feedback. Once you have gotten settled into the routine of your job, it’s wise to ask for feedback every so often. This could take the form of a quick monthly meeting. Your boss may be juggling many responsibilities, but they will likely be willing to take a few minutes out of their busy schedule to inform you on how they view your progress.

Method 2
Communicating Strategically

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    Communicate with your boss on a regular basis. Be proactive and don’t wait until there’s a problem to talk to your boss, as this could negatively tinge your interactions. Instead, give your boss selective updates about your progress.
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    Show your value. Keep your conversations with your boss positive by talking about results. If you were able to meet your quarterly goal, bring this to the attention of your boss. Talk to them about how you achieved these results. For example, this may have been a mixture of effective teamwork, leadership, and strategic risk-taking. This will show your boss that you are driven and can complete your tasks.
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    Prepare for your interactions. Determine just what exactly you want to get out of talking with your boss. Be it in person, via email, or by phone, your communication should have a specified purpose. Since your boss likely has a lot on their plate, they will appreciate an employee who knows what they want and how to ask for it.[2]
    • If you have a problem you’re not sure how to solve, outline what parts of the problem you are unsure about and bring these points up to your boss in order.[3]
    • If you want to ask for a raise, prepare what you’re going to say ahead of time. Type out an outline of your value points and rehearse how you’ll talk about the topic at least a few days in advance.

Method 3
Making the Most out of Your Interactions

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    Be an active listener. Focus entirely on what your boss is saying. Listen attentively and remain silent while your boss is speaking, except for occasionally asking a clear, constructive question.[4]
    • Avoid responding immediately. Instead, practice reflective listening by periodically paraphrasing what your boss says, which will reduce potential for miscommunication and show them that you’re engaged in the conversation.[5]
    • Encourage a cooperative conversation by refraining from using silence to form your next point, which can make the conversation seem competitive and put your boss on edge. Instead, be in the moment and adapt to the natural nuances of the conversation.[6]
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    Ask open-ended questions. Asking open questions will allow you to approach the conversation with a cooperative, rather than a competitive, mindset. Questions that start with the 5W’s (who, what, where, when, why) or with “how” can lead to thoughtful responses. Questions that start with “should,” “is,” or “would” can lead to limited responses.[7]
    • Remember that the goal is to ask questions that show you are paying attention and are thinking critically about the information your boss is conveying to you.
    • Refrain from asking “multiple-choice” questions. In other words, don’t ask an open question like “What’s the best way to present this information?” and follow it up with potential answers like “Is it PowerPoint, Word, Prezi?” You want to give your boss the opportunity to think and respond mindfully, as this will allow you to learn the most from your interaction.[8]
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    Be aware of your body language. Active listening, and in turn a comfortable conversation, will involve leaning slightly forward, nodding occasionally, and making eye contact. Refrain from fidgeting or adopting closed body positions like crossing your arms.[9]
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    Ask for help or advice. Doing this every so often can make your boss feel that their input is appreciated. More importantly, it shows that you value their opinion. It can also allow them to see you collaboratively work out a solution to a problem or question.[10]
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    Build rapport. Your boss will likely appreciate being asked how their weekend was, so be the one who does the asking. Go to lunch with your boss if possible and inquire about their interests and hobbies outside of work. Building rapport is an essential part of building strong interpersonal relations, so start today.[11]
    • At the same time, limit the amount of personal details you give out. Be friendly, but remember that your boss is not your friend. Whereas brief, non-work related updates are acceptable and even encouraged, refrain from providing lengthy descriptions of your weekend or explaining to them everything you do with your free time.
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    Be respectful. Your boss is in their position because of a combination of expertise, training, and experience. Part of your job expectation is to be respectful to them. You can do this by maintaining a courteous tone, listening attentively, considering your boss’ point of view, and remembering your role prior to your interactions so as not to overstep your bounds.
    • You can still constructively disagree with your boss. A respectful disagreement will involve being clear, focused, and calm instead of confrontational or apologetic. Don’t embarrass or make demands of your boss, and choose the right timing - for example, ask for a meeting when you know your boss won’t be busy.[12]
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    Be professional. You can do this by avoiding participating in office gossip, being on time, dressing professionally, and staying focused on your job so that you can meet deadlines.[13]


  • Always be professional and courteous in your interactions with your boss.

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Categories: Interacting with Bosses