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Get Through to your hard headed boss

Reduce conflict with your boss and manager

On The Line

Communicating With The Boss

We all work for someone, and we need to communicate effectively with the boss, for our own benefit and the benefit of the organization. Sometimes we need some information. Or we might want to offer a suggestion about how to improve something. Or we might have a request, and require approval.

Regardless of the kind of communication, it is important to consider not only the content, but the way the content is communicated. If we communicate in a rambling, confused way, we don't put ourselves in the best light, and we are less likely to get what we need from the boss. 

We are going to look at a few "templates" for communicating with "the boss".

But First...

You probably realize that people (and bosses) differ in their preferences for different forms and styles of communication. Some want a great deal of information, while some only want the sparse essential details. Some are passive and sit quietly while you speak, while others use questions to draw the information from you. 

It is important to recognize that your boss is unique, so you will want to pay attention to what he or she seems to prefer in terms of communication.

Even though people differ, one thing is fairly consistent. Most people don't have too much time to waste in today's workplace. If you have something to communicate, it is best to say it in a way that is complete, effective, and short (unless you are making a social call).

Asking A Question

Ron Blicq, in On The Move-- Communication for Employees, suggests that when you need information you prepare yourself by:

  • knowing what you want to ask
  • Being ready to supply any additional information that your boss
  • may need to answer properly

He also suggests that you use the following template.

  • Ask what you want to know
  • Give the reason why you need to know.
  • Supply additional information if the person requests it.  

Making A Suggestion

Mr. Blicq also has some pointers for those that want to make a suggestion to the boss. Again, the idea is to put forward an organized, concise idea that will be easily heard by the boss.

You can follow the following pattern:

1) Make the suggestion (a brief description of your idea).

2) Give the reasons why you are making the suggestion.

3) Explain BOTH what will be gained and what will be lost if your suggestion is adopted. 

4) Be prepared to answer questions the person might ask.

You can use the same pattern if you are making a request.  

Passing On Information

Sometimes you need to let the boss know something. You can follow this pattern:

1) Give a short summary statement. This is a sentence or two that summarizes the MAIN POINT you are trying to communicate.

2) Explain the situation. Mention the circumstances that lead up to the event...the background. 

3) Talk about what happened, or the event. 

4) Mention the RESULT. Talk about the effect or outcome of the event you are talking about. 


If you follow these simple approaches, you are more likely to get your ideas accepted, or at least heard. In addition, you will be showing that you have taken the effort to think out your ideas before approaching the boss.

Bacal & Associates publishes a two sided help card full of tips on how to get through to your boss. For more information click here to go to the helpcard pages.

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Established in 1992, Bacal & Associates is a small training, consulting and publishing company with a core business centering around all aspects of communication, including helping deal effectively with conflict, dealing with difficult people, and dealing with hostile customers.

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