My Boss Doesn’t Communicate: 10 Smart Steps To Better Communication

My boss doesn’t communicate, this can be very frustrating. But did you also know it can also be costly both to you and the business?

According to data from Gallup, only 13 percent of employees strongly agree their company’s leadership communicates effectively with the rest of the organization.

And in a comprehensive study from the Economist Intelligence Unit, respondents said that poor communication impacted in the following ways:

  • 44 percent said it caused delays or failures in completing projects
  • 31 percent believed it contributed to low morale
  • 25 percent reported missed performance goals
  • 18 percent cited lost sales

It’s clear: Poor communication from the boss can impact your performance and ability to get the job done. And your sense of frustration can easily fester into unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

But what can you do when your manager is the weak link? Pointing out your boss’s failings is definitely a tricky thing to do. And it requires a diplomatic, tactful approach.

However, it is possible to turn things around. Here we identify ten smart steps you can take for better communication with your manager.

Six Reasons For Bosses To Communicate

Gallup has identified six reasons for managers to communicate with direct reports. Most bosses are unlikely to get a perfect score for each category. It’s more likely they will be stronger in some aspects than others. Understanding the purpose of communication will help you identify those areas your boss needs to work on.

1. To define, inspire and align. One crucial reason to communicate is to convey the company’s purpose, mission, vision, and strategies.

2. To inform. Transactional communications keep everyone in the loop on what’s happening on a team, project, or organizational level.

3. To teach. These messages are all about improving the employee’s knowledge and skills.

4. To drive action. The purpose of communication is often to request information, assign a task or some other action from a worker. ​

5. To make decisions. Whether it’s to convey decisions made or brainstorming solutions, passing on information about decision-making is a fundamental reason to communicate.

6. To collaborate. These communications support joint working and collaboration. It could be updates on progress, exchanging ideas, or jointly executing work responsibilities.

Common Reasons Behind The Communication Disconnect

At the end of the day, bosses are people too, and there may be some issues at play affecting their communication style. So here’s a quick run through some common disconnection problems, which will help you identify the best response. Which one relates to your boss? Maybe your manager is a combination of several factors.

  • My boss is new: If your manager is new to the job, they may feel unsure and lack confidence, impacting their communications.
  • My boss is an introvert: Some people are naturally more introverted and have a tough time communicating generally. Often managers are appointed because of their technical skills rather than interpersonal ones.
  • My boss is a waffler: Ever had a 10-minute conversation with your boss, only to come away none the wiser about what’s required? You may well have a waffler on your hands. Unfortunately, lack of clarity is an all-too-common problem with communications.
  • My boss is too busy: This is perhaps the most common reason behind a disconnect. Your boss has all the right intentions but is just way too busy to prioritize communications.
  • My boss is into information overload. Information is not always communication. For some managers, communication involves firing off detailed emails with links to websites, documents, or policies. However, good communication is about clarity and direction. This kind of information overload is actually a barrier to communications.

10 Smart Steps To Better Communication With Your Boss

Whatever the root cause of the disconnect, you don’t need to suffer in silence. Here are ten steps you can take to improve communications with your boss.

1. Ask Questions

This is the most important tool available to you when faced with a boss that has trouble communicating.

Asking questions helps you gain clarity and the additional information you need. So, next time you are given a brief or task, ask questions to make sure you have fully understood what’s required.

And questioning is also a subtle way you can let your boss know there are gaps in their communication.

2. Active Listening

Communication is, by definition, a two-way process. You also need to do your bit. Active listening involves paying attention, maintaining eye contact, and giving affirmative conversational cues like ‘OK’ and ‘sure thing.’

A silent, unresponsive listener is guaranteed to kill any conversation, so it’s vital you actively join in.

3. Reframe And Repeat

Reframing and repeating back to your boss what’s been communicated is another handy technique. For example, try saying, ‘So, my understanding of the task is…’. Or ‘What I understand you want me to do is this…’ It allows you to double-check that you and your boss are on the same page.

And it’s another diplomatic signal to your boss that more detailed communication is needed.

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Interrupt

Most of us naturally shy away from interrupting when someone is talking. And especially so when that someone is the boss! However, sometimes a well-timed interruption can make all the difference when your manager is waffling on.

Be sure to interrupt politely. For example, seize the opportunity when your boss pauses for a breath to chip in with something along the lines of ‘Can I just stop you there for a moment and ask you to clarify some points.’ And if all else fails, raising your hand as you did when back in school can be just as effective at pulling things back.

5. Provide Positive Feedback

Hopefully, your boss isn’t a complete communications failure. And so, next time your supervisor communicates well, providing positive feedback is a great way to reinforce the behaviors you want to see all the time.

For example, if your boss provides a great brief or delivers an informative update, then be sure to let them know. ‘Thanks for the brief. It was easy to understand and very clear.’ Or, ‘That update was very helpful. I now know what the next steps are.’

Over time, reinforcing positive behaviors in this way can transform your boss’s approach to communications.

6. Request Regular One-On-One Meetings

Often the root cause of poor communication from your boss is lack of time. It may be that your manager just has too much on their plate.

A regular sit-down is also a good strategy for a supervisor that’s lacking in confidence. It provides a safe space for you both to open communications.

Regular catch-ups are often a game-changer. Whether it’s weekly or bi-weekly, and even if it’s only for 15 minutes, the important thing is you have the boss’s undivided attention. And it keeps communications firmly on your supervisor’s radar.

However, make the most of this opportunity and be prepared. Why not seize the initiative and prepare an agenda yourself. That way, you can steer the discussion to obtain the direction and information you need. And keep a note of what’s agreed to share with your manager afterwards. Taking the initiative in this way eases the burden on your boss and may even score you a few brownie points.

7. Follow Up On Instructions

In addition to keeping a note of one-on-one meetings, consider following up with your boss after every discussion. For example, say your supervisor swings by your desk one day with an information request. Or perhaps your manager assigns you a task following a chat at the water cooler. Ensure you drop them an email or flick them an instant message to confirm what’s been said. Following up gives you both an opportunity to reflect on the communication and ensure a common understanding.

8. Work Out Your Boss’s Communication Preferences

Some managers are hopeless at responding to emails, while others prefer face-to-face conversations. And many like the short, sharp approach of IM. So work out what’s the best way to connect with your boss. And then use it to your advantage.

9. Broaden Your Focus

If you are still struggling to get the direction you need despite taking the above steps, then it may be time to broaden your focus. Are there co-workers, project team members, or other stakeholders who can help fill in the information gaps?

Although these colleagues are probably able to help most of the time, they are not a substitute for your manager. There will be occasions when you need the boss’s approval or expert knowledge. So, while broadening your focus is often helpful, it’s not a total solution.

10. Be Honest About The Communications Problem

Sometimes the most effective option is to raise the problem directly with your boss. But how you approach it is crucial. You don’t want to get your supervisor’s back up by calling them out in front of colleagues.

Instead, schedule a meeting, raise it in your one-to-one or have a private conversation. And then broach the subject by saying something along the lines of the following. ‘I sometimes find that I lack clear instructions when you ask me to complete a task. So it’s really helpful when you follow things up with a written brief.’

Be prepared with a couple of recent communications examples. Include one where the boss has communicated well and contrast it with one that hasn’t gone so well. Try to present the issue positively as an opportunity to improve how everyone’s job can be made easier. Going in with all guns blazing and labeling the boss as a communications failure won’t result in the best outcome.

My Boss Doesn’t Communicate: Strategies To Help

Frustrating, annoying, and challenging, a boss that’s a poor communicator is undoubtedly a tough one. However, please don’t suffer in silence as it could also harm your career. Instead, use the strategies we have outlined here to bring about an improvement tactfully and diplomatically.

Interested In Finding Out More About Good Communications?

There’s a host of further reading on communications to enjoy on the MyHub blog. Here’s a short selection of highlights.

MyHub’s cloud intranets are simple to set up and fun to use. Businesses worldwide deploy our intranet platforms to support strong internal communications. Communicating is easy with our sleek, modern design and integrated software. All the communication tools you need are available under one virtual roof with single-sign-on access. Find out more with a free demo or 14-day trial.

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