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Powerful Tips to Improve Communication with Your Boss

By Marla Platt, BA, MBA

One of the loudest, longest complaints that folks have concerning their work often focuses around their relationship with their boss. After years -- why even decades -- pass by and the details of the everyday aspects of the job are a neutral memory, people will dwell over the man or woman at "the top whose primary job was (or so it seemed) to make their day plain miserable. "The work itself wasn't so bad, they might say, "but the way he barked at us all the time was." Or perhaps, "No matter what I did, I could never get recognized for a job well done. No wonder I worked there for five years and was not once seriously considered for a promotion."

If feeling invaluable aken-for-granted at worst and feeling invisible at best is your daily bread, then take a look at the following suggestions for improving communication with your manager - you may even want to try them with your co-workers:

1. Find some shared social time. I don't mean at company picnics or breakfast meetings, but rather at some time and place at your suggestion where you and the boss can interact off-premise. This can be as simple as going for a sandwich at lunch or a drink after work - any opportunity for kicking back and connecting human being to human being.

2. Small talk. One of the best "boss talkers I ever knew was a woman who knew how to find out what her boss liked to do in his spare time - and that was taking care of his home. They were able to build a friendly, collegial relationship around discussions of the best local hardware store and how to deal with crabgrass. I think that she even got the boss to call her husband for tips!

3. Keep your boss updated. Another successful woman I knew was especially good at keeping her boss up-to-speed on what she was working on and how her projects were coming along. Not only did this come across as highly professional because it was proactive, but it served to make this woman look even more productive because her boss was able to clearly see what she was working on and all of the details that went into creating a quality finished product. For her, the extra time spent on updates and communication was an investment in her image and paid off later with advancement in the organization.

4. Likewise, communicate significant setbacks and challenges when necessary, but do so productively. That is, don't ever throw up your hands and wallow in complaints, but instead clearly articulate what you need in order to create a positive turnout. If you are not sure what you need, all the more reason to check in with the boss and see what she can suggest. Afterall, she is the person in charge and her input is valuable!

5. Minimize surprises. Give the boss a heads-up if there is a possibility of significant change or that a plan may fall through. Forewarned is forearmed. Your boss may need time to digest the incident and prepare a response for his own boss.

6. If your boss's style does not mesh with yours, then it becomes your responsibility to communicate to her what it is you need to hear (or not hear) to do your best job day-to-day. For a simple, yet highly effective assessment tool for looking at communication styles and how to build interpersonal effectiveness across different styles, take the PCSI - Personal Communication Styles Inventory. To learn more about this enlightening tool, copy and paste into your browser the following link in its entirety:

7. Thank him! Build rapport by showing appreciation for something nice or helpful the boss may have done for you, or perhaps some insightful way to do things the boss may have suggested. Expressing your thanks can also model for her a way that you like "to do business."

8. Display camaraderie. When at work, whether it be located together in the same building or on different continents, you are all in it together. Many managers thrive on the sense of camaraderie created when staff shows some sincere enthusiasm for what the group/department/project is all about. Playing for the same team is energy building!

About the Author

2003 Marla Platt, BA, MBA Marla Platt is a Business/Executive/Personal Coach,,
providing highly effective coaching to enhance professional growth through communication. Marla offers the PCSI - the Personal Communications Styles Inventory, a powerful tool for building rapport and connecting with others. For more information, visit

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