Can You Hear Me Now? Tips for Getting Your Boss's Feedback


My boss doesn’t talk much, and sometimes I think he doesn’t like what I’m doing. What should I do? – Susan from Baton Rouge, LA


Hey Susan,
That is a great question and one that commonly arises in today’s workplace.  Having an effective communication relationship with your supervisor is critical to your ability to grow and contribute as an employee and it is equally important for the company to successfully achieve its goals.
So, what do we do when the supervisor’s “open door” policy really isn’t? Or if he doesn’t regularly give you feedback on how you are doing? Or if you are feeling ignored?  The first step is to evaluate if the basis of the problem is a misinterpretation of different styles.
If you and your supervisor are of different generations, make sure you clearly understand his communication style and work expectations. For many senior managers, the communication style is often “less is more.”
A manager who was born from 1922 to 1943 typically expects the employee to understand the tasks at hand and to take initiative in solving problems.  Communication is reserved for correcting mistakes – so it is quite possible that his “not talking much” may mean you are doing just fine.
USA Today has a good summary of communication styles by generations that may be helpful to you. Regardless of communication styles, there are some simple steps you can take to improve communication with your supervisor:

  1. Be confident and ask for regular one-to-one meetings.  This can be once a week or twice monthly, depending upon your business. In your case, I recommend starting out once a week.
  2. Be prepared for your meetings. Always bring a task list to share that shows what you are working on, your successes and the barriers your encountered.  Talking about projects will help open the communication channels.
  3. Ask your supervisor what is his preferred method for checking in.  Does he prefer emails?  If so, daily or weekly?  Remember to keep your emails and check-ins short and to the point.  Learn what is important for your supervisor to know and share that.
  4. Know your style and share what you need for communication and feedback.  If you do not tell your supervisor what you prefer, he will assume that you do not need or want regular feedback.
  5. Finally, do not be defensive.  Once you open the door for feedback, be ready to hear and accept what your learning needs are.  By addressing the issues your supervisor raises in a non-defensive manner will make it easier for him to share in the future.

Good luck, and schedule that check-in session today to get started!