Your Boss Doesn’t Communicate with You—Now What?
A good boss serves as a teacher, advocate, and wellspring of information. They don’t just tell you what to do; they help you grow and develop in your chosen career. Having a boss that doesn’t communicate with you isn’t just frustrating. It can be detrimental to your success.
Do you have an unresponsive boss? While an unenviable circumstance, there are steps you can take to open communications and improve your supervisor-employee relationship.
Analyze the disconnect
Not all communication breakdowns are created equal. Sometimes the disconnect stems from circumstance. Your boss is too busy or she spends too much away from the office or your shifts don’t line up enough for a natural rhythm to develop.
Other times, the disconnect is more individualized. Your boss is new, or you both come from different cultural backgrounds. She may unconsciously distance herself because she lacks self-confidence. There could be deviation in communication styles: one more extroverted, the other introverted.
Even if the communication breakdown results from a clash of personalities, don’t take it personally. Bosses are people too. Instead, analyze the disconnect, and identify its source. This will help you adjust the below advice to fit your particular circumstances.
Schedule 1-on-1 time
The best way to open communications is to create time to do exactly that. Schedule a sit-down with your boss and discuss the problem directly.
We recommend a face-to-face meeting because it works for all boss types. If you’re struggling with a busy boss, this puts communication on his calendar. If the problem is a lack of self-confidence, this allows you to move the conversation to a safe space.
Be sure to keep this a one-on-one meeting. You want his undivided attention to open communications between you two. The goal is not to solve all the office’s communication problems—though it may ultimately help build a better community.
Here are a few of tips to get the most out of the meeting:
- Prepare notes and questions based on your analysis. Don’t go in cold and hope for the best.
- Ask open-ended or fill-in-the-blank style questions. These require answers beyond a simple yes or no, making them useful tools in a conversation with a boss of few words.
- Generate specific after-meeting goals. Improving communication doesn’t cut it. Develop S.M.A.R.T. goals for each of you to pursue over the next week.
- Schedule a follow-up meeting to assess progress. If it’s a matter of busy schedules, consider scheduling recurring meetings every other week.
Foster an in-office mentorship
Maybe your boss won’t make time to meet with you. Worse, maybe you and your boss fundamentally don’t like each other, rendering any attempt to connect another brick in the wall.
If that’s the case, try to foster an in-office mentorship. This person can be a lead, department head, or colleague who excels at their job. Reach out to this person when you have questions, concerns, or need help solving a problem.
An upside to this approach is the chance to choose your own mentor. You can select someone with whom you have a rapport and can work productively. Ideally, this person can help you build a successful communication channel with your boss, too.
However, there are potential pitfalls to this strategy. First, your mentor is not your boss. They may be able to help most of the time, but some occasions will still require a supervisor’s approval or knowledge. Your mentor will also have to do their own work. Assisting you will take away from that time, so be mindful in what you ask of them.
Successful communication is difficult. That’s because underlining every conversation are our needs, desires, backgrounds, and emotional states. Yet, we must somehow connect with another person to send and receive information in a way that is efficient, informational, and understandable. Given all this, successful communication is near miraculous.
If your boss doesn’t communicate well, keep calm and remember all that goes into successful interactions. Use the above tips to help bridge the disconnect. Once a more secure connection is established, you can build on it to craft a stronger, more personable relationship with your boss.