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How to Talk to the Boss

Now’s the Time To Speak Up: How to Talk to the Boss

New York gossip columnist Myrtle Barker once wrote, “The idea of strictly minding our own business is moldy rubbish. Who could be so selfish?” In this economy, bosses need all the help they can get. It’s the perfect time to speak up at work. You don’t have to be a new hire to let the boss know you’re around and you’ve got good ideas. Here are some suggestions. What works for you?

1. Introduce yourself. Imagine you’ve met your boss on the elevator. What would you say? “ Hi Joan, I’m Mike in accounting; how’s your day going?”

2. Start naturally. Let’s face it; the boss has a lot on her mind. But you can connect with easy topics like current work, the event, traffic, weather, or food; find a topic that you know is on the boss’s agenda. “ How is the Butler Project going?” “ How was the meeting in Georgia?” “How was the parking deck construction today?“ “I agree with your last email about vacation time ” – all of these are good connectors.

3. Listen for style. What is the boss’s communication style? Outgoing? Introverted? Casual? Formal? Try to listen to the words the boss uses and observe how he or she dresses and acts. Then adapt your tone and language to their style.

4. Offer your honest perspective. Keep your conversation moving by sharing and disclosing; for example, “I’ve felt that way about email for some time. Why do you?” OR “In my experience, that approach works, and if you’ve got a moment, I’ve got a great example.”

5. Disagree assertively, not aggressively, when you disagree. For example, “While I like the approach to the website, I think other colors would better represent our culture and here’s why.” is better than, “I don’t like our website at all.”

6. State your ideas often. Take initiative. Then listen; don’t force. Too many employees remain quiet as mice for too long. Others talk too much before they get a full picture.

7. Share the credit. Give credit where it is due. The boss will see you as ethical, not ego-filled. If a teammate does most of the work, mention it and add something else positive that you also had a part in.

8. Thank the boss. There are many simple things you could be grateful for: an interesting project, a great team, a nice office, a new computer, etc. A quick “thank you” in person or an email or hand written note goes a long way. Just don’t overdo it.

©2009 Cyndi Maxey

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