We’ve all been there: waiting for the manager to answer a question or provide feedback so we can continue with our own work. Though delays are understandable when everyone is busy, they still can be frustrating.
What can you do to move things along? We tapped members of the Staples InsidersNetwork for tips. We asked: How do you get what you need from your boss, when you need it?
Jessica, accounting clerk: “Be choosey.”
When issues arise that need the boss’s attention, Jessica advises prioritizing. “Take your most important issue and approach the boss first thing in the morning or right after lunch, before they become engrossed in their work again,” she says. “Or, tell them, ‘I have a problem with x and need your help, but I know you are busy now, so keep me in mind when you have a minute later.’”
For matters that aren’t as pressing, Jessica chooses her timing carefully. If her boss is stressed or needs to focus on an urgent task, she might hold off for a few hours, knowing she is more likely to get her full attention at that point.
“It’s important to be attentive to what’s going on in the office or department at any given time,” she says. “You have to be respectful of your manager’s time, just as they should be respectful of yours.”
Elizabeth, property manager: “Find the best way to communicate.”
Adapting to your boss’s preferred communication method can be key to getting prompt responses. That’s particularly important if the two of you are often in different places. It may be challenging to shift from your preferred mode of communication, but this change may make all the difference.
“My boss is always on the go and rarely sitting at his desk, which can be difficult at times when I need to get information from him,” Elizabeth says. Though they have short, weekly meetings, unexpected issues sometimes arise that need to be resolved quickly.
“I’ve learned that texting my boss works much better than emailing,” she says. “He receives so many emails that oftentimes, individual messages get lost. If I text him to ask to meet with me at some point in the day, he trusts that it truly is urgent, and will make time for it.”
Kristen, business office assistant: “Share the ‘why’ when you make a request.”
For Kristen, clearly explaining the reasoning behind a request helps her get tasks done quickly. When she couples this with the importance of the timing, her boss is very responsive.
“We share a bookkeeping system, so, for example, if I let her know that I need to use the system in the morning so I can get numbers that she needs to finish a report in the afternoon, she’s always accommodating,” she says. This helps her boss to plan her own time, too.
The clear, respectful communication runs both ways. Kristen’s boss explains her reasoning when she asks Kristen to do something, particularly if it’s outside of her normal duties. “It helps to strengthen a sense of team and a sense of shared purpose,” Kristen says.
We asked members of the Staples InsidersNetwork to tell us:
If you could change one thing about your boss’s work style so that you could do your job more effectively, what would it be?
Your peers want feedback — quickly, please — without the nitpicking. Almost a third would not change a thing.