What do you feel when you’re making a report for your manager? Fear? Uncertainty?

Nobody teaches us at schools how to communicate with managers, however everybody will have to pass such an exam when we start our careers. And a failure may ruin your career. I got my own experience of how to report to my boss later on when I myself became a manager. I also understood how clumsily employees make reports if nobody taught them to.

The rules I want to share will help you to adjust your professional communication with a manager and enhance your work relationships.

If you’re a manager, just send this article to your employees. As a result, you’ll set common rules which will make your communication more efficient and pleasant.

 

Before talking to a manger

1. Report without remindings

 

“I can’t be a secretary for everybody and constantly remind them about deadlines. Sometimes it seems that people turn a deaf ear to deadlines and tasks I assign them.”

— your boss thinks.

 

Don’t make a live alarm clock out of your boss. Don’t make your manager to go to a micromanagement level and remind you about a report deadline.

If a task isn’t finished, write about it with a short explanation of reasons and a new deadline. It’s better to show that you couldn’t complete a task rather than make your boss think that you ignore the task.

If you’ve finished a task, ask for an appointment and show your results.

 

2. Don’t keep problems to yourself

“If nobody notified me in advance about a problem, it means there are no difficulties and a task should be done in time. ”

— your boss thinks.

When you keep a problem to yourself, you deprive your manager of a possibility to help you. Besides, if you don’t inform about a problem, it means you don’t need help and you can finish a task on your own.

When should you tell about a problem? When you have understood that it will prevent you from finishing your task in time or according to the standards set. After that, you tried to solve it on your own but couldn’t. Then go to your boss and ask for help.

 

3. Don’t come to your boss without a preparation

“When a person can’t answer a single oncoming question, I doubt that he/she has gone deeply into the task.”

— your boss thinks.

Work on questions your boss may ask you beforehand. Think of all alternative solutions to a problem. Be ready to explain how you got the numbers and why they are correct. Otherwise, you’ll irritate your boss and will be sent for rework (you’ll lose your time and reputation).

 

4. Plan your conversation

It takes a minute and is very useful. As a rule, it’s may be difficult to make an appointment with a boss, so many questions store up. Make a list in order not to forget about any of them.

Write down everything you expect from your discussion. There are 4 types of goals:

  • to inform your boss: a report on tasks finished, changes in deadlines, important news, etc.
  • to tell your boss information you want him/her to know: meeting deadlines, your initiatives and suggestions, problems and necessary help.
  • to get information useful for you: to specify tasks, statuses of important questions for you.
  • to get a solution on important questions for you.

If a question is difficult to understand or you expect that it will evoke contradictions, write down theses of your report (arguments and conclusions).

 

Reporting to your boss

Usual report algorithm: tell the aim of your report, provide data, conclusions, solution variants, recommendations.

 

5. Avoid preludes

“Is it just an introduction part or do I need to concentrate on what he/she is saying?”

— your boss thinks.

Be straightforward and tell what you need: “I want to report on…”, “I have a problem”, “There’s a question” and so on. A manager should choose the right mind regime: “I’m solving a problem”, “I’m making a decision”, etc. Until your boss is in the right mindset, he/she can’t perceive your information efficiently.

 

6. Your boss isn’t a Nostradamus

“He/she hasn’t inquired whether I’m aware of the topic. Is it egoism or incompetence?”

— your boss thinks.

Think of what your boss may or may not know and tell about an issue. Until your boss is aware of the context, you won’t have an effective conversation.

Don’t miss logical units. Your storyline should be uninterrupted. If you think that something goes without saying, it doesn’t mean that your manager should guess a logical conclusion you decided to miss out.

 

7. Get rid of rubbish

“Why should I dig in this verbal garbage? Couldn’t you make a nice report beforehand?”

— your boss thinks.

Cut out unnecessary information from your report. It also concerns information that is relevant but isn’t checked of complete. You risk to lead a conversation astray or complicate it.

Define what manager’s solution do you need and exclude information that doesn’t get you closer to it. Surely, you should know the limits — it’s unacceptable to distort information.

 

8. More numerals, less adjectives

“I want my employees to use facts, not emotions. In order to do this, they should get accustomed to the number language.”

— your boss thinks.

Statements sound groundless, if not proved by numbers. People only exchange subjective ideas until there are definite numbers and facts mentioned.

9. Be clear and precise

“Should I spend hours to get information out of my employees? Do they hide something or just don’t know the situation?”

— your boss thinks.

If asked “When?”, tell a date. If asked “Who?”, tell a name. If asked “How many?”, tell a number: quantity, sum or per cent. The faster you provide definite data, the quicker you’ll end a conversation.

 

10. Don’t give data without conclusions

“I don’t need this pile of tables. Did he/she try to look into them?”

— your boss thinks.

 

Numbers aren’t important, but your ability to make conclusion out of them is.

A good employee is an independent employee. He/she should understand that after getting data an analysis follows. Then, making a decision. So why don’t you do it on your own?

Giving your boss initial data without conclusions mean that you say  “it’s not my problem anymore”. Nobody will like it. It would be better to say “I understand that it’s my problem and this is how I plan to solve it.”

 

11. Don’t come to your boss without suggestions

“If I solve the problem for him/her, all employees will use me till the rest of my life. They should think on their own.”

— your boss thinks.

If you’re not part of a solution, then you’re part of a problem. Come not only with a problem, but also with suggestions how to solve it. It would be great to have some alternatives.

Your boss will see what a highly-motivated and independent employee you are.

 

12. Don’t go away without a solution

“I’m tired. I don’t want to solve anything. I want a bonus.”

— your boss thinks.

You’ve come to get a decision. Meetings without a decision just waste your time.

It’s not easy to make decisions and your boss may avoid it. So remember about your goal.

 

Manager’s counter-questions

13. Answer a question in the first sentence

“I ask a definite question and I want a definite answer. Don’t waste my time answering questions I haven’t asked.”

— your boss thinks.

If a boss asks a question, he/she usually knows the order of upcoming ones. He/she has built a conversation plan and wants to keep to it. Don’t try to think of questions you guess your boss might ask you. Answer questions at once. Leave details, reasons and explanations away.

 

14. Tell nothing but the truth

“Can I work with a person who tries to lie to me? He/she demonstrates unreliability and stupidity by thinking that I won’t find out the truth.”

— your boss thinks.

Don’t make up things answering a difficult question. Your boss will always learn the truth. It’s easier and quicker to understand that you don’t know something and go on.

 

15. Don’t blame your employees

“If a person doesn’t understand that he/she has to answer for his/her employees, it’s a clinical case. We have an hierarchy.”

— your boss thinks.

A task is assigned to you. You may delegate a task to your employees but still you’re responsible for it. There are additional responsibility relationships among you and your employees. But remember that your initial responsibility never disappears.

 

16. Don’t waste your time on excuses

“The more I listen to excuses, the more employees will hope that they can get away with poor performance.”

— your boss thinks.

If your boss is a result-oriented person, he/she won’t be interested in excuses. So, don’t waste your time on them. Use it for completing your task.

 

Getting a task

17. Questions first

If you got a task right after your report and there’s something you don’t understand, ask your boss straightaway. It’s better to look foolish while getting a task rather than realize that you’ve done it completely wrong in the end.

 

Conclusion

As you see, the rules are simple and evident. However, there are few people who follow them, according to my experience. Try to keep to them and you’ll get trust and gratitude from your boss.