Communication in the workplace is one of the hardest topics to master. Do you wish your boss would stop micromanaging? Do you wish your boss would give you more feedback because you never know what she's thinking?
One of the big things I've learned over the past 6 years growing Triplemint is that managers struggle with the same questions when it comes to communication in the workplace. All the management books in the world only go so far because every employee is different and managers face a challenge when adapting to their individual team members.
There are some things that I've found are universal and most managers aren't great at communicating. As an employee, take these as tips to better help you get ahead with your boss. As a manager, take these as tips to communicate to your team (even if it's hard).
1. "Always come to me with a problem and a solution."
When an employee brings up a problem, any good boss should respond positively. If the boss doesn't, he/she risks creating an environment where employees are too scared to voice problems for fear of being blamed. That's a toxic culture. Most bosses, therefore, are cautious to give feedback on how problems should be brought up.
When I was working on a real estate construction project during a summer job I noticed what I thought might be a gas leak. I went to tell my boss, who was having a rough day, and he certainly "shot the messenger". Thankfully there weren't any more gas leaks because I don't know if I would have raised my hand a second time.
What your boss really wants, however, is for you to come to him/her with both a problem and a solution. It's okay if your solution ends up being wrong, but there is nothing more valuable than an employee who tries to solve problems and improve the company, no matter what the problem is. An important caveat is that there are some problems (like HR problems) that should be flagged right away without trying to solve them.
2. "Show me you can learn things that aren't your job."
Your boss wants results, but your boss also cares about how well you're growing and learning in your role. Chances are he/she doesn't see you in your current role forever, and chances are he/she is your ticket to a promotion. That makes it critical to show progress and adaptability beyond just your role. Getting really good at your current role doesn't always mean you'll be good in the next role.
Managers can find it hard to communicate this concept because they don't want you to take your eye off your current role and start dropping the ball and they don't want to set your expectations too high before a promotion has been finalized. Be proactive and show an ability to learn and improve while still balancing your current role. Your boss will feel more comfortable promoting you to a new challenge.
3. "You're my understudy."
Like actors in the theater, you and your boss play a role in a large performance. Today you are in your role, but tomorrow you could be in your boss's role. Chance are, the only difference is experience. If you want to maximize your value, you should think of yourself as your boss's understudy.
If your boss doesn't have a piece of information or drops the ball on something because he/she is too busy, it's your job to be there ready to jump in. Just as the audience still sees a wonderful performance if a lead actor is out sick because the understudy jumps in and fills the role, you should work to be able to jump in and help your boss fill their role in a moment of need.
Of course, the understudy is less experienced than the lead, but it is by working to bridge that gap that the understudy improves and becomes ready to stand center stage when the curtain comes up.