Remember when you were a kid and one of your parents had something important to tell you? So they told you. And then they told you again. And then they found another way to say it. And all the while you just wanted them to stop, because you got it.
This kind of thing can happen at work, too. So what can you do when it’s your boss who’s over-communicating? Here are your options.
Schedule More Check-Ins
One possibility, of course, is that your boss is just naturally chatty. This is tough, because you don’t want to be disrespectful, but you do need to get your work done. Try to schedule time to talk with your boss whenever there’s something specific you need to get to next, which your next boss’s long story that stretches on forever threatens to upend.
You probably already meet with your manager at least once a week, but it never hurts to add a 10-minute check-in to your agendas as well, this way you can get ahead of your boss’s penchant for over-communicating. (In a pinch, excuse yourself to finish something that needs to be completed by the end of the day.)
Offer To Grab A Coffee
Another possibility is that your boss doesn’t actually have that many people to communicate with at work who aren’t direct reports. The transition to a supervisory role can be lonely: You don’t know your new set of peers, but you’re no longer on the same level as the people you were working closely with just a few weeks before. Maybe your boss just doesn’t have anyone else to talk to.
That doesn’t mean you need to be available for constant interruptions just to chat socially, but you might want to have some sympathy. Suggest grabbing a cup of coffee every once in a while as a substitute for random drop-ins. You can always say, “I’ve got to wrap up this project right now, but are you free to grab coffee this afternoon?” You can even use these opportunities to learn more about what it’s like to be in a supervisory role so you can get a leg up on preparing for your own future.
Give Unprompted Updates
Your boss might also be concerned about your performance. In between a laissez-faire boss and a micromanager are managers who are just worried that things may not go perfectly. So they keep making little suggestions, hovering, and checking up on how things are going.
You can pre-empt some of this nervousness with updates on how projects are going. Give regular progress reports on key projects. Start by giving those updates fairly often, and gradually increase the time between them. You can slowly start to wean your boss from needing to know the details of what you’re doing, and trusting that you’re actually getting things done just fine on your own.
Point (Politely) To The Elephant In The Room
Finally, you can just sit down with your boss to have a conversation about communication. Most people want to do their jobs well, and sometimes the best way to improve is to get some feedback on things that aren’t going well. So how is your boss supposed to know that they’re over-communicating unless you tell them directly?
Here are a few tips to give feedback to your boss without overstepping or complaining. However you decide to do it, just focus on the action and its impact on you. For example, you might try, “I notice you sometimes reiterate your instructions for a project a few hours after I’ve received it. I’m sure you don’t intend it this way, but occasionally that makes me second-guess my understanding of your directions the first time.”
The advantage to this approach is that your boss might’ve just assumed that repeating the instructions was a way of checking in without realizing that it undermined your autonomy. Seeing things from your perspective may help your boss to find a different way to work with you–ideally, one that leaves you a little more breathing room.