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How to deal with an uncommunicative boss when you’re working remotely

These five strategies for reconnecting with a distant manager can help.

How to deal with an uncommunicative boss when you’re working remotely
[Photo: Chainarong Prasertthai/IStock]

In the best of times, it’s easy to feel out of touch with your manager. A casual nod in the corridor or a brief five-minute meeting may be all you get on any given day.

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But those passing encounters may seem richly rewarding compared with the sound of silence that comes from a boss who’s working remotely. Sure, you’ve been on Zoom calls and Slack chats, but it just doesn’t seem like you’re in touch.

What can you do to bring that personal connection with your boss back, especially if they are not the best at communicating? Try these five strategies. They’ll do wonders for your morale, and they’ll likely make your boss feel good, too.

1. Say thank you

Everyone loves to be appreciated, even a boss who may seem self-contained or distant. If your team has recently gone remote, your supervisor is likely traversing some difficult terrain—so her remoteness could very well have nothing to do with you.

Reaching out to thank her for helping to make the transition easier, whether that came in the form of home office equipment, an extra day off, or holding virtual cocktail hour.

2. Update your boss on a project

One of the easiest and most useful ways to connect is to reach out and share an update on a project that is moving forward.

Suppose you’ve been working on a marketing plan for a month, and you haven’t gotten a call or text from your boss asking “How’s it going?” You’re losing your keenness about it, because you think no word from your manager means he could care less. That’s not necessarily true.

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A better response than sulking is to reach out and update your manager, share your excitement about the project, and say it’s going well. This will do two things: Give you a lift and rekindle your relationship with your boss who will be inspired by your commitment.

3. Follow up after a meeting

 Want to connect following a meeting? By all means, do so.

Virtual meetings don’t provide the same personal reinforcement that traditional face-to-face meetings often did. It’s hard to stare into a screen and feel warmth and energy coming from the room. As a result, we may feel that nobody cared about us, or that our boss ignored us.

Don’t be sad or silent, but take action. Send your manager an email or text saying, “Great meeting,” or “I enjoyed the discussion today. Very collaborative!” This will help you feel more engaged because you’ve reestablished a connection with this important person in your professional life.

And who knows, this could lead to a follow-up email. Even a “thanks” from your manager will remove the remoteness from the relationship.

4. Share a win

Another great way to connect is to share some good news. Say you’ve been working remotely on a few client projects and you’re feeling down because your boss hasn’t shown much interest in your efforts. Today you heard from a client who said “We’re all in. Let’s proceed.” You’re excited about this new revenue stream, and want to share the news with someone other than your three kids and the family dog.

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Your boss would likely love some good news, if she has only been hearing about the need for cost control amid diminishing revenues. Get on the phone or send a message. It will make you feel great, and it will make her day.

5. Offer an idea

Finally, reconnect with your supervisor by offering up an idea. Don’t be afraid of being too forward. Organizations today are not the hierarchies they once were, and all of us—regardless of level—should seize opportunities to bring forward ideas and enhance our role and value. So if you have an idea, speak up.

While management struggles with the challenges of the pandemic, keep your pulse on solutions within your own domain. Even if your idea is in the early stage of development, say to your boss, “I know you’ve got a lot on your plate, but here’s something I’ve been thinking of.” Any manager will be pleased to hear something other than the fallout from the pandemic. And in this rapidly changing business environment, new ideas are golden. 

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