When was the last time you saw your boss? Gone are the days of stopping by your manager’s office or catching up in the break room or at the company happy hour. In a remote work environment, out of sight can easily become out of mind. And when you add in Zoom fatigue and the inherent challenge of meaningful rapport in a virtual environment, it can be difficult to connect with your manager.
Evaluate your interactions with your manager and ask yourself if you have the visibility and relationship you want. If not, consider implementing some of these strategies to get their attention and strengthen your relationship.
Be your own publicist
Attention expert and keynote speaker Neen James, suggests: “Be your own internal publicist. Every Friday send your manager a list of five bullet points describing your achievements for the week.” Once a month summarize your accomplishments and how they supported or enabled the obtainment of any, all, or some of your team’s and company’s goals.
Your goal is to stay top of mind and ensure that your manager knows how your work contributes to the team’s success.
Tailor your communications to your boss’s work style preference
When most of your interactions with your manager are via email and Zoom, it is essential that you communicate so your message is clear and understood. Tailor your communications to your boss’s work style preference.
Your manager’s work style is the way in which they think about, organize, and complete their tasks.
In any office you will find these types of work styles:
- Logical, analytical, and data-oriented
- Organized, plan-focused, and detail-oriented
- Supportive, expressive, and emotionally oriented
- Strategic, integrative, and idea-oriented
To determine the work style of your boss, think about the following questions:
- Do they consistently focus on the project details, timelines, and include action steps in their emails to you?
- Do they send emails with only a few words and maintain a laser focus on the team’s goals?
- Do they gesture and use their hands while talking? Or are they more controlled in their movements?
- Do they glaze over when you discuss project details and divert the conversation to brainstorming new project ideas or the strategic implications of the current project?
- Do they expertly build relationships and know where everyone on the team went on their last vacation?
Once you have identified your manager’s work style, adjust your communication style to their work-style preferences.
Your logical, analytical, and data-oriented boss wants you to focus on data and the facts. Be brief, succinct, clear, and precise. Think through your ideas in advance and present them in a logical format. In your emails, be direct and to the point.
Your organized, plan-focused, and detail-oriented manager wants you to stay on topic, present your ideas in a sequential, organized manner, and provide detailed timelines. In your emails, use bullet points to outline your main points and clearly state next action steps and the due date.
Your supportive, expressive, and emotionally oriented boss wants the conversation to be informal, open, and warm and have no hidden agenda. They want to know who is involved in projects, and they want team members to have equal consideration when plans are being made. In your emails, include a salutation and connect with them personally before you transition to the topic of the email.
Your strategic, integrative, and idea-oriented manager wants you to communicate with minimal details, provide the big picture with visuals and metaphors, and articulate how the project aligns with the organization’s strategy. They prefer an overview and broad conceptual framework, so limit the details. In your emails, provide the big picture and context for the email and avoid too many details.
And remember, right now your digital presence is your brand. Review all your internal communications with the same rigor as you would for external communications. Typos, slang, and incomplete thoughts undercut your brand, credibility, and the clarity of your message.
Assume and grant honorable intent
Do any of the following sound familiar?
“I like my manager, but every time we get on a Zoom call, we must discuss her current Netflix lineup and her three children’s latest incredible virtual school accomplishments. Why can’t we just get to the point? Doesn’t she know she is wasting my time?
“Why does my manager leave his camera off during meetings? Is he checking his email and ignoring me?”
“Everyone knows that Sue is consistently late with her work and this negatively impacts the entire team. My manager clearly has favorites and does not have the same performance expectations for team members.”
When you are overstretched, overwhelmed, and just over it, it’s easy to tell yourself negative stories about your manager’s behavior. Negative experiences are sticky and often lead to further negative experiences. It’s time to break the cycle.
The next time your manager is especially chatty, has their camera turned off, or is being a jerk, assume and grant honorable intent. Be open to the possibility that there was a decent reason why the behavior or situation occurred and reframe it.
Let’s use someone cutting you off in traffic as an example. In order to break the cycle, you first assume honorable intent and say to yourself that if they had another option, they would have made a different choice. Then reframe the situation. Imagine they’ve received a phone call from the hospital and their family member is in the emergency room. How would you react? They didn’t cut you off to ruin your day. They cut you off because they were frantically trying to get to the hospital.
Of course, there will be times when you are so mad you can’t break the cycle. I get it. Give yourself a pass and try again. Your goal is to realize when one negative event is adversely impacting future events and then break the cycle.
Out of sight does not mean out of mind. Be intentional in your communication with your manager and ensure that you are clearly heard and understood. Remember, we are all human and have bad days. A little grace and humor in our interactions is exactly what we all need right now.
Carson Tate is the founder and managing partner of Working Simply, and the author of Own It. Love It. Make It Work.: How To Make Any Job Your Dream Job.