My boss is on the West Coast and my office is in an Eastern city. I ve worked with him for many years, but that does not make communication any easier. I rarely hear from him, except when he needs something, usually in a crisis.
When I call him, I never know what to expect. Sometimes he barks at me; other times he is friendly. I try to ignore his moods, but with such irregular contact, it s hard not to feel stress before I call him and, when he s in a snappy mood, afterward too. Is there anything I can do to improve a relationship with a supervisor who is miles away?
With telecommuting a growing option, record numbers of employees are being supervised from afar. As you have discovered, the distance and irregular contact can make communication between managers and employees, which easily can go awry, far more challenging.
You should make communication with the home office a priority if you want to succeed, says Pauline Foster, partner of the Lindisfarne Group, career coaches based in Brookfield, Wis. You re responsible for developing a good relationship with your boss, she says.
Here are her tips for managing up influencing your boss in ways that benefit both of you:
Do some research. Ask other employees, especially those who work closely with him, for tips. How do they keep things running smoothly? Don t talk about your boss in a critical way to your peers, Foster warns. Simply ask for some advice.
Establish expectations. Ask him directly what he would like from you. How often would he like to get a progress report or update from you, for instance? In what form, via e-mail or telephone? Be prepared with your own ideas, Foster says, in case he does not have any.
Remember part of your job is to make your boss look good. Give him a heads up about things he needs to know. If things are not going well, be as accurate as possible, says Foster. When you present problems, be prepared to offer some recommendations for fixing the situation, as well.
Give updates that show off your own accomplishments. Do not assume he knows what they are. It pays to advertise, Foster says.
BUT I M THE BOSS
Wisconsin-based career coach Pauline Foster also has some tips for those of you who are supervisors working at a distance:
Set expectations. When do you want to hear from your staff? How often? In what format? What sorts of decisions do you expect them to make on their own? Let them know.
Think about staff development. The primary reason people leave their jobs is lack of growth opportunities, says Foster. Keep your eye out for development opportunities for the staff members whom you want to keep.
Encourage face-to-face meetings. Meet with your employees as often as possible, Foster advises, because talking in person is often the easiest way to communicate.
Give feedback. Whether you and your employees are separated by 50 feet of hallway or 500 miles of highway, give them periodic evaluations. If you don t give feedback about how well or poorly they ve done, they do not know how to improve or change, Foster says.
Leslie Whitaker Got a problem at work? Leslie Whitaker, co-author of The Good Girl's Guide to Negotiating, would like to hear from you. Send Leslie an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to PO Box 11156 Shorewood, WI 53211
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By Leslie Whitaker