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Manager Communication

manager communication

Your manager isn’t incompetent. They just have different values and communication styles. Crack the code and you will be successful.

Not part of the job description

Before you get too judgy with your boss, there are a few things we should take into consideration. Your boss’s top priorities are:

  1. Look out for the interests of your company
  2. Make their boss’s job easier. 
  3. Manage the results of their department or team
  4. Look out for their career

Notice that our individual careers and manager communication are not on this list. Of course, it would be nice to be promoted and be updated. But your boss’s job description usually does not include promoting the team. (Check any manager job description on The way to increase your chances of promotion is to help improve the department’s performance. This makes your manager’s job easier and helps them manage the department or team. 

You can manage your manager

One of the big levers when it comes to employee job satisfaction is “How well do you get along with your boss?” Coincidently, manager communication and helping the department improve performance will usually facilitate getting along with your boss. I think about employee job satisfaction a lot and post on this topic ad nauseam.

Prior posts on managing your manager:

The HRNasty home page has categories of career topics at the top of the page. There is a link to over 100 posts on how to manage your manager. Most of us have not had any instruction on how to manage our managers. A lot of companies are missing the boat, and this is a shame.

You don’t quit a job or a company. You quit a manager.  

Consider your manager’s background 

An important part of managing your manager is recognizing your boss’s communication style and professional values.  We want to communicate with your manager in a way they can relate to. What makes your manager tick depends on their professional values and prior experiences. These prior experiences shape how they view the world today and specifically, how they view you.

Why do most managers think they are?

  • Mentors
  • Funny
  • Fair
  • Understand diversity
  • Strategic

Promoted to manage us

Managers became managers because their prior managers and companies promoted them. This isn’t the manager’s fault. Who would decline a promotion? Some managers have been promoted a number of times. If you were promoted a couple of times, it would be easy to think, “Hey, I am pretty damm good at what I do”. “I must be a good communicator, I have a team of 15 or 50)

Before I go on, let me state for the record: I can honestly say that most managers are well-intentioned. Most managers mean well.

Many managers were promoted because they were great individual contributors. Most were promoted with the thought that they would grow. Their ability to manage relationships, people, or their manager communication skills would get better over time. Most managers have received little or no manager training so we need to meet them half way. 

Thankfully, the company I work for recognizes this and has invested heavily in manager training. We don’t just give manager training to new managers. Acme Publishing gives manager training to folks who WANT to be managers or are potentially interested in becoming a manager. We understand that after attending 6 full-day manager training sessions, (This is one of three management classes we hold) you may realize, “I don’t want to be a manager.” 

When you are thinking about managing your manager there are a few ideas to take into consideration. 

Generational differences

Most managers are a generation or more older than us. This means they think differently and this translates to a different value system. I know my father approaches work  (and life) very differently than I do. So, if you are a GenZ reporting to a Boomer, take this into account. The prior experience of older generations does not include working from home. For some, the ability to stream online wasn’t an option in their early careers. They proved their worth by working in the office 10 hours a day. It is hard for some of the Boomers to understand being productive “working from home”. This is just one of 100’s of differences between the generations. 

Eating lunch every day out (younger generations) vs. bringing lunch from home (older generations). Social media and comfort with technology are just a few of the differences.

Boomer Generation reality check 

I recently worked with an employee who was mid-career. They were trying to explain to their 60-year-old boss why the salary bands have gone up. The boss didn’t get it until the employee explained the following:

  • Boss, you have been living in your home for the past 40 years. It might have cost $80K. Your college education was $10K.
  • Today’s homes in our area are $650K on average on our education is $200K. It’s tough to survive, let alone thrive with the local cost of living and education. As a XYZ positoin, I shouldn’t be struggling like this. 

The boss got a reality check. She knew that the costs had gone up, but hasn’t had to think through making ends meet on a mid-career salary low in the band. She was thinking of costs from yesteryear with her executive pay in mind. This doesn’t take into consideration folks making much less than XYZ professional salaries. 

For the record, I like to keep salary conversations confined to performance and roles, but this manager needed a reality check. Yes, the employee received a large raise. 

Where did your manager start their career?

Where your manager started their career can make a difference. Many senior leaders started their careers in large corporations. Start-ups weren’t a thing 20 or 30 years ago. This group had access to formal management training. It wasn’t uncommon for a new manager up through the late 90s to go through a 6-month manager training course with books, workbooks, study groups, role plays, and theory. This after being on the job for at least 3-5 years.

Boomers may be old school, but they understand the potential of a strong management team. This group grew up with 9 box ratings, Hi-Po’s / High Performers, and Change Management Training to name just a few. This group studied great CEOs like college students who study math and science. When a millennial wants to be a manager after 4 months on the job remember, their experience is different. They had to work for 3-5 years before being picked for manager training.

Size and industry of the company where your manager worked

The size and industry of the company your manager worked for can make a big difference. There are philosophical differences when it comes to compensation practices between corporate and non-profit. Decision-making processes will be different between start-ups (fast and loose) and corporate (slower with more layers of management to go through).  If your boss has a history of working in smaller family-run companies, there might not be much management training. The point is, that these managers don’t know what they don’t know and also think they are “pretty damm good at what they do”. 

Thought process and decision making

How your manager processes information is probably not the same way you process information. So, when you ask your manager for resources or advice, take into consideration how they process your request and manager communication styles. (I blogged about how to ask for resources here. 

You have thought about your request for days, weeks, or months. Your pitch to your manager may have taken 30 seconds or 3 minutes. Asking your manager to process in seconds or minutes what you processed over days, weeks, and months isn’t fair. They are not going to digest what you just spit at them in this compressed time frame. Some managers can process information with velocity. Others need to process. Some need to see a pitch on a whiteboard, and others want you to get to the point and skip the storytelling. In-person? Over email? Powerpoint? Excel spreadsheet?  These are just a few of the considerations when I make a pitch.

We all need to engage in manager communication. Figure out how your manager’s prior experience and communication style and adjust to them.  Any quick Google search for “Decision making in the workplace” or “Communication styles in the workplace” is a good place to start. 

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, ridiculously good, tricky, and manipulative but with the result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone good at something. “He has a nasty forkball.”

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