Communicating with the Boss (via the Chair)

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Communicating with the boss is tricky. If all you ever do is say good things you may enter the world of being called a “suck up” and your colleagues will hate you. Even the boss doesn’t like a brown-noser.  If you are critical, especially in front of others, you may end up “spending more time with your family”.

The suggestion box went the way of the pager and fax machine. All employee surveys are generally too broad to provide feedback at the individual level.  An email is easily tracked. So how do you get that feedback to the boss? The Chair is sometimes the answer for communications.

It is important to distinguish between capital C Communications and communication about the things that the boss should know but no one has the gumption to voice.

Capital C Communications include “the strategy would be better if we expanded in to Latin America.” Or, “the customers are complaining about the lag time in service.” No need to bury that type of information. Say it out loud and often. You might help the company in big ways and even get a promotion.

The messages to the boss that are best served by leaving it on the chair at night are things the boss should know but no one will ever say.  Sample messages include:

  • Screaming at the sales team every day is not showing your best self. It won’t get better results and the team doesn’t like it.
  • Please don’t take a newspaper with you to the bathroom. You can do better.
  • If you say “at the end of the day” one more time I think my hair will catch on fire.
  • Showing favorites is never a good way to get the team to work harder.
  • The team is wondering why your door is closed all the time. Rumor is you’re looking for another job?
  • Communicating via Twitter or email is not as effective as getting us all in the conference room for an update every once in a while.

Messages like these are tough to deliver to someone who controls your future. But these are things a boss should know, albeit through a note on a chair. If the message is helpful and positive the boss might actually welcome the feedback, although maybe not at first.

(Be sure there are no video recording devices that can catch you around the boss’s chair as the messenger.)

Most people in any kind of a supervisory role are quick to say, “I want feedback”. No they don’t. Well, they do if the feedback is positive. Negative feedback is criticism. Especially if it’s about personal behavior, and it’s not what they want to hear.

Using the boss’s chair at night is only a metaphor for somehow ensuring that important messages are delivered for the good of the organization and the boss. Human nature is such that sometimes-helpful feedback needs to be anonymous.

What’s on your chair?

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