Closed-Mouth Boss Leaves You Guessing?
You work in a technical industry as project manager. Your boss, Darin, is in charge of several time-sensitive projects at any given time.
Your Boss Doesn’t Communicate
And that’s the problem. While Darin has been an innovative problem-solver for the company, he is not a good communicator. Now that’s he’s an executive, he exhibits an aloof Q2 managerial style, feeling more comfortable with the technical aspects of his field than the people he works with.
For example, he recently assigned your team a high-priority project that needed to be completed “yesterday.” Your team performed very well and made the tight deadline. However, you didn’t get any feedback about it from him. As is often the case, he just moved on — no review, “attaboys,” lessons learned, or ways to improve future performance. You figure that, if pressed, Darin would say, “I didn’t say anything because it went okay. What do you want, a medal?”
You feel it’s not fair to your team to get such poor feedback. It hurts morale and is a demotivator for the next project.
Time to Meet … What’s the Plan?
To be Q4 proactive, you ask Darin for a meeting to discuss communication and performance feedback. How should you handle this meeting?
Taking the sociability route might work with a Q3 amiable boss, but then you probably wouldn’t have this problem with that kind of boss. Darin’s background and experience have de-emphasized the need for developing social skills. Your adopting a Q3 demeanor for this meeting is not likely to change his outlook. In fact, you might make Darin feel so awkward that he disengages. Remember, you cannot make your boss be receptive to your goal. What could change his behavior, however, is to use objective information and a problem-solving structure for the meeting that would appeal to his technical, methodical outlook. See Answer B for a strategy that plays into his comfort zone.
This strategy is the soundest because it adapts your approach to Darin’s technical orientation. You are not confronting him about his behavior. You shouldn’t try to change his approach to people in one meeting. Rather, you are engaging him in his comfort zone. The proposed agenda gives Darin a head’s up about what you would like to discuss, so he will be more open to having a dialogue. You are staying on a level that should be in his wheelhouse: objective information, facts, and specific outcomes you would like to achieve. Darin may never take part in warm-hearted discussions. But you have a good shot at his realizing the benefits of providing timely, detailed feedback at the end of projects. In fact, a tangible takeaway from the meeting could be a set of procedures or a form that might be used for feedback each time.
Normally, benefits and consequences can be a powerful persuader when making a case for behavior change. However, it is too early for these, especially when you’re trying to engage the boss. It’s better to provide information and discuss your process before providing a list of benefits.
But what really hurts this choice is using a threat as a consequence statement. Darin hasn’t seen fit to empathize with you or your team so far. Why do you think implying that you would change your job will change Darin’s reaction? If you’re bluffing, you might find yourself out of work. And that’s not using your Q4 influencing skills very effectively.