BreakingModern — Bosses are scary. If your boss likes you, you’ve got it made. If not, work can be a living hell. Plus, even when she’s no longer your boss, you still want her to give you a killer recommendation.
Sure, it’s tempting to just fade into the background, avoiding all confrontation with such a powerful being. But that would make you seem weak — and bosses don’t promote the weak. Plus, now you have to — gulp — ask a question. It’s time for you to admit you don’t know something, try to influence the boss’s decision, or even ask for something. How do you do it without sounding like you’re stupid or overstepping your boundaries? How do you approach this boss-beast with something resembling confidence (while maybe even gaining some brownie points in the process?).
Write Down Your Question Beforehand
If you’re nervous about asking your boss a question, it can help to write it down beforehand. Make sure you’re communicating clearly. Do you want their opinion, or undisputed facts? Do you need a yes or no answer, or are you hoping for something more involved? Are you hoping for a specific answer?
After formatting your question, read it back to yourself. Does it sound confident and intelligent? Does it get to the point quickly, with no rambling? If you’re really nervous, read the question to a co-worker, and ask how they would respond to a question like yours. Positively? Negatively? Does he feel inclined to agree with your points, if you have any? After getting that feedback, you should be ready to meet with your boss.
Start With Asking About Their Weekend (or Something Personal) and Really Listen to the Response
Work interactions can be a little stiff, especially between employer and employee. Get your boss in a relaxed, more informal zone by asking a genuine, friendly personal question when you first approach her. Not only will it make your boss more receptive and open to having a conversation when you actually ask your question. Plus, by focusing on her for a minute, you’ll feel less self-conscious as you pay attention to something other than the butterflies in your stomach.
Your choice of question should depend on the situation. Say, if your boss is rushing to meet a deadline, she might feel annoyed if you languidly ask her what she was up to on Saturday. Instead, feel free to give her a quick how-are-you, but you should still make sure to pause and really listen to the response — she may need to vent, and might be more receptive to your question once she’s blown off some steam. Plus, you’ll come off as attentive and personable. Bonus points!
Ask Your Question … and Ask Another
Once you’ve listened to your boss’s answer (and responded sympathetically — don’t be afraid to chat for a minute) it’s time to ask your question. Make sure you have her full attention, and look directly at her as you speak. Wait for her response, and don’t interrupt. Once she’s made her point, take a beat to collect your thoughts, and then follow up with another question. If no question comes to mind, state your course of action now that you have her response. “So I’ll focus on filing the reports first, and then work on setting up the meetings.” “Okay, I’ll forget about following that new direction and instead continue with our previous plan.”
Don’t Take Her Response Personally
After all that, your boss may not give you a positive response. Don’t slink out of the office like a scolded puppy. You put your best foot forward, and even if your boss didn’t agree with you, the positive aspects of your inquisition will still stand out.
Remember, no matter what, thank your boss for her feedback and walk out of the room with your head high (even if you feel like you’ve been pummeled with a baseball bat). You’re a professional, after all.
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