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Why won’t our manager communicate?

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in Your Office Coach

Question:  “My manager never tells employees anything about what’s happening in the company.  We have to get our information from people in other departments. Sometimes he doesn’t even tell me things that may pertain to my job.  This lack of communication drives me crazy.  Although I have mentioned the problem numerous times, he still doesn’t communicate.  I have just about given up.  What else can I do?”  —Kept In the Dark

Answer:  If your manager is an otherwise reasonable person, this may simply reflect a personality difference.  The amount of information people want is largely driven by their thinking style. 

Comprehensive Thinkers view the world through a wide-angle lens.  They strive to learn as much as possible about their company, their colleagues, and their job.  They do their best work when they understand the bigger picture.

Focused Thinkers, on the other hand, only want information that directly relates to their immediate objective.  They try to avoid being distracted by extraneous data.  They do their best work when they can concentrate on the task at hand.

When people with different styles work together, misunderstandings often arise.  The information that you find helpful may seem irrelevant to your boss, so he doesn't think to share it.   

Since direct requests haven’t solved this problem, consider trying a different approach.  Instead of criticizing your manager, ask for regular meetings to discuss work issues. To insure that these meetings occur, offer to put them on the calendar yourself. 

This will provide an opportunity to inquire about any topic that interests you. However, you must be specific.  If you ask “What’s new in marketing?” his response may be “Not much.” But if you say “What’s the theme of the new advertising campaign?” you might get an answer.

Even with prompting, however, your manager may never share as much information as you would like. So you might need to continue ferreting out news from other sources.

To assess your own boss’s style, check out Who's Your Work Style Opposite?

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