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Call, Text or Drop-by? What’s an Employee to do?

Ever notice that some people want to talk things through on the phone, others drop by your cube to chat and still others prefer a quick text? Some bosses want you to ping them throughout the day with questions, others simply want to hear from you one time, at the end of the day with all your questions and/or updates.

To figure out who wants what and how, be sure to ask your boss, your collegues, your clients: i) How do you want to be reached (email, phone/voicemail, live meeting, text)? and ii) How often do you want to touch base (daily, weekly, as-needed)?

My former boss, Julie, was constantly pinging me with questions about the status of this project or that client account.  It made my blood pressure rise every time I heard my blackberry ding.  I just couldn’t get through the day with her constant interruptions.  So I decided to be bold and suggested I send her a daily, end-of-day email summarizing the status of all my work.  After a few weeks of these updates, she backed off.  Once she realized I was in fact on top of everything, she didn’t feel the need to email me all day long.  As long as I kept her in the loop regularly, she gave me some space and I finally felt like I could breath and get my job done.

If you have a high-pressure job, make sure you know your colleagues communication preferences.  And ask how to reach your boss when there’s a crisis.  Does she sleep with her phone at her side and hear a text coming in, or do you need to call her home phone, even if it means waking up the whole family? Is there someone who always know where she is if you can’t reach her–like when she’s on the slopes in Telluride?

Asking the “how” and “how often” questions will make your life easier. People will appreciate your consideration, and your communication channels will become clearer, more efficient and easier to manage.  And, of course, communication is a two-way street, so go ahead and tell your underlings how and when you want to be pinged.


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