A reader writes:
I started working for a company 6 months ago and I mostly work offsite.
The manager I report my work to is extremely unresponsive on email. He doesn’t answer back on work proposals that we verbally talked over, requests for a meeting, or joint work with one of his staff that he himself brought up. I lost a seasonal internal job because I was counting on his reply and lost major prestige out of it.
He is very open and communicative on verbal talk when we come across each other or when I poke my head in to his office. It isn’t that he is cutting me off on certain things. That was the first thing that came to my mind, but it isn’t the feeling I get. He is very open, cheerful and outgoing.
I haven’t checked about this with others he manages. From what I see, they are poking their heads in his office when he is in.
I never confronted him about this. I don’t think it would help if I did — this is his way of doing things and I am not in a crucial position in the company. I’m not well-connected either and am not yet as comfortable — I don’t want to be giving this out about the boss. However, this lack of communication is costing me big. It is also very annoying.
I would appreciate your help.
There’s a very simple solution here: Stop trying to use email to communicate with him. He doesn’t communicate over email.
Look, I love email. I’d live most of my life over email if I could. It’s easy, it’s efficient, I can write it and answer it when it’s convenient for me, others can answer it when it’s convenient for them — what’s not to love?
But not everyone feels that way. Your boss is one of them.
You know from experience that your boss isn’t responsive on email. You can wish that he was different and you can be annoyed by it, but the reality is that that’s not how he communicates. If you want answers from him, you’re going to need to talk in person.
When you’re managing people, you can decide how people communicate with you. If you want a lot done through email, you can ask for that (within reason). If you want it mostly done in person, you can ask for that too. People can certainly make judgments about whether those preferences are the most effective, but it’s the boss’s prerogative. And reasonable or unreasonable, effective or ineffective, if you want to get responses from this guy, you’re going to need to talk to him in person.
You can completely eliminate this problem today by just doing that.