Struggling to talk to your boss? 5 steps to avoid destroying your career.
Plus 7 Emails You Should Send Every Week to Get Ahead
Welcome to another edition of ProductiveGrowth 🌱, weekly stories about productivity, leadership, motivation, and anything else that helps us and our teams grow and be more productive. Plus, industry news on the companies, products, and services that allow us to work less and do more.
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How to approach difficult conversations with your manager. (Pt 2.)
The big paradox of productivity.
The 7 Emails You Should Send Every Week to Get Ahead in Your Career.
To Become a Better Leader, Change the Way You See People.
Weet for Product Hunters.
How to approach difficult conversations with your manager. (Pt 2.)
A few weeks ago, I wrote an issue about having difficult conversations at work. I shared a personal experience from when I was an HR Business Partner and gave feedback to a volatile and unempathetic senior manager. As you can imagine, it did not go well. You can read the dialogue describing how I would've liked a follow-up conversation to go in part one.
In this second part, I’ll share five steps to tackle a tough conversation without risking your job or professional relationships.
When you don’t have a good relationship with your manager, you can feel embarrassed or even afraid to share anything with them—feedback, personal struggles or specific requests—no matter how small.
But hope is not lost! Two principles for good communication are being respectful of the other person and sharing a clear message. If you manage to accomplish those things, the conversation will likely go well.
Here are five steps to follow to improve the chances of having a difficult—but productive— conversation:
Take the reins of the conversation.
If you asked your manager for a 1:1 but didn't explain the reason beforehand, make sure you point it out at the beginning of your meeting. There are always 100 topics to talk about between a manager and a report, so don't let the meeting's purpose drift away.
Most managers will ask, "What did you want to talk about?" at the beginning of the meeting. If they don't and start talking right away, you can simply say, "Sorry to interrupt. If you don't mind, I set this meeting because I needed to address a different personal topic. Can I share what I planned, and we can stay after that, or maybe set another meeting later this week?"
State the problem and be clear about it.
Make sure you are honest and clear about the situation. Usually, we are terrified to confront our managers because we've already decided in our minds that they'll react poorly. In reality, being vulnerable helps the other person be more empathetic.
I started suffering from terrible headaches six months ago. I've been tested for everything, and doctors have finally discovered what I have. It turns out I have a lipoma in the left side of my head. It's subcutaneous, so it was not showing in the MRIs. It's not dangerous, and if it weren't bothering me, there wouldn't be a need to remove it. But, since it's one of my headaches' main causes, they'll need to remove it.
It's quite a simple procedure. The surgery will be only for an hour. But since I'll have a head wound, the recovery will interfere with my working hours. The doctor says that I will not be able to work for the next two days after the surgery and no longer than four hours a day after that for two weeks.
I want to plan the surgery for a Friday, so I don't have to miss the two days after that, and I wanted to ask you what the policy or process is for the recovery I just mentioned.
Being that clear in your message helps your manager get the full picture and answer accordingly. However, in case you don’t want to disclose private information, review your company’s policies or your country’s laws. There’s a high chance that you don’t need to overshare.
Don't apologize, but also don't be entitled.
Sometimes situations exceed your range of action. “You've made a major stride in conversing with your chief or HR group yet it's critical to recollect you don't have to apologize. In the event that you are not well, you are not well,” said Quora user Gyaneshwar Rao.
Especially if you’re a woman, this can be particularly hard to follow since studies have proven that women apologize more than men.
But apologizing for what you’re feeling or suffering from is not required nor necessary—assuming you’ve followed the first principle and you’ve been respectful enough.
However, don't assume your boss or company needs to fulfill all of your personal asks. Be willing to listen and negotiate with a win-win mentality.
For example, let’s say your manager pointed out some mistakes you made in a presentation in front of others. When you have the conversation with them about why their behavior bothered you, don’t start by apologizing. State the facts and explain how their behavior made you feel invalidated or embarrassed. You’re allowed to feel that way. At the same time, don’t assume they need to accept the feedback or expect that they’ll change.
“Julie, I wanted to share that I felt uncomfortable and ashamed on Thursday when you pointed out all the mistakes I made in the presentation in front of Carl and James. I know they’re part of the team, and you probably didn’t mean any harm, but I would rather you gave me feedback in private when possible.”
Come up with a solution together.
This is the time when you should share your ideas to solve the problem or allow your manager to come up with ideas for a resolution. You should commit to the solution together and agree on what will happen if either of you don't live up to that agreement.
Knowing your company policies is critical in this step.
Following the previous example, a possible solution would be that the manager, Julie, takes the feedback and agrees to open a private communication channel to give timely feedback.
Set a time to follow up.
You should always follow up on challenging discussions. It guarantees progress and removes the "taboo" behind it. Plus, once you normalize the topic on hand, the conversation becomes smoother.
You can say, “When should I expect an answer from you?” or “I will set a meeting to follow up on this topic, if that’s okay with you.” This way, you can assure the subject will be reviewed again in the near future.
Difficult conversations won’t ever be fun or enjoyable, but following these 5 tips will hopefully make them less uncomfortable, and more effective.
“Speak your mind even though your voice shakes.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Edited by: Lauren Maslen.
The big paradox of productivity. - This article by Matthew Godfrey talks about the productivity paradox—a mix of productivity and speed. It’s an interesting read that questions the idea that productivity allows us to achieve more in less time.
The 7 Emails You Should Send Every Week to Get Ahead in Your Career- In this article, Michael Thompson lists seven emails you should send to make the most out of your work and your networks. My favorite is writing an email to a former coworker.
To Become a Better Leader, Change the Way You See People- This article explains how the perception of a manager can modify someone's career. According to the author, Zach Mercurio, “most underdeveloped potential, behavioral concerns, and performance issues aren’t ‘people problems’ but ‘seeing problems.’”
Write Simply- Using fancy words doesn’t mean a piece of writing is necessarily good. In fact, Paul Graham thinks quite the opposite, explaining, “The easier something is to read, the more deeply readers will engage with it.” Read why he chooses to write simply in the link above.
Many employees know the feeling of meeting overload—when their calendars are jam-packed with back-to-back meetings all day long. Weet is an app that allows teams to easily hold asynchronous meetings, letting employees leave messages, record themselves and their screen, and wait for others to continue the conversation. Check it out here.
I had a best friend at university who wouldn’t turn assignments in if they weren’t perfect. I admired his standards, but it did him more harm than good. His work was never as perfect as he wanted it to be, and he ended up failing a bunch of classes. I used to tell him sometimes that done is better than perfect, and so is progress.
Mel talks about how to accept responsibility without getting hijacked by emotions. (4 min)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Why I’m a sucker for pen and paper- This issue explains how writing with pen and paper can help the brain remember more and why productivity apps don’t resonate with everyone.
Build your way to the top of your dreams.- Managing your career is no different than managing a business. This article shares some tips on how to do it.
How to stay motivated, according to social media- Motivation is easier said than done. Read what motivates others and how to find your motivation here.
JOIN OUR CLUBHOUSE OFFICE HOURS
On Tuesday, April 6th at 7:30 pm PST/9:30 CT/10:30 EST, hop into our ClubHouse room to discuss the topics shared in this issue.
Find us here: https://www.joinclubhouse.com/club/productivity-business
FOOD CURIOSITIES & ADVENTURES
Shrimp Magazine - An old print publication or NOLA Classic
New Orleans draws revelers with Mardi Gras parades, crowd-pleasing jazz clubs, Cajun eateries and raucous bars serving potent cocktails. Strolling through the Garden District will inevitably lead you to Magazine Street, where you might be lucky enough to catch a whiff of sauteed garlic, shrimp, green onions, white wine, and parsley at Joey K’s. Their famous Shrimp Magazine is a decadent NOLA Classic that you can even make at home.