One of the toughest things about any workplace is navigating the relationships with your coworkers. And one of the most crucial relationships among coworkers is that of employee-supervisor. While this topic is vast, today I want to talk about just one aspect: keeping your supervisor informed.
Just for background--I work in a rather small department and I almost always pass things through my supervisor before calling them done. They've never expressly required it, and often it gets through as is, but they do appreciate it (a lot). So my tips are based on my experience. There are certainly other factors to consider--your personality, your boss's personality, company policies, industry norms--but I hope this guide is a good place to start.
Let's face it--every supervisor wants to know what their employees are up to. But they often don't have the time to check in regularly (plus, who wants a micro-managing boss?). Taking small steps to keep your supervisor informed along the way can go a long way in reinforcing your boss's confidence in your work. A win-win.
You're obviously communicating with your boss when you need their approval on something, but when else might you want to consider keeping them in the loop? Here are just a few suggestions.
- Conducting basic administrative business. Changes to your regular schedule (one-time or recurring), vacation requests, sick days, you name it. Anything HR may be interested in is usually required to be documented somewhere (usually email for me). [You would think this is a no-brainer, but I've seen a lot of folks remiss in this respect.]
- Updating them on project progress. This could be through a regular email or one-on-one, but could also take the form of a simple cc on project emails.
- Proposing new ideas or projects. If you have an idea for a new project or a major improvement to an existing process, telling your boss and getting their buy-in is the first step to making your idea a reality.
- Sending final work to a client/coworker, regardless of whether your supervisor was required to approve it. It's a quick and easy way to indicate to your boss that a project has been completed, and hopefully any positive feedback will be reply-all-ed by the recipient. Let others toot your horn for you!
- Expressing concerns and offering suggestions. Do you think a project is headed in the wrong direction? Coming up with a workable solution before approaching your boss with the problem will show that you've thought it through and reflects well on your skills.
- When you might need back-up. While I don't recommend using cc-ing as a threat (as some folks do), some recipients do act differently if they know you're operating with the express approval of your supervisor. This also gives your supervisor a heads up and helps them look authoritative in the situation.
Keeping your supervisor informed doesn't have to take up extra time. Here is my quick guide (which I found floating around in my mind) for the best mediums for different communications needs.
- Email: Basic administrative business, meeting requests, attaching things you would like reviewed, project updates. For important project, email is also a good way to update your supervisor on what's going on, either by direct email or cc on project communications (in case it needs to be documented anywhere)
- Written: Anything that requires paper forms from your HR department or wet signatures. Otherwise email almost always suffices.
- Verbal: Anything more casual than email that doesn't require documentation, such as reminders of schedule changes you've already gotten approved ahead of time, minor changes in lunch hour (if yours is flexible), quick once-over reviews, and project status updates. Verbal communication is also rather efficient when you're really in a bind on a project and need to bounce ideas off of someone or just need some advice.