Determining Your Manager’s Communication Style

05.06.2020 |

Episode #3 of the course Managing your manager by Jordan Thibodeau and Joe Ternasky


“Wise men speak because they have something to say…fools because they have to say something.” —Plato


Welcome back!

In our last lesson, we covered how to avoid miscommunication and get to know your manager. In this lesson, we will expand upon these topics and discuss the most effective ways to communicate and deliver information when your manager requires it.


Communicating with Upper Management

A big challenge concerning internal communication within an organization is creating effective lines of communication between middle and upper management. Communication is one of the most crucial elements of a business’s success because management isn’t typically engaged in all of the tactical details of daily tasks. In an organization with many hierarchical levels, individual employees rarely get the opportunity to sit down with the CEO or the vice president to brief them about the mundane operations of the company. However, that doesn’t mean that individual employees aren’t a valuable source of the information that upper management vitally needs to receive. Important information makes its way up or down the corporate ladder through the receiving, condensing, and presenting of reports by employees at each level along the way. This is why it’s so crucial that communication channels remain clear between you and your immediate manager; it’s the only way to ensure that information easily circulates through every level of the corporate hierarchy.


Categorizing Your Manager’s Communication Style

As we’ve said before, checking in with your immediate manager is essential to your career prospects. However, that doesn’t mean you should swamp your boss with unwanted updates and reports! Most managers are generally well-rounded and yet skew toward a certain style of communication. The following are five common communication preferences that your manager may exhibit:

Too Long; Didn’t Read (TLDR) managers prefer short updates and crisp sentences. These managers want high-level overviews of what you’re doing, but don’t want to be bothered by any tactical minutiae. TLDR managers will:

a. ignore long reports and ask for you to summarize them instead

b. send out bullet-pointed emails with minimal details

Micro-managers want detailed reports of implied and explicit events. Did you run into an issue with one of your colleagues? How did the launch of the new accounting system go? This type of manager loves to get into all the nitty-gritty details and will expect updates on even the tactical aspects of your job. Micro-managers will:

a. ask you for frequent updates

b. be quick to take back control of tasks they’ve assigned to others

Seagull managers tend to keep their distance from their employees until they fly in and cause a ruckus when they think things aren’t going their way. Once they leave, the environment will become peaceful again; but each time they swoop in, it will incite emotional turmoil within the team. Seagull managers will:

a. be hands-off until they charge in to demand progress and results

b. often speak loudly and abrasively, but aren’t mean

Delegation managers trust their employees to get things done and prefer to be called in only when something is wrong. Unless there is an emergency, these managers are too busy with higher level responsibilities to be involved in the routine operations of the team. Delegation managers will:

a. tell you their expectations very clearly, then disappear

b. tend to offer infrequent feedback

Face-to-face meeting managers love meetings and believe it’s very important to have regular 1:1 direct reports and weekly team meetings. These managers pride themselves on always being approachable by their employees and feel out of control if they aren’t interfacing with their direct reports on a regular basis. Face-to-face managers will:

a. instruct you to schedule times to talk to them, even when the conversation will be short

b. expect a summary of your team’s progress if a scheduled meeting is missed


Reflecting on Your Manager’s Communication Style

Since your manager’s communication style impacts your success at your company, it’s important to sort your manager into one of these categories and adapt your communication style to match. Use the following questions to help you examine your manager’s communication style:

1. Of these communication styles, which style does your manager skew toward most?

2. How has your manager’s communication style impacted your interactions with them?

3. When have you ignored your manager’s communication style? Has this caused friction between you and your manager?

4. Knowing this, what can you do to adapt your communication style to work best with your manager?


To Do

In your Managing Your Manager Journal, complete the “Manager Communication Style” worksheet to figure out how your manager communicates in the workplace.

In this lesson, we talked about how to determine your manager’s communication style. In our next lesson, we will build upon these ideas and teach you how to sync up with your manager and prevent performance review surprises.

Jordan and Joe

Managing Your Manager Teachers


Recommended book

Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values by Fred Kofman, Ph.D


Share with friends