How to Talk to your Boss

Learning to effectively communicate with your manager is one of the most important skills you can learn. It is also a skill that can make or break your career. It can be stressful to negotiate a new working arrangement or challenge your manager during a decision-making meeting, but if you follow my advice, you will be less anxious and more successful.

Be an Active Listener

What does it mean to be an “Active Listener?” It means that you are attentive and participating in the communication process to foster a mutual understanding. It is more than hearing, and active listener assesses her manager’s mood and non-verbal cues to fully understand the message and can respond appropriately.


I happen to believe mirroring is something all employees should do whether it’s dressing for the job you want or interacting with others at work. When communicating with your boss, you should mirror her style. Incorporate phrases and lingo that she utilizes to improve understanding. If your manager is informal and friendly, she will respond more positively to a more intimate tone. Conversely, a manger who is more formal and proper, would not respond well to a conversation peppered with slang or off-color jokes.

Managing Up

Normally, when we think of management, we think of a supervisor managing subordinates. But, there is certainly an element of management in every relationship; children are especially adept at managing their parents! Learning to manage up is very important in the working world.

Managing up means focusing on the relationship with your boss to obtain the best results for you, your boss and your spa. That means, for you, learning to manage expectations. For example, it is often best to under promise and over deliver. For your boss, it is developing an understanding of what your boss needs to be successful and doing the things you are empowered to do to make her look good. For the company, it is developing an understanding of and investing in the salon’s mission and development goals and doing your part to contribute.

Be Prepared

There are few scarier things in life than negotiating a raise or new working arrangement with a manager or alerting him or her to some sort of problem. We have all lain awake at night going over what to say in our heads only to walk in to the office and be overcome by nerves. But with careful preparation, we give ourselves the tools to be successful.

Serious conversations with your boss should be scheduled. Depending on your company culture, send an email or ask to schedule a meeting to discuss a compensation review or whatever it may be. This gives both of you time to prepare and focus on the discussion during the scheduled time.

Personally, I like to have something written in front of me in black and white. For example, an employee of mine would be more successful at negotiating a raise if he or she comes to me with some kind of documentation of his or her successes such as she increased sales by x%. That is the kind of hard fact that helps me understand how she is affecting the bottom line and deserving of a raise. A subjective statement such as, “I am booked all of the time” is not as clear. Is she booked with waxings? Or is she booked with the most expensive treatment on the menu and increasing retail sales to boot? Managers like numbers- remember that!

Follow Through

Finally, nothing will speak louder to your manager than actions. If you have offered to take on a new responsibility or if your manger has made some suggestions for your professional development, then show her you are serious by following through.

Open communication between an employee and her manager are important for the success of both parties as well as the organization overall. By following my advice, it need not be a scary thing. I wish you much success.

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