Welp, it’s nearly the end of February and I said I was going to blog every Friday this year. NO TIME LIKE NOW TO START!
I’m going to take my cues for my first few blog posts from the panel I sat on at ALA Midwinter which was supposed to be about “getting things done,” but I think really turned into more of an honest Q&A for newer librarians and maybe a little bit of therapy for us all. (Maybe the mimosas helped. I’m not sure. I was coming down with the flu.)
Anyway, I was struck by how many librarians present (and most had three years or less experience as I recall) asked some sort of variation on “how do I ask my boss so and so?” or “how do I go and talk to this person?” So, here we are with my advice on how to talk to your boss.
First, if you need to talk to your boss, talk to your boss. Yes, it’s that simple. We are all on the same team and these are libraries, not places where anyone is yelling (I hope!).
Personally, I have an open door policy. If someone comes in and I am doing something, I will give them a minute. If I’m on a deadline, I will say, “sure, I have a few minutes, but I need to finish this today, so if it’s longer than fifteen minutes or so, let’s schedule something.” But, what if your boss is less flexible? Here are my suggestions:
- Shoot an email and ask for fifteen minutes. Be succinct. Tell him or her what your problem is and bring SOLUTIONS with you.
- If the problem is longer or more involved, start with an introduction to the issue, offer to schedule something longer for sometime soon.
- Don’t put anyone on the spot on something that needs thinking over.
Follow-up with an email so that you both have a record of the problem, plan, future meeting, solution. I am the first to admit that I forget a lot of stuff if I don’t have a written/electronic record somewhere. My desk is littered with sticky notes.
Also, sometimes an email (or even pick up the phone), is a good way to get your boss’s attention and ask, “hey, can I see you about something? It has to do with such and such.” None of us like to be surprised.
If you don’t bring a solution with you, be prepared to have the dead elk handed back to you. I’m not here to take the monkeys off of anyone’s back. I’m here to figure out where else we can put the monkeys. But if it’s your problem, it’s your problem.
Now, if you’re trying to troubleshoot something that is politically sticky (I have to try this project because YOU, dear boss person, want me to), then tread carefully, but note your concerns and your willingness to still try. All of us boss people are not totally unreasonable, but sometimes we can shed light on something…like WHY it would be good if we did this because it would build a lot of good will with so and so.
In the end, if you’re in a working environment where you really are that petrified to talk to your boss, my advice is really that you need a new job (we’ll blog that next week). And yes, I realize that might be easier said than done.