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How to deal with an uncommunicative manager when working remotely

Lydia Smith
·Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
·3-min read
Woman in home office during Covid-19 lockdown
Working remotely gives us flexibility and freedom, but it also requires good communication to be effective. Photo: Getty

With many of us working from home during the pandemic, much of our communication is done online — via Zoom (ZM), Slack and email. Although we have more ways than ever before to keep in touch, however, lots of home-workers are going long periods of time without speaking to their bosses.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 remote workers and managers by Jobslist found the average time employees went without speaking to their managers was an astonishing 6.1 days.

Without consistent contact and communication, feelings of invisibility appeared to spike among workers — who felt like they had to go out of their way to be noticed.

Working remotely gives us flexibility and freedom, but it also requires good communication to be effective. Without this, we run the risk of feeling unmotivated, directionless and lonely. So what should you do if your boss isn’t communicative when you’re working from home?

“Communication is so key with your team as a manager and leader, but especially in lockdown,” says Charlotte Balbier, a business, mindset and lifestyle mentor. “We have so many challenges to navigate in lockdown.

“With all this in mind communication can easily slip. It’s just another thing to keep on top of and we can tend to think it’s easier to just get on and do it ourselves,” she says. “But not training and communicating with team members can lead to your own workload becoming overwhelming — and people losing direction and productivity.”

READ MORE: How to avoid feeling overwhelmed by tech as a remote worker

Poor communication can also lead to managers expecting their workers to know exactly what they want, which can lead to disappointment, frustration or stress all round.

Richard Kenny, chief HR officer at Harmonic LTD, says it’s important to understand what is meant by uncommunicative before taking action.

“Uncommunicative means different things to different people. An autonomous worker may love a hands-off approach but, to others, it can be a nightmare,” he says. “Ultimately, when there’s a disconnect in communication styles, it can cause friction where none should exist.

“Next, assess what is getting to you most about it. Is it purely an issue of wanting more contact? Does there appear to be — on the surface — a general disinterest in what you do? Do you not get the time to bounce ideas around? Are they not coaching or mentoring you?”

WATCH: How To Answer Difficult Interview Questions

Sometimes, managers are uncommunicative because they trust the individual to get on with the work without additional support. In some cases, managers may need to focus elsewhere because there are other areas that need more of their attention. The way an employee and a manager wish to communicate can be very different, too.

If you feel your boss is uncommunicative, it can help to find out whether they have always been like this.

“It’s possible that the pandemic and a new way of working is now emphasising their natural management style,” Kenny says.

“Can you identify areas where your uncommunicative manager seems to communicate more? Do they appear more animated — more engaged — when they talk about business? Are they less engaged when talking about methodologies? Test different methods of communication and see which is more effective too, whether email, text, or instant message.”

If you want more feedback or advice, ask your manager for a one-to-one session. Set a time and date and suggest scheduling regular meetings in future, so you can stay on top of your workload. It can help to outline exactly why you want more communication, for example, to bounce ideas around or work through any problems you have.

If you’re used to speaking to your manager next to the water cooler, or chatting over lunch, then a lot of communication channels may now be closed to both of you. “It’s important to remember that your manager is just as human as you are — they’re likely feeling the same levels of stress,” Kenny adds.

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