Ten Questions to Ask Your Manager

small man and womanI once had a boss who seemed unapproachable. His office door was open but no one ever disturbed him. I was new to the staff but I noticed that he never came out of his office and no one went into it unless he called to invite them. I had a job that no one had had before. I needed to understand his expectations of me so I made a list of what I saw as the priorities and asked him if we could discuss them. Surprise! He seemed delighted to see me and welcomed the discussion. Others who reported to him were amazed by my easy access but never did try it themselves.

Everyone knows that having a good relationship with his/her manager is really important. Some managers make that easy for their direct reports. Sometimes because of the manager’s style or workload, the manager seems unapproachable. Employees then feel that they can’t get their questions answered or worse that their questions are not important or proper to ask. Whether your manager is helpful or not, here are 10 questions that you have a right to ask. Use them at appropriate times. The ones dealing with promotion can be saved for a time when you think you are ready and when you feel the time is right.

  1. What are you being measured on this year and how can I help you to achieve your goals?
    Every manager should be happy to give you this information. Listen carefully because it is the key to your success. It will help you to help your manager to achieve his objectives for the year.
  2. How will I be measured?
    If you don’t know the answer to this one, it is important to ask. It is not fun to get to a yearly appraisal and find out you are being measured on something you never knew about and did not concentrate on.
  3. What skills do I need to develop to advance my career?
    As you begin to think about future assignments it is worthwhile knowing what your manager believes are the most important skills to have. You may or may not agree with what your manager says but it is worth listening to his/her perspective.
  4. What would you recommend I do to improve that skill or skills? Is there training available? Could a mentor help me? Is there a project available that I could work on to grow those skills?
    These are all legitimate questions once you know you have a skill that needs to be developed.
  5. What are the strengths that you see that I have that you believe will help me advance?
    You know what you see as your strengths but your manager may have a different perspective. This is an appropriate question to ask particularly during a performance review.
  6. Do you do a written performance review every year of the members of your group?
    If your manager doesn’t do one each year, is there someone else who does? Find out who gives input to this evaluation. Early on in your relationship you will want to know the answers to this. Knowing when the review is scheduled and who is responsible for it will help you to be prepared.
  7. What would you see as my next step in advancement?
    This is a question you want to ask to get your manager’s perspective. You may not agree with him/her but at least you know what his/her thinking is.
  8. Is there a possibility that a position like that would be available here?
    Sometimes your next step may be at another company. A manager might not say that but the answer to this question will give you a sense of what is available for you in your current company.
  9. Is there a process for promotion within the company? Can you explain it to me?
    Most large companies have a list of people ready to be promoted. If you are not on that list, getting a promotion is difficult and sometimes impossible. Before you look within your company for advancement be sure you follow the process. I’ve known people who lined up a “next job” but were denied it by their current manager who had not been asked about the promotion until it was a fait accompli. Include your manager in your planning process when you target a promotion to an internal position.
  10. How and when do I get to be part of the promotion process?
    Getting on that promotion list may be a question of being visible to a whole set of managers not only your own. With your managers support you can get to be part of projects that expose you to other groups and managers.

Other lists that you may find useful:

10 Questions to Ask Your Potential Manager. Use a few these to ask at an interview as a way to determine if you want to work for this person.

10 Questions to Ask Your New Boss Use a few of these to get to know your new manager when you are at a job where your boss changes or when you have just started a new job.

Do you have difficulty speaking with your boss?  Some bosses seem unapproachable.  Others seem moody.  Still others are intimidating.  Learning to keep the lines of communication open with your boss is part of being a good employee.  Unfortunately many people decide it is best to just avoid the boss.  Whatever type of boss you have if you see value in being in contact with him/her, then making a plan of ways to interact with him/her is better than staying clear of the boss.  As your coach I will help you to put together a plan and stay with you while you implement the plan so we can learn what works and what does not.  Call me at 781-598-0388 for help.


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