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Talking to your boss can be intimidating. You have to walk the fine line of asking a question worthy of their time and not seeming inept. If you have a great relationship with your boss, this may not be as much of an issue, but for most people, it can feel awkward to reach out and ask for something from a supervisor. Fortunately, most employers like hearing from employees. It is healthy for a workplace to have effective communication, so let’s break down how you can make the most out of an email to your boss.

Establish respect first

In every conversation you participate in, you should clearly establish that you have respect for the other person. This is even more true in a conversation with your boss. Not just because they control your employment and salary, but (hopefully) because you have genuine respect for them. So show it! Jumping right into the ask tells the person you are talking to that you feel entitled to their time and consideration. Whether you are asking for a raise or just for them to review a document, indicating that you are grateful for the help and respectful of their time and expertise will get you a long way. 

That could be a direct line in your communication (“Thank you for taking the time to read my offer, it means a great deal to me.”) or come across in your listening and acceptance of feedback. In fact, those two factors heavily influence office communication. If you are good at listening and honoring feedback, it is far more likely that your request will be considered.

Be clear and transparent

When you are making a request, it is important to keep it clear. No boss wants to have to sift through paragraphs to get to the meaning behind your message. Lay it out clearly, and give them action items. If you need them to do something for you, say what it is directly. There is no benefit in confusing the person you need something from, especially someone on your own team. The difference between “I was wondering if there was any possibility that you could potentially make some time to discuss …” and “I would like to make a time to discuss …” is clarity and ease for the reader. Cut the filler. 

Secondly, make sure your request is transparent. If you have an alternative reason for wanting something done, say it. Do not leave someone questioning your motives, because it will not bode well for you in the long run. Even if you feel stupid asking, supervisors aprpeciate being helpful. Your boss is in charge of your work, but they are also a resource for you. If the two of you work on the same team with the same goals, you will be more successful and have an easier time working.

Maximize the platform

Tailor your content to your communication system. If you tend to be an anxious confronter, you might lean towards using email more often, so that you can clearly lay out your thoughts and make sure not to miss anything. This also gives you receipts of everything your boss said back, so you know exactly where you stand. If you are better in person, asking for a minute to chat in the office might be your best bet. That way, you can prepare and get a good read for how they feel without leaving any emotional blindness up to the internet. There is no doubt that technology has changed how we communicate, but we can harness this to benefit our strengths and minimize weaknesses.

No matter what you end up saying, using the key elements of workplace writing in your script can help you come across as respectful and responsible, maintain the right tone, and masterfully impress your boss with your thoughtful question, prompting them to give you an equally thoughtful reply.