While it can be intimidating to sit down with your boss and pick their brain, you can and should feel comfortable doing so. Asking questions will not only help clarify issues, so you can be the best employee ever, but chatting with them on the regular will help establish healthy communication. And that can open all sorts of doors down the road.
"It's actually essential," Jane Scudder, a certified career, leadership, and personal development coach, tells Bustle. "Communication is a key element in the workplace." So go ahead and ask about your specific job requirements, ask about raises and promotions, or ask about something simple, like how and when you can scoop up your vacation days.
Whether it's something big or something little, there are several things people forget to ask their boss, sometimes because it's intimidating and thus easy to push aside. But also because it's easy to get swept up in a busy work day, and let little things fall to the wayside.
So take a deep breath, gather up your questions, and ask. And the sooner you can do so, the better. "Asking questions early on is the key," Scudder says. "You want to establish openness in this new working relationship." Doing so will guarantee you know what's expected of you — as well as what you can do better — so you can break a few glass ceilings and nab a few promotions. Sound good? Then read on below for a few things that may have slipped your mind, but are actually very important to ask.
1. "How am I doing?"
If you spend your days wondering if you're doing a good job, remember that it never hurts to ask. It may feel strange, but all you have to do is waltz up to your boss, see if they're free, and ask for some feedback. You might even want to set up a meeting to chat about what you could be doing better, going forward.
"Women are often afraid to ask for feedback as to how they are doing, and instead wait to be told," certified life coach Mitzi Bockman tells Bustle. "By being proactive they are setting themselves up for success."
2. "How should I go about taking time off?"
Are you one of those people who never takes time off? If so, you're not alone. When things are super busy, the thought of leaving your desk can feel like a huge disservice to your company. But remember, you most likely have paid-time off as part of your salary, so go ahead and find out the best way to take it.
"Some managers like to know weeks (or more) in advance," says Scudder. "Some want a formal email asking for the time off. Some want a note simply popped onto their calendar." Figure it out, then go take that vacation.
3. "What do I do if I'm sick?"
The next time you wake up with a horrible cold, you'll be so glad you asked about the sick day policy. "Stuff happens. And when it does, it's stressful. Having to navigate the added stress of not knowing how to communicate an issue [when you're sick] only adds to this," says Scudder. "This one can feel awkward, [so] I recommend asking it in the middle or end of a conversation about work/role expectations. Try something like, 'How would you like me to communicate any unforeseen issues — like falling sick, a family emergency, or something like hitting traffic on my way into the office?'"
4. "Are we going to talk every day?"
Nothing's worse than sitting at your desk, wondering if you're saying too much (or not enough) to your boss. Are you supposed to update her every hour, check in at lunch, or completely leave her alone?
"This one may feel silly, but it's critical in all stages of a career," Scudder says. "As you progress professionally you will increasingly be expected to work independently, which may mean little to no verbal communication with your manager for days. On the flip side, new workers often don't know what to do day-to-day, so when their manager is tied up and unavailable they are unsure how to proceed, if they're done anything wrong, or how to navigate. Asking this question will help set expectations."
5. "What's your preferred communication style?"
Once you reach an understanding as to how often you'll be in contact, be sure to ask your boss which mode of communication they prefer. "It helps to understand how your boss wants to communicate," says career expert Emily Liou of CultiVitae. Does she want an email? Or does she prefer you come by her office? Knowing will help with your workflow, but it'll also make you feel better, too. As Liou says, "Getting buy in from your boss on how they prefer to communicate will make sure you speak up more confidently when you do need to ask for feedback."
6. "When should I start pursuing a raise?'
OK, so you might not "forget" to ask about this one, so much purposefully avoid it at all costs. Asking for a raise, or pursuing a promotion, can be stressful and even a little embarrassing. But you gotta do it. "Having your bosses support for upward mobility is key and asking for it is the only way to get it," Bockman says.
If it helps, keep in mind that asking makes you look good. "If women are proactive about planning for their financial future, they will show themselves to be forward thinking and planners and therefore a more valuable employee.
7. "What are my responsibilities here?"
It may sound overly simplistic, but when was the last time you checked in regarding your actual list of responsibilities? "It is critical to ask your boss how you are being evaluated and what your job responsibilities are," says lifestyle expert Heather Monahan. "Getting this answered in writing is a must! Oftentimes there can be confusion in verbal communication and your job is one place you need clarity."
8. "What are my options for going back to school?
Asking this question can start a dialogue between you and your boss, and can help shed light on whether or not they'd be supportive of you going back to school — as well as if you're company would be willing to pay for it. "Seeking education to advance your career and make you a better employee will make you more valuable to your boss," Bockman says. So they might just agree.
9. "What are the standard work hours?
Again, very simple. But as you probably know, many work environments have a clock out time, as well as a second, much later time when it's actually OK o leave. That's why career consultant Tiffani Murray suggests asking, "What are the standard hours you expect your employees to be in the office?" Is it OK to leave at five, or do the best employees stay 'til six?
10. "Am I expected to check email off hours?"
Since dealing with work-related issues off the clock can be tiring and stressful, Murray suggests finding out if it's even expected. Are you totally dunzo at five? Or do you need to carry your phone, and send email replies from bed? Find out ASAP, to save yourself any unnecessary stress.
11. "Why did they get fired?"
While you'll want to tread lightly here, it never hurts to find out why someone in your company was fired. "Information is power and you need as much of it as you can get," Monahan says. "Finding out what criteria there is for termination will make it crystal clear for you to understand what not to do."
While these may not be the easiest questions to ask, they're super important when it comes to knowing just what's expected of you, making the most of your work day, and even advancing your career down the road.