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At my past job there was a strong sense of needing to justify oneself and save face and every little thing people explained. For example once someone bumped into a door and set off an alarm and elaborated on how he barely touched it. Another time someone had to leave early for a massage appointment and explained how they would owe $100 if they were late. At my new job this really isn't the culture and I noticed I still am doing quite a bit of justification myself.

How do you know when an explanation is not needed to be given? For example I was installing server software and ran into a problem where the graphics were malformed. I informed my supervisor I was still working on installing the program, what detail should I give? Should I describe the strange appearance on the screen? What I tried trouble shooting I had done? What trouble shooting I will do? Or should I not say anything until he asks? Should I ask him in general how much I should report to him?

My old boss told me I asked too many questions. He told me this twice. After the first time I went several weeks without asking him any questions, so I was surprised when he said it again. I commented how sometimes I may be giving him information and not necessarily asking a question. He advised me to approach him and say "would you like an update". It sounds good in theory but I've never seen anyone ever do it. Is it a good idea to say "would you like an update?" How would the boss answer if he knows nothing of what you want to tell him?

closed as unclear what you're asking by IDrinkandIKnowThings, Michael Grubey, Jim G., jmac May 15 '14 at 4:09

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Hey bobbi, I'm a bit confused about what you're actually asking here. It sounds like the issue is communication with your boss, and that's something that can only be solved between you and him. If I have it wrong, and you have a question that fits the guidelines in our help center, please feel free to edit and it will be automatically reviewed. Thanks in advance! – jmac May 15 '14 at 4:09
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How do you know when an explanation is not needed to be given?

Generally by trial and error to some extent. Some places may be more rigorous and some places may be more lax, so it is part of the adjustment to find out how much disclosure is needed.

For example I was installing server software and ran into a problem where the graphics were malformed. I informed my supervisor I was still working on installing the program, what detail should I give? Should I describe the strange appearance on the screen? What I tried trouble shooting I had done? What trouble shooting I will do? Or should I not say anything until he asks? Should I ask him in general how much I should report to him?

This would be something to discuss with your boss or a co-worker that also handles these kinds of tasks. It may be that in the notes you write that the details are wanted there but not in the conversation. The key point here is to have feedback about how well are disclosing too much, too little or about the right amount.

Is it a good idea to say "would you like an update?". How would the boss answer if he knows nothing of what you want to tell him?

If there is a crisis, sure. Otherwise, I'd likely consider having periodic chats with my supervisor to see what kind of style they want: E-mail updates, quick in-person chats or something else? The key point here is to have the conversation so that each of you knows the expectations.

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    The part about notes versus conversation is key. If you're using some sort of bug/task-tracking system, then that is a great place to record all the details you think might be needed in the future about (e.g.) that graphics card. This means your manager can pull info if he needs it but you aren't pushing it. – Monica Cellio May 4 '14 at 19:10
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How to gauge how much to justify oneself

As you have experienced, different companies and different managers have different cultures. Each has different expectations regarding the levels of communication and feedback required.

The key to correctly gauging requirements is communication.

Talk to your boss. Ask about status reports, feedback, etc. And when a situation occurs that you suspect might require a different level of feedback - ask! Ask your boss how much and how often and in what manner she/he would like to be updated.

Talk with your co-workers. Ask them what is the expected level of communication. Note how they do it, and ask about what you are seeing.

A lot of work success involves communication. Communicating well with your boss will take you a long way toward work success.

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Your boss seems to have a pretty hands-off approach to management. I assume that you know what your tasks are, their level of priority, their milestones and their deadlines. Do what you are expected to do.

If you are hitting your milestones, send him an email saying that a project is hitting a milestone and that it is on track. Don't try to talk to him in person - he's probably got other fish to fry, his own tasks to complete and he probably views your attempts to report to him face to face as a distraction from what he personally has to do and consequently an irritant. If he asks you face to face about the status of a project, tell him the project is on track, that you just completed milestone M and that you had sent him an email to that effect.

If you are not hitting a milestone and you feel that your inability to hit that milestone could impact the deadline, let him know as much through email, and add that you are still trying to meet the deadline and that you are available if he wants to meet with you. Of course, if you have questions, email him the questions and give him the option to meet you face to face. If you are struggling through a challenge but that the overall situation is under control, spare him the blow by blow account of your travails. His attitude is that he hired you to solve problems and ideally, he only wants to hear that you are either solving them or making progress toward solving them.

It is quite apparent that he wants you to contact him on his own terms and not on yours. The good news is that he is leaving you alone and that he is not torturing you with demands for status updates every 15 minutes. It could have been worse. One more thing: stay away from long winded status updates - Most likely, he doesn't like them.

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