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I am working at a startup and it’s a very busy time right now where there is a lot of pressure on me to get something done very quickly.

My boss (who also is the company CEO) asked me today if there was anything he could do to help me. I wanted to say that it would be great if I could have more meeting time with him to go over where I’m stuck. I learn by talking and speaking to others, and this would help me sort out my understanding.

I hesitated telling him for two reasons:

  1. He’s very busy and I don’t want him to waste his time by talking to me.

  2. I’m a woman and he’s a man and I don’t want my request to be misunderstood. This may seem weird but sometimes women say things like they want more time with their boss, and they have certain intentions. This isn’t like that at all, but I don’t know how to be clear that this isn’t like that.

I am pretty new to the workforce and significantly younger than my boss. The company is American and based in the U.S., but I'm a non-U.S. national.

Is it normal/professional for a younger female employee to say that they want more meeting time with their boss?

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    @stanri I assume Dan is checking whether there's a discrimination angle to your situation but I don't get that impression at all. /// Native English speakers: is "meeting time" the right term? I feel like asking for regular check-ins is fine but calling it "meeting time" has a different connotation, but that could just be my background. – Lilienthal Sep 19 '16 at 19:14
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    @stanri Getting cut short can also be a signal that your manager thinks the topic is something you should figure out for yourself. – mcknz Sep 19 '16 at 21:44
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    @JamesG. Huh? I don't get your point. I don't see anyone 'dismissing' anything, just answering the question. Is there some rule that men can't answer questions asked by a woman about what is appropriate or normal in the workplace? Also, no one is stopping any women from 'chiming in.' Especially given that this question is specifically about interactions between a man and a woman, having perspectives from both represented seems useful. – reirab Sep 19 '16 at 22:44
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    @JamesG. it's the mans perspective (her bosses) that counts, will he see it as unprofessional, a possible invitation, a sign that she wants to spend more time with him personally with all that that 'might' imply etc,. The OP already knows her own intentions. – Kilisi Sep 20 '16 at 0:09
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    James - while it is likely to be very useful to get perspectives from both main gender groups, we know our gender balance on SE is not 50:50 so let's not wait for equal numbers of answers from men and women. Let's just get useful answers. And interestingly some from men will be good and some bad, as will some from women. Voting will sort them. – Rory Alsop Sep 20 '16 at 11:45
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It is normal for any employee, regardless of gender, to ask for more meeting time with a supervisor, manager, or boss. This doesn't always mean requests for additional time are granted, or even necessary.

The vast majority of professionals do not consider meeting requests to be personal in nature unless they are outside of a workplace context. A business lunch during the week outside of the office would still be within the context of the workplace.

One of the responsibilities of an employee is some degree of self-direction. Consider if there are some things you can figure out for yourself, or figure out from meeting with your peers, before requesting additional time from your boss, who is no doubt busy with other matters.

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    Thank you for your answer! Just to say, I spoke to my boss today about meeding to discuss work challenges and it all want fine. I was careful to be specific that I wanted to discuss work stuff and it didn't have to be very long. I was also careful to figure out as much as I could without his help. He's the only one who knows the particulars of what I do, I'm coding his algorithm so I couldn't really have asked a coworker about it. – user5621 Sep 21 '16 at 13:27
  • You are welcome -- sounds like you handled it perfectly! Makes sense that in a startup sometimes the CEO is the person you need to talk to directly. – mcknz Sep 21 '16 at 13:38
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It should be normal and is definitely professional. If you're concerned over any misunderstandings:

  1. Send a meeting request in writing/email. Be specific about the areas you want to discuss, the time, place and length of the meeting.
  2. Suggest a meeting room, but if your boss prefers his office, don't be too concerned. You're the one wanting a meeting room, so there's no confusion.
  3. Suggest a time during normal work hours. Again, he may ask to do it when it is convenient for him and it may not be during normal work hours. This isn't uncommon, but use your discretion and don't agree to things you're not comfortable with.

You're new and will continue to learn what is appropriate and what is not. Hopefully, you're not the only female in this organization and you'll get plenty of examples of what is considered appropriate. This doesn't mean you shouldn't be aware of what male colleagues do and demand similar treatment. That doesn't mean you have to do things you're not comfortable with. Different customs should be respected in the workforce and not assumed you leave all of your beliefs and conventions at the door. Respect should be mutual and not one sided.

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    Being specific about why you want more meeting time sounds like a great way to make sure he won't even consider the possibility that there's any other motivation. Maybe he even knows of someone else in the company that has time to discuss/explain that material, and can set the OP up with a meeting with someone else. – Peter Cordes Sep 20 '16 at 0:22
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    Being specific also helps both of you avoid wasting anyone's time. You should always do this anyway, but specifically in this case saying "I would like a weekly meeting to go over ..." is reasonable, and he might find that easier to schedule and do than random occasional ones. But I think even better would be emails when you need a meeting with a specific list of things you want clarified. – Móż Sep 20 '16 at 4:46
  • This is a very good answer, except possibly the meeting outside of working hours part. I don't think that's acceptable. Unless the OP and the manager work different shifts, there's no reason the manager shouldn't be able to accommodate her during normal working hours. – skrrgwasme Sep 20 '16 at 21:10
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Is it normal/professional for a younger female employee to say that they want more meeting time with their boss?

Not that I know of, it does sound a bit dodgy when put like that and could be misconstrued.

Personally I'd ask for more training time, or more discussion of my task perhaps, or be more specific in some way. But just asking for more meeting time seems so vague. 'Meeting time for what?, is she trying to take a shortcut to promotion?'

The professional thing to do is to be clear and concise in explaining your needs. There is nothing professional about being vague and open to misinterpretation.

No offence intended.

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    Yeah I got the same impression. While it's perfectly normal to want to check in with your manager more often (to do X, get his opinion on Y, go over your workload, ...), asking for more meeting time (or face time) feels weird and evasive. – Lilienthal Sep 19 '16 at 19:16
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    I completely disagree, there was way more context than you are giving credit for. She isn't approaching him and just asking for more meeting time in general, this was a question from him about if he could help her in any way and her theoretical response would have been, "It would be great if I could have more meeting time with [you] to go over where I'm stuck. I learn by talking and speaking to others, and this would help me sort out my understanding". There is nothing dodgy or unusual about that. – Kevin Wells Sep 19 '16 at 21:27
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    @Kilisi Agreed, which is why it is good that she didn't suggest telling him "I want to spend more time with you". She instead suggested saying that she wants more meeting time with him to clarify her understanding of her job, which is very much specific enough – Kevin Wells Sep 19 '16 at 21:36
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    a lot of issues are caused by men misreading a womans signals (or seeing signals that don't exist). So the 'professional' thing to do is make sure there is no chance of it being misinterpreted. What the OP said is too vague and the word 'meeting' can have different connotations and is a poor choice. – Kilisi Sep 19 '16 at 21:37
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    +1 if you tell the boss what you really need (someone to bounce ideas off on / someone who can help me sort out my understanding of project x) the boss can then decide to spend more time to help you with that, or he can decide that someone else should spend some time to help you with that. Whereas if you just say you need meeting time with him, he first has to figure out what you really need, before he can help you. – Sumyrda - Reinstate Monica Sep 20 '16 at 21:00
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My boss… Asked me today if there was anything he could do to help me.

First off, I will say you have a great boss. A good manager is supposed to make their employee's as successful as possible, because this makes the company successful. If you don’t accept help, you are not giving the manager a chance to do his/her job.

To state the obvious, employees have varying degrees of being introverted and extroverted. If I am reading between the lines correctly, you may be reasonably new to the company or at least the specific team. You may feel like he personally asked if you needed help because it is most likely he took a guess at you being more on the introverted side. An introvert would prefer personal, direct help as opposed to a team setting. (I admit I had a lot of managerial training based on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, so I may be biased.)

Secondly, I understand your main concern is in regards to the male/female interaction. Male/female professional relationships should not be any different than professional male/male or female/female relationships. I cannot stress this enough! If you are having conversations with your female coworkers that couldn’t be repeated with your male coworkers, or vise versa, your conversation is inappropriate for a professional environment. If anybody accidentally or purposely crosses those boundaries, fire a warning by telling them you “didn’t appreciate that comment” (or whatever works for you). If anybody, including the CEO boss doesn’t accept your warning then seek help.

Ultimately, regardless of whether you are US citizen or not, you are on US soil so the US laws protect you while you are here. I hope you can feel a sense of comfort from this. I will only say this to be complete and to not intentionally say anything against you, because I don’t know you. Please be aware that the laws apply to you also. If you show up wearing an inappropriate outfit and start being… well… inappropriate, you can get in trouble also.

Just be professional.

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    You're correct; I'm introverted (INTJ to be precise). I would never think to purposefully be inappropriate in the workplace. I'm new to the us and the culture here and my concern is inadvertently saying something unprofessional. – user5621 Sep 19 '16 at 21:56
  • +1 for if you are having conversations with your female coworkers that couldn't be repeated with your male coworkers ... your conversation is inappropriate. So true! – Wayne Werner Sep 20 '16 at 8:58
  • You are showing great intelligence and initiative by asking. I have no doubt you do well! Good luck. – Brian Sep 22 '16 at 15:04
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It is possible that a male boss might ask such a question of a female for inappropriate reasons, knowing that a direct proposition would likely result in losing his job. Either way, I would not respond so vaguely. I would more likely say something like, "At the moment, no; but may I stop by the next time I'm having trouble understanding something?"

And when you stop by for something work-related, if he makes a motion towards the door, "please leave it open"

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    OP does not seem to think that her boss has any ill intentions, but rather she would like to make sure that everything she says would not be misinterpreted as something inappropriate. – user56887 Sep 20 '16 at 15:29
  • Understood. But it's a possibility, and being "new to the United States," she may not be fluent in the "warning signals." – WGroleau Sep 20 '16 at 16:30

protected by Chris E Sep 23 '16 at 14:26

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