Andrew Pallant

Software & Web Developer

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How to deal with a non-technical boss

Physical Link: How to deal with a non-technical boss

We have all had bosses at one time or another that we had to deal with who was not technical in nature.  Often we find it frustrating because we do not speak the same language and we do not know how to deal with each other.   We as the employee can take the first step in understanding each other.

How to Speak?
You need to transform your speech into a language that your boss will understand.  Knowing full well that your boss will not understand tech terms, programmer’s language or computer-speak; an alternate language is required.   It is a bit of an art to transform your speech into something else.   My father-in-law does it very well, but I am still learning.   I like the idea, if my wife has trouble understanding it; it may be too techie.  It is best to learn business terms that mean the same as tech terms.   You also need to shed the technology details and implement business details.  Chances are the non-technical boss will not care how it is done, but they will care about timelines, money and training.

How to Process?
Your non-technical manager will throw out business terms.  They will tell you what they want using their business language.  They may try to throw out some tech terms, but often they will use them incorrectly.  The best approach is to make notes, and ask questions.  Forget how you will go about accomplishing the task, but instead find out the details of the requirements.

Example:  If they say they need a calculator to calculate how much to ship a box, ask questions like:

1. How is it done now?
2. Ask about rounding rules?
3. Ask if they do it by weight or size or both?
4. Ask if there is a matrix of postal codes?
5. Where do they get their rates?

Remember; they really do not care how you will program it.  They just want it usable and for it to function correctly.  Take your notes and ask your questions.   Take everything back to your office and transform the details into a project and programming plan.  Write out the formulas, draw out your user interface and write out your timelines for approval.

How to Act?
Do not get frustrated.   Remember they are just as confused by you at you are of them.  It is not their speciality to be technology.  Treat them as a customer; it will help you respect them.  Make lots of notes and repeat back to them what you hear.  Use non-offensive language and body gestures.  Sometimes drawing pictures will help both parties to understand.

Categories: Bosses, Professional Development, Technology

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