Tell It Like It Is: 4 Tips for Effective Communication With Your Boss

by Curt Moreno
- Dec 27 2013 - 4 min read

In nearly every architecture, engineering, or design office there is a drafting room where someone is thinking or saying something along the lines of, “He has no idea how long something like this takes to do!” One of the chief complaints in any design field where “design” is separated from “production” is that the other side of the process does not understand how long certain tasks take.

Perhaps the situation is one where the designer, engineer, or architect has little to no experience with CAD production. Or perhaps the boss actually was in CAD production once upon a time and now feels that he or she knows just how it should be done. Whatever the situation, this sort of gap in understanding can lead to tension, low morale, and, perhaps worst of all, projects missing their production deadlines.

Fear not! Communicating across the cultural void between management and production is not impossible. Applying these four simple tips for effective communication just may be the key to helping the boss understand why producing drawings still takes time, even in the high-speed world of CAD.

1. Be an Adult. It is of the utmost importance to keep a disagreement about production time on the level of professional adults. Too often we allow this sort of disagreement to become personal. The reason is that we take our efforts seriously and become angry when they are criticized. That leads to emotional efforts to belittle the other person with disparaging remarks concerning appearance or some other personal trait. None of this is acceptable and will never lead to a better situation!

Pro Tip: The next time you find yourself complaining to coworkers or under your breath to yourself, stop and examine what you say. If you find yourself using terms that you would not like applied to you by others, then you have strayed from the professional path. Make an active effort to remove these comments from your thoughts, and you will immediately raise your standing and position.

tips for effective communication

2. Be Prepared. If the boss doesn’t understand how long it takes for CAD production, then ask yourself, “How long does it take?” The average CAD professional is very vague in his or her own estimate of time required to complete tasks. If you do not have a firm understanding of the time necessary to complete a task, how can you expect your boss to? Before going to the boss to complain for more time, or being defensive when asked about production time, get a handle on your own production needs.

Pro Tip: Start the next project with fresh files and do not leave files open. Be sure to work in a sustainable manner and either use the edit time for the drawing files as a gauge, keep a record of your day in an Excel spreadsheet, or investigate a time-tracking application. Any of these methods can be used to create a solid understanding of time needed to produce sheet sets.

3. Be Informative. Almost all misunderstandings regarding the time necessary for production stem from a lack of communication. Sometimes a CAD professional has multiple projects at a time with multiple designers. Sometimes unexpected complications in a single project can lead to added work. The same can be true of misunderstandings in the laid out design markup. Whatever the case, simple communication can help.

Pro Tip: Make regular check-ins with your designer. If you are pulled from a project to work on another, let the first designer know. If you encounter a problem that you believe will take more than 30 minutes to remedy, talk to the designer. Avoiding the rabbit holes of distractions and misunderstandings can save many working relationships.

tips for effective communication

4. Be Reasonable. When approaching the boss regarding the reality of CAD production, you have to be willing to make reasonable concessions. Asking someone to change the way they work or the results they expect is no small matter. Both sides must be willing to contribute to the solution or neither side will be satisfied and the problem will just continue.

Pro Tip: Instead of making bold statements like “You just don’t get how long this takes,” try being reasonable and explaining the necessary steps involved in the task. If the boss feels he or she could have done it faster “when they were doing CAD,” then ask them for tips. Perhaps invite the boss to sit and observe how you work to see if there are ready suggestions to be made. If suggestions are made, be sure to give them an honest effort and not dismiss them out of hand.

It is never easy to have a social dynamic where one group feels that another group tells them what to do all of the time. Sociologists would call it the classic “have and have not” scenario. In the everyday world of CAD production, we call it a weekday. So try and make your weekdays as pleasant as possible and discuss the matter with the boss. Very often you will find that they are just as frustrated and ready to fix the problem as you are!

For more tips on communicating with your boss, read How to Talk So Your Boss Will Listen. And for project management tips, check out Project Management: 7 Best Practices of Well-Timed Production.

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