Published: 02/06/2005, Volume II5, No. 5958 Page 25

Q: My boss communicates almost entirely by e-mail and the team do not like it. How can I encourage her to make more personal contact without offending her?

A: Interesting. Do you have a sense of what leads to this behaviour - shyness, lack of interest, laziness? If not it would be good to do some thinking about the cause. It will help you to shape your response.

The best way is to agree a common approach with your colleagues in the hope that your boss will gradually get the message without being offended.

The approach might include a range of tactics. When you get yet another email, and whenever you can possibly justify it, do not reply by e-mail. Go and see the boss and ask if you can discuss the issue.

You can drop into the conversation comments like 'It is really helpful to be able to talk about these issues' and 'thanks for making the time, it makes all the difference to hear it personally from you'. Even the least insightful boss should gradually get the message.

When you have something to say to the boss, and whenever you can justify it, say it in person and not by e-mail.

Once again you can include phrases like 'I felt it would be helpful to talk about this instead of sending an e-mail' or 'I didn't want to put this in an e-mail'.

Sometimes staff need to set the example for the boss. It seems that this may be one of those occasions.

You can also use appraisal discussions to get this point across. Good appraisal process includes the opportunity for staff to make comments on how they are being managed. This whole process is a good opportunity to gently suggest things that could be improved.

If you and your colleagues agree to take a consistent line, the boss should get the point. But this is not going to be a quick win. Habits die hard and changing personal work style is not an easy task for any of us.

However, you need to persist with good humour and tact, taking the opportunities as they arise. You should get there in the end.

Ken Jarrold is chief executive of County Durham and Tees Valley strategic health authority. If you have a query for Ken, e-mail in confidence to alexis. nolan@emap. com