How to Email Your Boss and Build a Better Working Relationship


Sometimes it can be tough being an employee, and it can be even tougher being an employee’s boss. We all have to deal with a tremendous amount at work—demanding customers, arcane processes, constant distraction, new policies and more leave us feeling exhausted. Spare a kind thought then for your boss. They have to deal with all that, run their teams, keep their people happy, and experience the joy of people management.

We know, it can be hard to have that much sympathy—after all, that’s what your boss is paid for. The truth is, if you spend some time building up a better relationship with them, it will make working together a pleasure. And isn’t that worth it? Good working relationships are built around communication, and we know a thing or two about that. Here’s the SaneBox Scoop on using the humble email to work better with your boss.

General principles for emailing your boss

Here are some helpful guidelines on how to write better emails to your boss.

  • The subject line is your best friend—include a clear, concise description of exactly what’s in the email.
  • If your boss needs to take specific action on the contents of the email, mention it in the subject line, e.g. “Requesting approval for time off on 24 – 30 November” or “Feedback required on section three of revised proposal”.
  • Be friendly—depending on your relationship with your boss you can be conversational and have some chit chat, but keep it (relatively) brief.
  • Then, get to the point—mention what you’re writing about in the first couple of sentences.
  • Keep your sentences short and clear—make your email as easy to read, process, and respond to as possible.
  • Give your boss exactly the information they need—don’t make them have to do extra work. Make sure you include everything your boss needs to know in the email.
  • Let your boss know what you need them to do. If they need to take a particular action, state that directly.
  • If you have a problem or concern with work, think about the best solution. Mention it in the email and ask your boss if that would work for them. The less time and effort they need to spend, the better.
  • Can your boss answer your email using just the information in the email? If not, go back and add in any other necessary details.
  • Remember to attach anything you need to. Your boss doesn’t want to have to email you back because you forgot the attachment! You can even use our SaneAttachments tool.
  • Use the right formatting—break up your email so it’s easy to read. That means using paragraphs sensibly. If you need to get complex information across, use a bulleted list.
  • If you’re just providing information and don’t need a response, write “No response needed” at the end of the email. People love this.
  • Proofread your email—few things irritate more than a typo. It’s irrational but true. Make sure you proofread the email to get rid of any mistakes.
  • Thank your boss—finish off your email with a thank you, it shows you respect their time.

Specific reasons to email your boss

Here are some helpful hints and tips depending on what you’re emailing your boss about.

Confirming you’ve completed a task

For when you need to let your boss know you’ve done something like read a policy or complete a project task.

  • Keep the email ultra short and simple.
  • In the subject line put “Completed: *Name of task*”
  • In the body of the email include any further necessary information.
  • Let your boss know they don’t need to respond.

Sharing information on a regular basis

For example, if you send round a regular report, meetings minutes, or something like that.

  • In the subject line put exactly what you are sharing.
  • Put a unique identifier in the subject line, for example, the date or week number of the report.
  • Include “For information only” if you’re not expecting a response.
  • If you have questions about what you’re sharing, state them clearly.

Requesting an extension

For when you need to take longer to complete a task or other activity.

  • Tell your boss as soon as possible.
  • Share anything you have already done towards the task.
  • State why you haven’t been able to complete it.
  • Keep any emotion out of it.
  • State when the work will be completed by.
  • Ask if that’s OK.

Admitting to an error or mistake

For those awkward times when you’ve done something wrong.

  • State what you haven’t been able to do.
  • Tell your boss why you weren’t able to do it.
  • Keep any emotion out of it.
  • Let them know what you’re going to do to put things right.
  • Apologize and ask if that’s OK.

Asking for information and answers to questions

For when you need specific details or information from your boss.

  • In the email subject line put “Information needed *what you need information on*
  • Explain the information you need and why you need it
  • If you have specific questions, phrase them in a way they can be easily answered.
  • Tell your boss what you have done yourself to try and answer the questions.

Thanking your boss

For when your boss is an awesome person, and you just need to tell them that.

  • Say “Thanks” in the subject line.
  • Explain what your boss did that made things better for you.
  • Explain why and how it has improved things.
  • Thank them in the email.

And that’s it. Some helpful hints on building a better working relationship with your boss, all based on the simple email. See, emails can be a force for good!