Just like managers need to have tough conversations with their employees, employees need to have tough conversations with their bosses. Whether it’s a raise, a promotion, or an office conflict, employees need to feel like they can have tough conversations with their bosses without backlash.
As an employee, you want to feel empowered and confident to be able to speak to your boss. You want to build a relationship with your boss where they can be your mentor and advocate. Not only do you want to have that professional relationship, but you also want to have a personal relationship too. This relationship allows you to bring problems to their attention freely and openly.
Without further ado, here are six tips we have for having a tough conversation with your boss.
Explain the situation and context
One of the first steps when approaching your boss with a situation is to state your issue explicitly and give context around the issue. Your boss isn’t going to know what you’re thinking or feeling so you need to explain it to them. You also need to help them understand why you’re feeling a certain way and what prompted that.
Don’t waste time beating around the bush, just go straight into your issue. This doesn’t mean you’re being aggressive; you are just sharing facts from your point of view. By explaining your situation with “I” statements, you can explain your feelings to better explain your situation without coming off as aggressive.
Be honest and truthful
Though this may be a no-brainer, it’s a lot harder than you think to be honest and truthful when approaching your boss. While you want to exhibit candor, you don’t want to do so in a way that comes off as obnoxious. Be graceful and respectful when approaching your boss, choosing your words carefully. Don’t throw people under the bus or play the blame game. Make the conversation about you, not everyone else.
That being said, if something is bothering you, bring it up with your boss sooner rather than later. You don’t want to reach your tipping point before going to your boss with an issue. If you a non-confrontation person, this may be difficult for you because you anticipate the worst-case scenario if you do say something. However, it’s quite the opposite; it might be the best-case scenario if you have the courage to speak up.
Ask for your boss’s perspective
As an employee, you don’t have all the visibility into why your boss makes the decisions they do. You have no idea why they picked your co-worker for a project over you. That’s why it’s key to ask their perspective on the issue you bring to them. Don’t be afraid to ask them why they gave the project to your co-worker and ask what you can do next time, so you are at the top of the consideration list.
Go into the conversation with an open mind. Don’t think that your boss has it out for you because in most cases, they probably don’t. Finding out the reasoning behind their decisions can help you better understand their thought process. As a result, you might end up shifting your attitude and perspective to something more positive by the end of the conversation.
Make sure you reach a resolution and decide next steps
The worst thing you can do when talking to your boss is leaving the conversation unresolved. The whole purpose of meeting with your boss was to resolve the issue by the end of the conversation. You don’t want to leave anything unresolved. Use the time with your boss to bring up any and all issues to make sure you have answers for all of your concerns. Not only will laying everything out on the table will help with your conscious, but it will also help your boss’s too.
A way to do this is by assigning each party action items to complete. Maybe you need to follow up on something or your boss needs to talk to their supervisor. Whatever it is, make sure you decide what needs to get done before you end the conversation, so you have something to circle back on.
Ensure that you and your manager are in a trusting relationship
When talking with your manager, you want to make sure that you can trust them. Like a friend, you don’t want them to spread your conversation around as office gossip. You want to make sure they approach your conversation seriously and with full confidentiality.
In the case that you don’t trust your manager, reach out to another colleague in the company who you can trust and feel comfortable talking to. You want a good gut feeling about the person you’re talking to without questioning their level of trust. If employee-manager confidentiality becomes an issue, reach out to their supervisor to bring the issue to their attention.
Find a time to meet with your boss to make sure you have their full attention
Like many bosses, your boss is probably busy every day between meetings they have and work they need to get done. Set up your meeting with your boss at a time where you know you’ll have their full attention, so they can focus on the conversation with you without getting distracted by other work.
You also want to set up a meeting in person and in private. While a phone meeting is great, it doesn’t lend itself to emotion and body language, both of which convey how you are really feeling. Make sure your meeting is in a private room or your bosses office to have full confidentiality without the office hearing what you have to say.
It’s no easy feat talking to your boss. For some, it’s the hardest thing to do. However, it’s necessary to not only address conflict but build a relationship with your boss. With these tips, you’re sure to feel comfortable talking to your boss the next time a conflict comes up.