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Talking to Your Boss Without Stressing Out

Robert Half International

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You and your manager may have an amazing relationship, but no matter how strong the bond, there might still be situations when you dread approaching his or her door. Requesting a raise, asking for help managing projects and admitting a mistake can make any worker's palms sweat.

While few look forward to these conversations, they are easier to navigate than you might think. Proper preparation can tame even the toughest talk. Here is some advice that can help the next time you make the long walk to your boss's office:

You want a raise

Self-audit: Before rushing to your boss and demanding a bump in pay, it's important that you build a case for why you deserve increased compensation. Prepare a list of recent accomplishments that show how you've helped increase profits, improved efficiencies or saved costs to support your cause. Be as specific as possible. If you're in sales, for example, note your year-over-year account comparisons, quarterly highlights and client wins.

Comparison shop: Also find out how much other individuals with your qualifications are being paid in the local market. Many career Web sites, professional associations and staffing services such as Robert Half International publish information about current compensation trends.

Timing is everything: It's also necessary to choose the right time to speak with your manager. Make sure the company can afford to offer raises, that it hasn't recently announced layoffs, for example, and when setting up the meeting, let your supervisor know what you want to discuss so he or she is not caught off guard.

Be professional: Lastly, during the meeting, keep the conversation friendly, even if you two don't see eye-to-eye. After all, in the end, the discussion is between two colleagues working on a single problem: how best to reward your hard work.

You're in over your head

Assess the situation: The mountain of paperwork on your desk hasn't shrunk an inch in more than a month. And every time you finish a project, it seems like two more are passed your way. Each day you fall further behind and wonder how you'll ever complete all your tasks.

Don't delay: The key in situations like this is to alert your boss at the first sign of trouble. He or she is likely relying on clues from you when assigning projects and will assume your workload is manageable if you continue to remain silent. But the longer you wait, the higher the risk of missed deadlines, poor quality work and burnout.

Be open to assistance: With your manager's assistance, you can pinpoint the source of difficulty and devise strategies for overcoming it. For example, if it's taking you longer than expected to complete research for a project, your boss may be able to extend the deadline or provide you with additional resources that will make the task easier. Similarly, your supervisor may delegate some of your responsibilities to others or provide you with guidance on how to better manage your time. Often there are simple solutions that you and your boss can identify together.

You made a mistake

Goofs happen: As frightening as it is to realize that you've made a big mistake at work, the truth is that goofs and blunders happen every day, and they can happen to anyone. What's important is not your error but how you recover from it.

'Fess up pronto: Approach your boss immediately to admit your mistake and let him or her know what you are doing to rectify the situation. For example, if you submitted a report and later discovered the figures you quoted were inaccurate, explain how you are contacting the departments that use the information to correct the data.

Own it: Rather than pass the blame to someone or something else, take full responsibility for the matter and express your genuine regret. Then, let your supervisor know what steps you are taking to ensure that it won't occur again.

While you still may not look forward to approaching your boss about a raise, admitting you need help managing your projects or confessing to a mistake, open communication and a proactive approach can help make these conversations easier and, ultimately, more successful.

Robert Half International Inc. is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 330 offices throughout North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. For more information about our professional services, please visit

Last Updated: 24/09/2007 - 3:50 PM

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