By Mary Lorenz | July 12, 2017
Almost everyone has had a conflict with a colleague at some point in his or her career. Some conflicts are easier to resolve than others, but even for those hard-to-resolve conflicts, you know you can always go to your boss for help.
But what happens when the colleague you have a problem with is your boss?
That’s where things get tricky. How do you stand up for yourself without creating bad blood between you and the person who determines your paycheck? Confronting your boss is never easy, but avoiding it won’t make the problem go away. Use the following steps to stand up to your superior the right way.
Give it a minute. If your boss does or says something to anger or upset you, avoid saying something in the heat of the moment. That’s when emotions are at their highest and you’re likely to say something you regret. Instead, take some time to cool off, and wait until you can talk to your boss calmly and rationally.
Time it right. Instead of trying to “catch” your boss at a random time, schedule a one-on-one meeting. Setting aside a specific time on your boss’s calendar will ensure you have his or her full attention and lead to a more productive conversation. If you don’t want to be specific, tell your boss you want to discuss a personal matter and leave it at that.
Plan ahead. Before meeting with your boss, think about what you want to say and what you want to get out of the conversation. Make a (mental or written) list of points you want to make, and be ready to discuss specific examples of times your boss exhibited bothersome behavior, and how that behavior prevented you from doing your job effectively. Try to stay as objective as possible when discussing your problem, and separate facts from emotions.
Use "I" statements. When discussing your problem, use “I” statements to get your point across. Using “I” statements prevents you from making accusatory (and unfair) statements that only lead to more conflict and misunderstandings. For example, instead of saying “You’re giving me too much work,” say, “I feel overwhelmed by my workload.” Not only is the first statement likely to put your boss on the defensive, it also assumes your boss is aware of how his or her behavior is affecting you, which may not be the case. With the second statement (the “I” statement) you’re taking ownership of your feelings and giving your boss the opportunity to present his or her side of the situation, paving the way to a more productive conversation.
Present a solution. Don’t just come to the meeting with a laundry list of complaints, expecting your boss to solve the problem for you. Come with a proposed solution, which will not only prove your willingness to work toward a solution, but demonstrate impressive initiative as well.
Talking to your boss about a problem you have with your boss is never going to be easy, but you aren’t doing yourself any favors by avoiding it. On the contrary, you will likely end up with a better relationship with your boss and a better work experience as a result. Should you talk to your boss and nothing changes, however, it may be time to talk to HR.
Unhappy with your job? Check out 8 signs you need a career change