How to discuss a problem with your boss
Sharing constructive feedback with your manager can feel like a daunting task. Yet today, an increasing number of employees across the Gulf region are willing to broach the conversation.
Data from a Monster Poll asking how confident employees felt giving upward feedback to their managers revealed that 38% were "comfortable" with the thought. Fourteen percent were "somewhat comfortable" with the idea while 18% said they wouldn't "think of it."
It’s great to hear a majority of employees don’t feel intimidated, but it’s also important to be mindful about what you say to your superiors at work. To make best use of these opportunities, here are some possible scenarios you may find yourself in, along with tips on how to plan your thoughts:
When the boss is rude
If the boss does or says something that angers you, desist from responding immediately. Take some time to cool off – walk out if you must – and talk when you are calm and rational.
However, remember that if you don’t stand up for yourself, it’s akin to permission to continue. It’s important to let your supervisor know that you don’t appreciate this kind of behavior. Speak with him/her privately, keeping your tone neutral.
Instead of a conversation, consider using email communication. People are less likely to be rude in an email as they are leaving behind a paper trail.
Try saying: “When you speak to me in that manner, I find it disrespectful, especially in front of others in the office. If you have a problem with me, let us speak privately and directly. Please show me the respect that you would like me to give you.”
When the boss is wrong
Bestselling business author and strategic performance consultant Bernard Marr calls this a “sticky situation”. “Do you let them know they've made a mistake, or do you hold your tongue and let someone else be the bearer of bad news?” Marr writes.
Most bosses take more kindly to suggestions as against statements, so disguise your correction or criticism under a veil of suggestion. You need to pick your battles when you’re in this situation. Correct the boss only if the mistake will make him or her look stupid in a meeting or will cost the company dearly. If the mistake is regarding the location of a restaurant or some other tiny detail, forget it. And never, ever correct the boss in front of a client or supervisor.
Try saying: “I think this could be a better way to handle this situation so that we can make the deadline on time” or “Do you think we could do it in this manner to save on resources and ensure quality?”
When there’s a conflict at work
Conflicts at work are inevitable, and can be work-related (salary, promotion, lack of recognition, personality etc.) or non-work-related (appearance, political views, religious leanings, etc).
Instead of waiting for the situation to blow up, approach the boss for advice, letting him or her know that you're having an issue that you need help with. Present straight facts, whether the conflict is with a co-worker or the boss.
Speak about the how, when and why of the conflict, and specify what resolving it will mean to you, your co-workers and the team. Take a proposed solution to the meeting; this shows your willingness to work towards a solution and demonstrates great initiative.
Try saying: “I think we’re at loggerheads over the presentation in the so-and-so project. Do you think it would work better for us, and the client, to do it in this manner? Or else, there’s also another option we can try.”
When you are overworked
Is your workload crushing you? Start the conversation by stating shared objectives. Then get down to specifics, like asking your boss to prioritise assignments. It may help him/her see how much you have on your plate. Also, offer to provide direction to the person who will take on some of your excessive workload.
Try saying: “This project needs a lot of research, which takes up a lot of my time. Now that I am also managing a team and spending time on administrative tasks, I find myself busy and am unable to devote time to thinking and analyzing. Could we do these tasks once a month instead of once every week and can so-and-so help me with this assignment?”
When you’re facing inappropriate behavior
Inappropriate behavior can manifest as verbal abuse, aggressive behavior, sexual comments or mental harassment. Many employees find it tough to speak about these issues because they fear recriminations. But left unchallenged, this behavior could become the norm.
Chaz Pitts-Kyser, career coach and author of Careeranista: The Woman’s Guide to Success After College, says it’s important to speak about the issue with “clear examples”. “Instead of putting direct blame on your boss, you need to articulate how s/he makes you feel,” Pitts-Kyser says. Keep notes, if you must, and proffer evidence when needed. This is a serious problem, so it would be prudent to have another manager or someone from HR present at the meeting, depending on the nature of the remarks.
Try saying: “I know it cracked everyone up when you made that offensive joke, but this sort of thing doesn't send the right message and – as far as I know - isn’t something that is in tune with our organization’s philosophy. I know it wasn’t your intent, but it made me uncomfortable.”