Top tips for talking with your boss
One of the most challenging areas of the workplace is communication. It can often literally make or break your career. What you say to your superiors shapes their impressions of you, and in turn can mean the difference between being promoted – or being overlooked. While not all bosses are the same when it comes to communication, there are some general dos and don’ts to keep in mind. Here are five of them.
1. Do share your ideas
If you have a suggestion for a process change or potential improvement, don’t be afraid to share it. Bosses appreciate employees with initiative and imagination, and they are almost always open to ways to help the business run better. You’ll stand out from the crowd as someone who’s innovative and committed to the company’s success, two qualities that can significantly boost your career and your professional reputation.
2. Don’t wait until the last minute
In business, surprises are generally not appreciated. So when you have important news to share, whether it’s good or bad, don’t delay – let your boss know as soon as possible. Although it can be difficult to share unpleasant news, you can bet your boss would rather hear it sooner rather than later.
Alerting your boss to potential problems gives them a chance to react and hopefully defuse a situation before it escalates.
3. Do ask for what you want
It’s easy to grumble and complain about things you’re unhappy about without taking any action. But rather than suffer in silence, speak up! Bosses are people too, and they generally want to have happy and satisfied employees – because happy, satisfied employees are more productive. If you’re interested in taking on a different assignment, or changing your work schedule to better meet deadlines, you have everything to gain by simply asking. Of course, to increase your chances of getting what you want, try to frame your request in terms that relate to the business – “I think changing my schedule would allow me better to coordinate my work with our Chicago office – would that be possible?”
4. Don’t say yes to every request
Employees often feel pressured to go along with everything their superiors suggest. It takes courage to tell your boss you don’t agree – but sometimes, it’s the best course of action. If you truly don’t feel that a proposed project or timeline is realistic or beneficial, it’s better to voice your dissenting opinion rationally and openly. And if you’re already overburdened with work, saying “yes” to taking on a new project is only going to further strain you and potentially even negatively impact the quality of your work. So don’t be afraid to say “no” – but try to provide alternatives and compromises.
5. Don’t talk badly about your co-workers
Rivalry and bad feelings occasionally happen within an office, but pointing fingers and laying blame on colleagues just makes a bad situation worse. Office politics can be difficult to navigate, but bringing your boss into it can often make a bad situation worse. If you’re having problems with a co-worker, try to address the situation yourself before escalating it to your superior. And if you simply must speak to your boss about it, describe the situation as objectively and dispassionately as possible, and avoid an emotionally charged discussion.
Knowing just the right thing to say in every situation is almost impossible. But following these general guidelines will hopefully help you feel more confident when communicating with your boss. Just remember: bosses are people too, and almost everyone appreciates being dealt with in an honest, direct, thoughtful way.