Software

Five tips for standing up against your boss

If you need to confront your boss over work issues, wait until you're calm, be prepared, and have a couple of rhetorical tricks up your sleeve.

That's it. You've had it with all the work crap and you're not going to take it anymore. Well, guess what? That's the absolute worst time to pay a visit to your boss. If you have a legitimate beef with your work life, you'd do well to plan your resolution strategy with a calmer mindset. There are tactics to avoid if you really want to make any headway in a difficult conversation with your boss.

Note: These tips are based on an entry in our Career Management blog.

1: Don't barge into the boss's office when you hit your breaking point

In fact, try not to let things come to a head before you make a move. Keep a record of all instances that enforce your beef and then calmly present them.

2: Send email asking if you can schedule a time to talk

Say it's about a work issue, but don't be specific unless you're asked. That way, you're not swooping in with all the delicacy of a Kamikaze pilot, which tends to decrease a boss's receptiveness.

3: Choose your words wisely and try to keep the defensiveness out of your voice

It sounds like a bunch of psychobabble, but if you can use passive voice when you're speaking, you can ease the way a little more. Basically, passive voice puts the onus on no one but yourself. (Mind you, it's a no-no in professional writing. For example, you never want to say in formal writing, "Actions were taken that affected the outcome." You would instead say, "What John did caused problems with the project.")

But if you're talking to your boss, use the passive voice. If your boss is giving you too many assignments, say, "I'm feeling a little overwhelmed lately and I wondered if we could talk about ways to adjust my workload." Don't say, "You're giving me too much work and I can't keep up." The difference is in the first sentence: You're actually describing the effect the workload has on you without directly pointing to your boss as the culprit. He or she may be the biggest slave driver in the world, but it doesn't serve your ultimate purpose -- lowering your workload -- to go in spouting accusations. Hell hath no fury like a manager cornered.

4: Be proactive

It's much easier to remedy a problem with a work situation if you come in with some ways to solve it yourself. Lay out a couple of plans that sound reasonable. The boss may actually sign off on one of them. And this way, you're not just a problem presenter in your boss's mind. You're also a problem solver. It's logical when you think about it. Sometimes those who delegate too much are lazy bosses. So what better strategy to use on the lazy boss than handing over a ready-made fix?

5: Last (weird, underground) tip: Try to smile

I don't always follow this advice myself, but I've been in situations where I've been completely shut down by a smile from the person I'm presenting a case to. For those of you who have seen the movie Office Space, it's the Bill Lumbergh "I'll need you to come in on Saturday" smile. It's a manager's way of saying, "Aw, that's cute, you spouting all this logical stuff; but no, we're going to do it my way." So be preemptive and pull out your smile first.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

9 comments
dbolab
dbolab

Something really cool that you can do is poll your coworkers anonymously and send your boss the results. Nobody will know you created the poll or who responded, but your boss will know that only your coworkers could have participated. A really cool free and secure site to do this is https://dropatruthbomb.com.

nameb
nameb

Nice tips..challenge is to remember these in time of need...

g01d4
g01d4

It's always good to stay one step ahead. Oftentimes it can make realize it's not worth the effort in the first place.

gunga55
gunga55

one has to choose the time and place for a sit down also. When dead lines are on and its down to the wire. Not the time to confront the boss. I have also found that making a presentation that expresses your point with out emotions works pretty good.

Christian Spada
Christian Spada

Keep your manners at there very best.....be sincere....your goal is to accomplish, not defeat

Noor Hasan
Noor Hasan

Great post. It will help me to say my words to my boss

Liv&DieN; LA
Liv&DieN; LA

Toni, your latest articles make me feel like you have been following me to work lately. Your advice is on the money. I have been reading Dale Carnegie's Lifetime Plan for Success and these are the things he preached. Get your way by adjusting your attitude, and do a lot of listening. I am using the tips as i read.. and my work situation has improved a great deal. Now my manager is not as big of a Boss-hole.

douglas.gernat
douglas.gernat

Probably one of the most difficult taboo's of the office place! Sweet Office Space reference, too!