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.