Knowing what to say and when to say it, is key to dealing with a difficult boss successfully. You are never going to agree with your boss, especially a difficult boss, 100% of the time. The question is are you confident enough to speak out when you need to and do you know how to? For most people it’s not a skill we have polished up and waiting for us in case we need it. However, it is a skill we can all learn to master. So, next time you go into a difficult conversation, it’s possible to be well prepared and confident!
Confrontation could be Good for Your Career
While keeping your head down might make life easier at work, it’s been shown not to help further one’s career. Yes, confronting your boss isn’t always easy. But if done correctly, it can actually help your career move forward without getting you fired. Difficult conversations with your boss, when done skillfully, can result in being thanked for your dedication and candour. They can also help you grow and be perceived as a team player who has valuable insight.
6 Ways to Voice Your Opinion Constructively
Voicing your opinion can be tricky. Challenging someone and remaining calm as well as being constructive at the same time is not always easy. Especially, when that someone you need to confront is a difficult boss. Here are 6 approaches that can help you successfully voice your opinion when you next need to.
1. Pet Peeve or Actual Issue?
Before approaching anyone (colleague or boss) about an issue, think about if it’s a valid concern or not. If it’s a mere irritation it’s not something that is a complaint-worthy problem. Therefore, bringing attention to it, rather than assisting the situation, could lead to you looking petty and uncooperative.
5 Top Peeves at Work:
- Coming to work sick.
- Loud drinking, slurping or chewing.
- Lack of personal hygiene.
- Interruptions and Unnecessary distractions.
- Not replenishing the paper in a printer.
Sometimes things are just small annoyances and need to be shrugged off. However, if what is happening is impacting your effectiveness on the job or causing emotional distress then it’s time to speak up. For example, if your boss is doing something that affects you emotionally or prevents you from doing your job effectively, then it’s a real conflict not a peeve.
Once you’ve established that the matter is a real problem then it is vital you prepare before saying anything.
3 Pre-Conversation Preparations:
- Have all the facts.
- Be able to clearly define the identified problem.
- Anticipate potential questions and have answers to them.
2. Timing is Everything
Dealing with a difficult boss is made much trickier if you haven’t thought about timing of an upcoming conversation. For instance, your boss is unlikely to appreciate being challenged in public or in front of their own superiors.
3 Conversation Timing Hacks
- Schedule a one-on-one where you can discuss the matter in private.
- Opt for a usually less busy time within your boss’s day.
- If possible don’t schedule a meeting on a day with a pending deadline.
3. Start Positive
Setting the tone of the conversation upfront is important. This helps your boss hear what you are saying as constructive and not critical. Thus, providing context is good, just be mindful that you don’t muddy the waters with too much information.
Think through things. Then, without talking too much before getting to your point, outline some of the positives within the situation. If you only state the issues, you risk being seen as negative, critical and unable to see the bigger picture. Rather comment on what is working before focussing on what isn’t. And check your body language throughout the meeting to make sure you convey cooperation not confrontation.
4. Ask and Listen, then Speak
Before you march into their office stating your case, be sure that you are likely right. Make sure that you fully understand the entire situation and how it fits into the bigger picture.
Bosses are often privy to the bigger picture. So, check with your boss if they are happy with the situation and listen to what they say before jumping in. This will also help you establish all the facts. Additionally, there’s a good chance your questions will help your boss see the problem before you point it out.
5. Be Solution Orientated
Come into the meeting with solutions. Remember, most bosses are results orientated. Therefore, knowing what the potentially positive impact of your suggestions are will make them more convincing and easier to accept.
Keep in mind, you are on the same side – working for the good of the company. Consequently, even if the problem is the result of a decision made by your boss, your goals remain the same. Hence, avoid using exclusionary words like “you” or “me”. Rather use words like “us” or “we” and when referring to a problem don’t assign blame.
6. Respect the Final Decision
In the end, your boss’s decision is final and needs to be respected. No matter how passionate you feel, taking a ‘my way or the highway” approach can have a negative impact on your work relationships and career. You need to know when to respect your boss’s decision and then move forward. Sometimes it’s not your role to champion or change something, but rather to bring it to those who can change things.
The Art of Successful Work Conversations and Coaches
Coaches are ideal ways to develop skills quicker and more successfully. A Coach is someone who assists with reflective learning that relates to your current situation. They are not a therapist but rather someone who can:
- Help you improve your communication skills
- Develop better Self-Awareness
- Help you identify, create and achieve life and work-related goals
- Better manage transitions and change
- Assist you to leverage your strengths and overcome your blind spots
These are 5 of many things that a coach can assist with. They are things which have been proven to assist with making work (and personal) aspects of life less stressful. As well as been shown to help people advance in their own careers as well as be better managers and mentors within team situations.
Become a Coach
Are you interested in learning more techniques that can help you advance your career? Or assisting others with moving forward in their own careers? The South African Collage of Applied Psychology (SACAP) offers a range of coaching courses. These courses are unique as they combine rigorous academic theory with practical skills, workplace experience and self-development within the expertise of a psychology framework. For more information, enquire now.
1. How do you have a successful difficult conversation at work?
- Understand the problem and stick to facts
- Identified problems must not be pet peeves
- Bring in positive point
- Be solution orientated
- Respect your boss’s decision
2. How do I improve my work conversation skills?
Set aside time to be introspective and develop self-awareness. You can start by reviewing your work conversations and assessing your verbal and non-verbal communication during them.
3. How can a coach help me at work?
A coach can assist you to set and achieve goals through leveraging your skill set, seeing blind spots and strategically navigating challenges.