How to Handle Difficult Conversation with Your Boss

How to Handle Difficult Conversation with Your Boss

How to Handle Difficult Conversation with Your Boss

At some point in your career, you’re bound to be in a position where you’re unhappy at work, and your boss is in a position to help. Maybe you’ve gotten a performance review that you found to be unfair, or you feel like you’ve been looked over for a pay increase for far too long; perhaps you think your potential is not being properly utilized , or your co-worker’s behaviour has been affecting your productivity.

Whatever the case, you need to address the problem – but tread carefully, because saying the wrong thing when you meet with your boss could seriously jeopardize your career. If you are like most people, you may have opportunities to initiate difficult conversations on a regular basis, but it probably doesn’t really feel like an “opportunity,” does it?

For purposes of this communication, we are using the term “difficult conversations” to convey a situation where both parties in the conversation need to stay in a relationship, the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions may run strong.

At work, situations may arise between you and your supervisor that call for you to initiate a difficult conversation. Your supervisor may be many things, but it is doubtful they are a mind-reader. So if something is not working for you at work that your supervisor can influence, and it matters to you that it is not working, you will want to find your voice.

1. Get permission.
Don’t get too emotional and send a loaded email explaining why you deserve a raise, or ambush your boss at the coffee machine telling them that you hate your co-worker. You want to have your manager’s full attention when you have this difficult conversation, and you need to have it on their time. Don’t get into too many details in your request. Something along the lines of, “I’d like to discuss my review. When would be a good time to talk for 10 minutes?” will suffice.

2. Timing
It is important to initiate the conversation when your boss is relaex and in a good mood. IF you try to converse with him, when he has a meeting or is stressed out, it wouldn’t yield the desired results.

3. Explain the situation and context.
When you have a chance to sit down with your boss, begin by plainly stating your intention. Don’t waste time by talking in circles, but don’t be too aggressive, either. “I’m excited about this quarter’s goals and I’d like to have us working as efficiently as possible” is going to yield much better results than, “I feel like you’ve been micromanaging me.”

4. Frame the conversation gracefully.
You have a problem that you want to address for the benefit of both you and your boss but you run the risk of sounding like an aggressor if you immediately jump to all of the ways you’ve been wronged. “You are trying to put the person at ease so they are prepared to listen,” the Handel guidelines state.

If you’ve got a problem with your manager or co-worker, there’s certainly a chance that you’re at fault, even if it’s only been that you haven’t previously communicated your grievances so that they could be remedied. Before you proceed to explain how you’ve felt wronged, you should first admit your shortcomings in the situation

5. State your issue.
This is the reason why you’re having the conversation. By now you’ve set your boss at ease and grabbed their attention. Explain your case, always mindful to not pose your words as attacks or whiny complaints. Remember that you’re neither an aggressor nor a victim. You just believe things can be better for everyone.

6. Ask for their perspective.
Show your boss that you’re not acting selfishly by turning the conversation over to them. Understanding their perspective will help you to understand the current scenario in a better manner. What do they think of your concerns? Have they been under a different impression?

7. Arrive at a mutual understanding.
Listen closely to your boss’ feedback and ask for clarification if necessary. Its important to listen to understand your point of view.Neither of you should leave with unanswered questions, even if your conclusions are different. Be careful of making excuses if you don’t like what your manager has to say. Explain your points further if necessary but don’t get defensive.

8. Arrive at a resolution.
Make a note of the areas where there may be any discrepancies in your viewpoints and negotiate an agreement that both of you can be satisfied with. Maybe, for example, your boss doesn’t feel like you are eligible for a raise at this time, but if you meet a specific set of goals by a specific date you can then have that conversation.

Make promises to each other that you can both benefit from. Your conversation may be based on a source of discomfort or even anger, but don’t feel like you’re trying to win a fight with your manager.

The goal of any difficult conversation is to open up honesty between both parties and at work this can lead to a more productive and efficient team.

“It’s about being mature and being honest, and having a real relationship,” the Handel guide says.

A methodology offered by the authors of “Crucial Conversations” is captured in the Acronym STATE:
Share your facts
Tell your story
Ask for their view
Talk tentatively
Encourage testing
Communicate your ideas in a calm and logical manner and really listen to what the other person is saying. You will want to demonstrate that you are also accountable. If you believe you have played no part in the problem, you are probably not being realistic.

If an outline helps you stay on track during your discussion, feel free to use it. However, do not read from the page. You will want to make eye- contact and engage with your supervisor.

Difficult Conversation Scenarios:
Few of us are natural at successfully initiating and engaging in a difficult conversation. It takes practice and preparation. Below are work place scenarios that might warrant a difficult conversation along with suggestions on how to get started.

a. Asking for a pay increase b. Being micromanaged c. Receiving a disappointing performance evaluation d. Working with a weak co-worker

As with any meeting or involved discussion, you should summarize agreements, disagreements and action items. Depending upon the issue being discussed, there may be a need for a follow-up discussion or action plan. The conclusion is a good place to remind the person once again, as you did during the initiation phase, that you have a working relationship based on a shared goal.

Share this post