There can be many reasons you might need to talk to your boss about problems. It could be something as straightforward as a difficulty with a project; it could be long-term problems with a co-worker; it could be that your boss is unhappy with your work or that you have made mistakes; it could be problems outside of work that are affecting your work or that are likely to do so and you just want to alert your boss to these.
Whatever the problems, it is not always easy to talk to your boss about them, but with a few simple strategies, you can make it much easier on yourself.
1. Pick Your Time
Your boss is probably a busy person, with many commitments. Just like you. Don’t expect to get a receptive audience if you accost your boss leaving the office at 5.30 on a Friday afternoon. Likewise, if you try to talk to him or her about a problem in the corridor as they head to a lunch meeting, you aren’t likely to get a good reception.
So, pick your time. Consider even booking an appointment to discuss the problem with your boss.
2. Be Prepared
Whatever the problem is, you should have gathered your thoughts before the meeting to discuss it. Make notes if you need to and don’t be afraid to use notes in the meeting.
3. Be Willing to Compromise and Learn
Very few problems at work are one-sided. It may be that you have to accept some responsibility for problems that have occurred, or for bringing about an effective solution.
Don’t feel threatened if mistakes are pointed out to you. Everyone makes mistakes and you should not take this personally. The important thing is that you help to sort out any problems that arise.
Even if you feel no blame can be laid on your shoulders, you will find when you talk to your boss about problems that things will be sorted out much more quickly if you are willing to accept doing things differently in the future.
Blame helps no-one and your boss should be a more effective manager than to directly blame you, but you should be able to compromise to get over any problems.
4. Discuss with the ‘Offender’ Present
If you have a problem with a specific person at work, it is a good idea to ensure that this person is available and can go with you to talk with the boss.
That way, this can become a constructive problem-solving situation, where you and the person with whom you have a problem can air all views and get everything out in the open. You can then work together on the solution.
This is preferable to going to your boss alone to complain as this can be destructive rather than constructive and it may be that nothing ever gets done about the problem. With your boss there, hopefully as a neutral mediator, you should be able to work through any problems.
5. Be Professional
This is linked to the previous point. Discussing problems with your boss should not be about losing your temper, cursing or making personal comments. That won’t help and will only make you look bad in front of your boss.
Instead, state your problem simply and calmly. Give the other person time and space to do the same, in a receptive, non-confrontational atmosphere. If possible and appropriate, know what you want to achieve from the discussion. You may not get exactly what you set out for but what matters is that you are purposeful.
If you approach how to talk to your boss about problems in this way, you should get what you need to say off your chest and do well in sorting out the problems in a constructive way.