How to tell your boss you made a mistake

Some supervisors are the kindest people in the world. Eager to help others and to get along with their employees, they speak softly and exhibit a mild manner with all.

But other bosses can be cranky or difficult, seeming to challenge our best efforts to keep the peace or be amiable. If your boss makes statements with which you disagree, here are some ways to share your views without causing offense.

1. Choose the right time. Don’t tackle him the moment he’s going into a high pressure meeting or leaving to pick up his wife at the airport. Wait for a quiet lull in the day to say your piece. After lunch or between projects is a good time for bringing up difficult subjects.

2. Choose the best place. Avoid cornering her in her office. A lion’s den is the worst place to point out areas of disagreement. If you must talk there, do so in a casual way by asking for a few minutes before or after work.

3. Choose your most positive manner. Be pleasant and friendly, smiling as you greet one another. Use the sandwich approach by mentioning one or two positives in the department before setting your focus on the area of conflict. After airing your views, finish the talk with another positive or neutral observation and leave by saying “Thanks for your time and the opportunity to share my views.”

4. Avoid blaming or accusatory statements. Instead, focus on your own feelings of worry, frustration, or annoyance with respect to the process, not the person:

“I feel so inadequate when these signature delays keep popping up despite the looming deadline. What can I do to usher the paperwork through more quickly?”

5. Take part of the responsibility, if applicable. Be willing to own up to your part in a problem:

“I realize I should have mentioned this before now, but our budget has grown by 7% on this project and I don’t know where to find the extra funds. Since you recommended hiring the extra staff person, I thought you might know of a funding source.”

6. Be humble. Many supervisors got to that position by being forceful, assertive, and knowledgeable. Some of them dislike being confronted by a subordinate with a cocky or know-it-all attitude. A quiet, simple point spoken in clear terms will make a better impression that raising your voice or becoming sarcastic.

7. Understand the supervisor’s position. While it’s okay to disagree, remember that your boss may be unable to do anything about some of the problem areas where you disagree. For example, if you feel you deserve a ten percent raise, but he approves just five percent, it may be due to the department’s other financial needs, some of which may be pressing. Be willing to listen to her side of things before rendering a judgment.

Disputes with the boss are never easy. Sometimes it’s easier to just let an error go by without commenting on it. But when you must speak up, do so with tact and diplomacy. Your boss won’t forget it, and neither will you.

Disputes with the boss are never easy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *