How to Talk to Your Boss

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As the CEO of a leadership development firm I am often asked this simple yet profound question: “How do I talk to my boss?” I can almost feel the weight of their world as they drop this question in my lap.

It seems many of us have had a run-in with a boss that has left an indelible mark on our psyche ensuring we never forget. Or we’ve heard the stories – the legendsof those that went in only to never return which, unfortunately, has rendered us less than confident in our own approach.

Here are a few tips to get you off the sidelines and back on your way.

1) Boss? What Boss?

My first suggestion would be to forget that they are “The Boss”. Yes, they do sign your paycheck and hold more decision-making power than you, but they aren’t the King or Queen of England.

Too often we “dress” ourselves up and put on a persona we believe our boss would admire. Unfortunately, the acting job comes off as terribly inauthentic and blatantly obvious. If you want to build mutual respect, treat yourself with respect and show up as the REAL you.

2) Erase the Devil Horns.

Chances are, your boss is not evil. And, chances are, your boss did not wake up this morning and wonder, “How can I make your life hell?” If they did, explore your legal options or find a new boss. (I’m serious about that, by the way.)

Could they be a little lacking in skill? Perhaps. A tad rough around the edges? Entirely possible. Evil? Highly doubtful. More than likely, you have overlaid your previous experiences onto your new boss and aren’t being present to who is in front of you right now. Give your boss the benefit of the doubt that he or she is full of good intentions and do the same for yourself. A vision of a positive outcome usually begets one.

3) Deliver the Truth, Remove the Blame.

A good boss wants to hear the truth. In fact, they crave it. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of employees who parade in, deliver the “corporate nod”, and withhold what they really think and feel on a daily basis. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, they bombard their boss with a laundry list of complaints to which they’ve assigned all the blame to (guess who) the boss.

Neither one of these approaches is productive nor particularly admirable. Instead, find the sweet spot in the middle where you present your truth without the “gotcha”. Author Edwin Friedman said it best, “In any situation, the person who can most accurately describe reality without laying blame will emerge as the leader, whether designated or not.” Sage advice worth following.

What are some tips you have for talking with the boss?

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