Don't Sweat It! How to Communicate With Your Boss

Reviewed Mar 17, 2017

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Summary

  • Be specific about what is on your mind.
  • Focus on the issue at hand, not your feelings.
  • Avoid "you" statements, which can put your boss on the defensive.

Does the thought of talking with your boss about something important get you tongue-tied and in a stew? Even if your relationship is very good, the simple fact that your boss outranks you can complicate communication. How comfortable would you be approaching your boss about:

  • Requesting a raise
  • Being displeased with a job assignment
  • Feeling overlooked for a promotion
  • Needing more challenge
  • Wanting additional training
  • Being disappointed over your annual review
  • Having a personal problem that affects your work
  • Changing your schedule
  • Conflicting views on project goals or how an assignment should be carried out

Not all conversations are easy. But you can make them easier by learning how to effectively communicate. These skills are especially useful when something important needs to be shared or conflicts addressed.

Practicing skills of self-expression will ensure that your opinions and desires are known. And as an active listener, you will develop a better appreciation for why decisions were made and what is expected from you on the job. Ultimately, workplace relationships will improve, as well as job satisfaction and performance.

Express yourself

  • Be specific about what is on your mind. It may help to write down what you want to discuss first and then practice saying it. Instead of saying, “I’m unhappy with my hours,” try “I’d like to talk to you about changing my work schedule. I would prefer … because …” Don’t leave your boss guessing about what concerns you have and why you have them. Explain what needs to happen to improve the situation for you.
  • Focus on the issue at hand, not your feelings. Sometimes you may need to take time to cool off and get your emotions under control so you can approach the discussion composed and sensibly. If you say, “I feel like you should pay me more,” that won’t get you very far. But your boss will have to at least hear you out if you say, “I deserve a raise because my workload has increased since I was hired but my salary hasn’t been adjusted.”
  • Avoid “you” statements, which can put your boss on the defensive. Instead of “You don’t give me challenging assignments,” try “I need more challenge.”
  • Adjust your attitude. If you have a “me versus your boss” mindset, your conversation will take on a confrontational tone, rather than one of fair discussion. Similarly, don’t make assumptions about how your boss will react. Predicting outcomes may keep you from making a win-win suggestion.

Listen

  • Pay attention to what your boss is saying. Try to keep your own opinions and reactions from interfering with your ability to listen.
  • Adjust your body language to show respect and a willingness to listen. If you cross your arms in front of you and avoid eye contact, you may suggest that you are not open to different ideas. But maintaining eye contact, leaning in slightly and nodding your head communicates that you are interested in what your boss has to say.
  • Give feedback to show that you are listening. Say “I understand” or “Tell me more about how … .” These verbal cues send the message that you want to know more and that you are ready to continue listening.
  • Periodically check that you are clear on your boss’s meaning. “Are you saying that…” or “I hear that you want me to …” are examples.

Find the right time to talk

Your skills of self-expression and listening can be ineffective if you are interrupted or distracted. Schedule a time to talk and pick a location that is free from disruption. 

Resources

Messages, the Communication Skills Book by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning. New Harbinger, 2009.

We Need to Talk: Tough Conversations With Your Boss by Lynne Eisaguirre. Adams Media, 2009.

By Christine P. Martin

Summary

  • Be specific about what is on your mind.
  • Focus on the issue at hand, not your feelings.
  • Avoid "you" statements, which can put your boss on the defensive.

Does the thought of talking with your boss about something important get you tongue-tied and in a stew? Even if your relationship is very good, the simple fact that your boss outranks you can complicate communication. How comfortable would you be approaching your boss about:

  • Requesting a raise
  • Being displeased with a job assignment
  • Feeling overlooked for a promotion
  • Needing more challenge
  • Wanting additional training
  • Being disappointed over your annual review
  • Having a personal problem that affects your work
  • Changing your schedule
  • Conflicting views on project goals or how an assignment should be carried out

Not all conversations are easy. But you can make them easier by learning how to effectively communicate. These skills are especially useful when something important needs to be shared or conflicts addressed.

Practicing skills of self-expression will ensure that your opinions and desires are known. And as an active listener, you will develop a better appreciation for why decisions were made and what is expected from you on the job. Ultimately, workplace relationships will improve, as well as job satisfaction and performance.

Express yourself

  • Be specific about what is on your mind. It may help to write down what you want to discuss first and then practice saying it. Instead of saying, “I’m unhappy with my hours,” try “I’d like to talk to you about changing my work schedule. I would prefer … because …” Don’t leave your boss guessing about what concerns you have and why you have them. Explain what needs to happen to improve the situation for you.
  • Focus on the issue at hand, not your feelings. Sometimes you may need to take time to cool off and get your emotions under control so you can approach the discussion composed and sensibly. If you say, “I feel like you should pay me more,” that won’t get you very far. But your boss will have to at least hear you out if you say, “I deserve a raise because my workload has increased since I was hired but my salary hasn’t been adjusted.”
  • Avoid “you” statements, which can put your boss on the defensive. Instead of “You don’t give me challenging assignments,” try “I need more challenge.”
  • Adjust your attitude. If you have a “me versus your boss” mindset, your conversation will take on a confrontational tone, rather than one of fair discussion. Similarly, don’t make assumptions about how your boss will react. Predicting outcomes may keep you from making a win-win suggestion.

Listen

  • Pay attention to what your boss is saying. Try to keep your own opinions and reactions from interfering with your ability to listen.
  • Adjust your body language to show respect and a willingness to listen. If you cross your arms in front of you and avoid eye contact, you may suggest that you are not open to different ideas. But maintaining eye contact, leaning in slightly and nodding your head communicates that you are interested in what your boss has to say.
  • Give feedback to show that you are listening. Say “I understand” or “Tell me more about how … .” These verbal cues send the message that you want to know more and that you are ready to continue listening.
  • Periodically check that you are clear on your boss’s meaning. “Are you saying that…” or “I hear that you want me to …” are examples.

Find the right time to talk

Your skills of self-expression and listening can be ineffective if you are interrupted or distracted. Schedule a time to talk and pick a location that is free from disruption. 

Resources

Messages, the Communication Skills Book by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning. New Harbinger, 2009.

We Need to Talk: Tough Conversations With Your Boss by Lynne Eisaguirre. Adams Media, 2009.

By Christine P. Martin

Summary

  • Be specific about what is on your mind.
  • Focus on the issue at hand, not your feelings.
  • Avoid "you" statements, which can put your boss on the defensive.

Does the thought of talking with your boss about something important get you tongue-tied and in a stew? Even if your relationship is very good, the simple fact that your boss outranks you can complicate communication. How comfortable would you be approaching your boss about:

  • Requesting a raise
  • Being displeased with a job assignment
  • Feeling overlooked for a promotion
  • Needing more challenge
  • Wanting additional training
  • Being disappointed over your annual review
  • Having a personal problem that affects your work
  • Changing your schedule
  • Conflicting views on project goals or how an assignment should be carried out

Not all conversations are easy. But you can make them easier by learning how to effectively communicate. These skills are especially useful when something important needs to be shared or conflicts addressed.

Practicing skills of self-expression will ensure that your opinions and desires are known. And as an active listener, you will develop a better appreciation for why decisions were made and what is expected from you on the job. Ultimately, workplace relationships will improve, as well as job satisfaction and performance.

Express yourself

  • Be specific about what is on your mind. It may help to write down what you want to discuss first and then practice saying it. Instead of saying, “I’m unhappy with my hours,” try “I’d like to talk to you about changing my work schedule. I would prefer … because …” Don’t leave your boss guessing about what concerns you have and why you have them. Explain what needs to happen to improve the situation for you.
  • Focus on the issue at hand, not your feelings. Sometimes you may need to take time to cool off and get your emotions under control so you can approach the discussion composed and sensibly. If you say, “I feel like you should pay me more,” that won’t get you very far. But your boss will have to at least hear you out if you say, “I deserve a raise because my workload has increased since I was hired but my salary hasn’t been adjusted.”
  • Avoid “you” statements, which can put your boss on the defensive. Instead of “You don’t give me challenging assignments,” try “I need more challenge.”
  • Adjust your attitude. If you have a “me versus your boss” mindset, your conversation will take on a confrontational tone, rather than one of fair discussion. Similarly, don’t make assumptions about how your boss will react. Predicting outcomes may keep you from making a win-win suggestion.

Listen

  • Pay attention to what your boss is saying. Try to keep your own opinions and reactions from interfering with your ability to listen.
  • Adjust your body language to show respect and a willingness to listen. If you cross your arms in front of you and avoid eye contact, you may suggest that you are not open to different ideas. But maintaining eye contact, leaning in slightly and nodding your head communicates that you are interested in what your boss has to say.
  • Give feedback to show that you are listening. Say “I understand” or “Tell me more about how … .” These verbal cues send the message that you want to know more and that you are ready to continue listening.
  • Periodically check that you are clear on your boss’s meaning. “Are you saying that…” or “I hear that you want me to …” are examples.

Find the right time to talk

Your skills of self-expression and listening can be ineffective if you are interrupted or distracted. Schedule a time to talk and pick a location that is free from disruption. 

Resources

Messages, the Communication Skills Book by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning. New Harbinger, 2009.

We Need to Talk: Tough Conversations With Your Boss by Lynne Eisaguirre. Adams Media, 2009.

By Christine P. Martin

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as behavioral health care or management advice. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have questions related to workplace issues, please consider contacting your human resources department. ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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