How to Stand Up to Your Boss – 6 tips

While most of us are willing to stand up for ourselves regarding personal matters, when it comes to voicing a dissenting opinion to our superiors (e.g., standing up to our boss) at work, we tend to shy away from any confrontation and go along with what we are told to do, whether or not we agree with it.

It’s difficult to know what to do in a situation where you feel pulled in two different directions. On the one hand, you want to please your boss and stay in their good graces; on the other hand, you feel that he or she is pushing you too hard or is not being completely fair.

However, for your own peace of mind, it is important to speak up and address any issues that don’t feel right to you. If you feel overworked, underpaid, bullied or wronged in any way, you should be able to talk the problem through with your boss and come to a solution that suits everyone involved.

Most people in positions of authority are reasonable and will be willing to hear you out. They will probably even respect you for your candidness; that is, if you approach the situation maturely.

The key to standing up to your boss without losing your job or creating an unpleasant or awkward situation is to have the right attitude and stay professional at all times. Here are six tips for broaching sensitive topics with your superiors:

Tip 1: Choose the right moment

This is probably the most important rule to keep when standing up to your boss. There is a time and place for everything — you can’t just let loose and speak your mind to your boss whenever it suits you.

The monthly staff meeting, for example, would probably not be the best time to broach your concerns, as your boss may feel like you are undermining their authority in front of the other employees. Similarly, when your boss is in a foul mood because of a lost client or deal, you should probably wait for a more opportune time to talk through your issues.

In addition to paying attention to your boss’s general mood, it’s nearly always a good idea to try to speak in private when there is something you don’t agree on, or else it may come off as a personal affront.

Tip 2: Plan what you are going say, and think of specific examples

Before you confront your boss about the situation, you should take the time to think about what you want to say and how you will say it. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to document some specific examples so that you can back up your argument with facts.

Your boss may not even be aware of the issue you are talking about, so if you can’t give examples you may not be very convincing.

Don’t just storm into your boss’s office and start talking without warning, as you are more likely to say something disrespectful. Doing so will only make the situation worse, so think about how you want to present your problem, and come up with a respectful and professional way to explain it.

Tip 3: Don’t criticize

It’s important that you do not become critical when trying to explain why you are in disagreement with something your boss has proposed. Criticism will only put your boss on the defensive and prevent him or her from listening to your proposal with an open mind.

Rather than picking apart their reasoning or way of doing things, try to present your opinion as another perspective that they may not have considered yet. Explain why you feel that your approach may be more effective, but let them know that you are open to other options as well.

Tip 4: Keep your emotions under control

There is a quote that says: “He who angers you controls you,” and this is certainly true when it comes to workplace conflicts. If you give in to your emotions and become angry or overly sensitive, you will no longer be in control of the situation.

Losing your temper with your boss is not going to solve anything, and may even get you in trouble. Before you attempt to approach your boss with a complaint or suggestion, make sure that you are in the right frame of mind and will be able to stay calm and clear-headed.

Tip 5: Show confidence

While you should never come off as aggressive or overbearing with your boss, there is also no need to be cowering in the corner, lowering your eyes and mumbling your words.

Take some deep breaths, stand (or sit) up straight, maintain eye contact and keep your voice calm and steady. You have every right to approach your boss with concerns or complaints. As long as you do it the right way and stay respectful, you shouldn’t feel like you have to apologize for it.

Tip 6: Be clear about what you want

Once you have explained your problem, you should be able to offer up some possible solutions as well. It’s very likely that your boss will ask you something like, “So, how do you think we should resolve this?” You should be ready with some reasonable requests.

For example, if you have just told your boss that you feel overworked, you may suggest pushing back some deadlines for lower priority work, or maybe ask another person on the team to help to ease your workload. Of course, you boss may not always agree with your suggestions, but it is still important to be clear about what changes you would like to see.

Your comments: When was the last time you stood up to your boss?  How did it go?  Share your comments below and feel free to ask more questions.

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Guest Author:  Aileen Pablo is a business and career blogger. She works at Open Colleges, one of the pioneers of Online education in Australia and one of the leading providers of HR Management Degrees.

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3 thoughts on “How to Stand Up to Your Boss – 6 tips

  1. Ryan Cook

    Hi Lei, I definitely think this article is useful. I’ll definitely use these tips when talking to my manager about sensitive issues. 🙂

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