Can We Talk? by Cindy Stradling CSP, CSL

One of the most uncomfortable conversations for most employees is going to their boss to talk about a problem or an issue at work. Often these problems or issues are about other employees or perhaps even other managers, which can create anxiety and stress just thinking about the conversation.

In some cases, the manager may already be aware of the problem, while in others, it may be something that is completely new. Regardless of how informed or uniformed your manager may be, there are specific steps that you can take to prepare yourself for the conversation and to ensure you share the information that is important.

Choose a Time Wisely

Most managers have times of the day when they are more likely to have time to talk. If you have the ability to schedule a meeting, try to book those times. First thing in the morning or at the start of a shift is often a better time for a manager than at the end of the day or the shift. Scheduling or requesting a meeting time respects the manager’s time and also allows you to prepare for the discussion rather than just walking in without a plan.

Try to avoid invading the manager’s lunch or break, or perhaps asking if you could step out of the office for lunch is a good way to address the problem. This option depends on your workplace and your relationship with the manager.

Detail the Problem – Not the Individual

Talking about the problem without passing judgment on the motives or intentions of the other person or people involved helps to clearly illustrate the issue. It is critical to take the time to review this in your head, or even write it down, to add the details and the information to illustrate and define the problem.

Trying to make the other person look bad is counterproductive and can lead to your boss seeing the complaint as a personality issue or conflict. Be willing to talk about your behaviors as well, and plan for questions.

Think About Solutions 

One of the most effective ways to show your boss you are sincere in wanting to address the problem is to have some solutions to suggest. Think these through and consider how the solution fits with any specific policies or protocols in the company, how it would impact other staff, and how it actually resolves the conflict, issue, or problem.

Keep the discussion short and to the point, and be positive and open to answering questions and providing more information. Be open to talking to the other’s involved, and in working to develop a solution that works for everyone.