By Beth Braccio Hering, Special to CareerBuilder
Resolving an issue with your boss can be tough — but so can doing nothing. Here, three workers present their most pressing gripes, followed by food for thought from workplace experts.
“My boss tells me not to be late in the morning, but she comes in late all the time. She also tells me I need to be at work more regularly even though I have medical issues that sometimes make it impossible for me to work. She has medical problems, too, so one would think she would have a bit more compassion and understanding. I guess that’s what you get to do when you’re a boss: Do what I say, not what I do.” – L.P.
What to do: Alan Guinn, CEO and managing director of The Guinn Consultancy Group, recommends meeting with the supervisor to discuss your performance and health, not hers. To prepare, look at your experiences to be sure that you are doing everything you can to achieve the level of expertise in your job that is expected of you. Start a file of exceptional work that you have completed and the timeframe in which it was completed.
“[During the meeting], ask if she is fully cognizant of the challenges you face,” Guinn says. “If she says she is, you’ve done all you can to educate her. Don’t expect her to become compassionate and understanding; if she’s not shown that to date, she probably won’t show that now. Your objective is to get out into the open that you feel you are being ‘picked on,’ and you’re establishing a baseline to let her know that you know it and don’t like it. . . . The key here to resolving your differences and making this relationship work is opening the line of communication.”
No room to grow
“I am a volunteer coordinator for a nonprofit organization. While I have a great relationship with my direct supervisor, I feel that sometimes she tells me ‘no’ on things that I am not only capable of doing but could do well — simply because the task isn’t in my immediate job description. I have never asked to do anything that couldn’t benefit the organization but allow me to grow at the same time. I truly believe that by only allowing me to complete ‘assigned’ tasks that we miss out on opportunities that would further our mission and vision.” – G.W.
What to do: “We humans naturally make defensive assumptions,” says Ed Muzio, CEO of Group Harmonics and author of “Make Work Great” and “Four Secrets to Liking Your Work.” It would be easy to conclude that your boss is shortsighted, untrusting or otherwise hopeless. That may be, but try starting somewhere else. Is your boss overwhelmed? If so, be clear that you’re making more work for you, not her. Is she unsure of your abilities? If so, build trust by performing your role well for a while. Is her job at risk? If so, don’t suggest anything that would add to that risk. By working to understand the reasons for her objections — without assuming they’re all negative — you’re more likely to get the permission you seek.”
Favoring fairness over hard work
“My boss is more interested in ‘being fair’ to his employees than in recognizing exceptional effort and results. When I performed complex data analysis to support my request for additional staff, he responded with ‘Sorry — it’s not your turn.’” – D.W.
What to do: Al Switzler, co-author of “Crucial Confrontations,” suggests asking the boss if you can talk about an issue that is affecting team morale and effectiveness. “Explain that you are trying to understand, not manage the situation,” Switzler says. “Then, explain that it seems like awards and appreciation are based on taking turns. Let your boss know that you wonder if team performance would improve if you set some standards and then rewarded those who excelled. Then ask, ‘Can we talk about this?’”
As Switzler notes for this situation (and others), a person with a gripe has three options: clam up, blow up, or find a respectful way to put the issue on the table. “You may not always come to a solution, but you may find reasons you weren’t aware of. What I can promise is that you will feel more comfortable looking in the mirror because you tried to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
Beth Braccio Hering researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.