Employee engagement, Crisis Management, Performance management, Jobs, Human Resources, Employee management.
By Ireoluwa Bello
For Oyemaja Executives, a division of The Oyemaja Group.
Do you think your boss is sometimes clueless and you can do a better job? You are not the only one on this table. Gallup's research confirmed in one of his studies that of 7,272 U.S adults, 50 percent leave their jobs "to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career." Also, DDI’s research proves the old trope that “people leave managers and not companies.”
While the above research might give a sense of solidarity that you are not alone, it doesn’t change your predicament nor get you a better placement. Some scenarios will have you on the brink of telling your boss clearly, “You are to blame,” “You are wrong,” or “This is all your fault”, especially when it can affect the company’s finances or your career growth. But in reality, you can’t risk the outcome of such an outburst despite wanting to put the blame on your boss.
Open communication is essential to foster growth in the workplace, as far as employee management is concerned. There is so much an employee can take when the employer keeps slipping without caution. Addressing your boss’s mistake is a sensitive but possible topic. While it can be tricking airing out your grief, there are some ways to tilt the conversation in your favour.
1. Be objective
It is not usual to be blindsided in close quarters with a problem. It is easy to forget some important facts that can help objectivity. For this reason, it is advisable to take a step back, reflect, and reanalyse the situation. What might have initially appeared to be a mistake might be a miscommunication or lack of information. Keep in mind that as the subordinate, you might not be privy to all data and therefore do not have a balanced view. To be objective, research, and nonconfrontationally ask the right questions from your colleagues or your boss. Some missing pieces of information can go a long way in calming your nerves.
2. Timing is everything
Words hit differently at different moments. Confronting your boss right when the mistake was made might cost you your job, not because of stubbornness or inflexibility but because the tensions are high, and no one wants to get directly blamed for a failed project. The temptation to receive your message on impulse and make impulsive judgments is at their fingertips. Aim for an open conversation with no interruptions. Be patient about dishing out your hot takes. Keep in mind that the goal of your dialogue is problem-solving.
3. Get evidence
Nothing is sweeter than words backed up with evidence. Concrete evidence can lend credibility to your concerns. You might almost be tempted to say, “The evidence speaks for itself; it’s all your fault.” but you won’t say that. Instead, you will present the evidence and carefully nudge your boss to the loopholes in the project. Gather data, emails, or any relevant documentation substantiating your claims. Presenting evidence in a non-confrontational manner can help your boss grasp the gravity of the situation and make it easier for them to acknowledge their mistake.
Clearly outline the issue, the specific mistake, and its impact on the project or team. This approach shifts the conversation from blame to problem-solving, making it easier for your boss to understand the situation objectively.
4. Watch your tone
Your goal is to foster constructive dialogue and not to create a conflict, it is imperative to avoid derogatory language or a confrontational tone. Always maintain a respectful and professional tone regardless of the mistake. A simple trick is to stick to “I” statements. Don’t say, “You made a poor judgment and messed up the project.” say, “I noticed discrepancies in the project, and I would like to share them with you in your spare time.”
5. Prepare for anything
The person remains your boss after being told their mistakes, therefore, be prepared for any and all outcomes. People respond differently to criticism, whether defensively or with gratitude, be willing to adapt your approach accordingly. Stay calm and composed, even if the conversation becomes challenging.
6. Be helpful
The tasks should not only point out the mistakes but create a solution. Connect to the larger goals of the project and frame the conversation in a way that emphasizes growth, and learning. Take a step further to suggest potential solutions and improvements that can correct the error or benefit the rest of the project. This approach proves your commitment to finding a resolution and contributing to the team’s success.
Critiquing without proposing solutions can be counterproductive; it comes off as judgmental and blame-shifting.
7. Follow up
After the conversation, actively follow up on the implementation of your resolutions and the general progress of the project. Be ready to offer help whenever it is needed. It emphasizes your dedication to both the project and the team. If your boss takes steps to rectify the mistake, acknowledge their efforts and express gratitude for their willingness to address the concern. If not, patiently suggest it a couple more times, actively sourcing for other types of resolution.
On the off-chance that they do not yield and continue on the path of destruction, take necessary steps to bulletproof your house by gathering enough evidence that points the mistake directly to your boss. Or better still, report them to their boss in the exact same other.
Criticism is a sensitive subject, constructive or otherwise, especially from a subordinate. It requires a delicate process, careful consideration, and tactful communication. The two key points are to be prepared before and after the conversation. Approach the situation with objectivity, evidence, and a solution-oriented mindset. Whatever the outcome, you can be assured that you gave it your best.