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  • Writer's pictureDrDavanaPilczuk

How to have "the Talk" with Your Boss

It’s common to feel frustrated with a boss who behaves badly. You dream of telling him where to go, but chances are, it won’t do much and you’ll end up looking like the bad guy. So if telling your boss off has the potential to hurt more than help, but you know you need to say something, here are some tips on how to have that conversation.

The end in mind

Before going off, decide ultimately what kind of relationship or what kinds of behaviors you want from your boss. For most of us, we’d like his behavior to be better, to feel less stressed in his presence, and to be able to work better together. If this holds true for you, hone in on a few specific behaviors you need addressed and make sure those behaviors are achievable.

For example, tell him you’re fine with him getting mad, but the excessive cussing, blaming or public criticizing isn’t working for you. Say it in a tone that is calm but firm and let him know how these changes will actually help him be a better leader. Tell him you know more employees will approach him with problems sooner if they know they won’t be ridiculed for it. This will make him be more effective since he will be able to fix things before they reach emergency mode.

Don’t be angry

Do not, I repeat, do not have this conversation when you are mad. If you want to keep your job and reputation, then only approach him when you both are calm and not upset.

Our logical brains don’t work very well when we are mad, which is why we tend to say and do things unlike ourselves when we are fuming. The “fight or flight” parts of our brain run the show when we are angry, and the prefrontal cortex, which is the logical, rational part of our brain, tends to shut down. Adrenaline takes over and we don’t think straight.

Remember, it takes a solid 30 minutes to an hour for the adrenaline to return to normal levels, so wait until everyone’s heads are cooler and logic can prevail.


Unleashing your true thoughts on someone always has consequences. Before busting out that Academy Award-winning speech you have planned in your head, run through the following checklist of consequences:

• Who will this affect and possibly hurt? Can this hurt your friends or anyone who has supported you?

• Will this hurt your reputation, pay, or family in any way? People talk and they will eventually hear about what you said to the boss. Will people view you in a negative light, see you as a hothead, or feel your actions were uncalled for?

• Could this come back to haunt you? Do you need this person or company for a recommendation? Will news travel that you did this and will that hurt your potential for future jobs?

Growth vs guilt

Here’s the part you’ve been wanting to hear: Sometimes it’s OK to just let it out. Go ahead and tell this person what you really think (as long as you know there are always consequences). Just know that this approach has an after effect of guilt.

When your anger has subsided and you realize the mean, awful things you said might have really hurt someone, you will now have to live with that guilt. And guilt is one of those horrible feelings that tends to linger in us for years. Do you want that? If not, then have this conversation in a way that saves face for both of you and provides a learning opportunity for you and your leadership muscles.

Sometimes we have to lead up and teach those above us how to behave. It takes courage. But by practicing courage, we become more courageous. Also, know that most people who have been put in management positions have never been trained on how to be leaders. Therefore, you have an opportunity to help them be better leaders by leading by example.

So the next time your boss crosses your line, be an adult and gently but firmly tell them where you need them to go. May 20, 2018.

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