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Ana Antunes da Silva

Aim to Be

Coach - Facilitator - Consultant

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How to Complain about your Boss


Do you work with a difficult boss? Is your boss making your life miserable at work? Have you tried to address certain issues to no avail? Has the time come to escalate matters and talk to their boss or HR? These conversations are never easy and can cause anxiety so here are a few ideas to try to minimise your distress.

Before engaging in this type of conversation, ask yourself the following:
- Can this person really do anything about the situation?
- Will they expect you to handle the situation on your own?
- Do you actually expect them to take action or is it a good opportunity to vent your frustrations?

If you answered Yes, No, Yes then a conversation is justified.

This conversation is an opportunity to present your case. Remember that you do not want to simply complain about something and expect immediate action. You want to present your problem with a potential solution. You want your chat to seem natural and unrehearsed yet you will have a clear agenda of what you want to get across. It should sound like you are doing your best for the business and the team rather than attempting to undermine your boss.

This discussion is very much a presentation or sales pitch for constructive ideas to move forward. As such, give it some structure in your mind. This will allow you to cover all the issues you want to address as well as keep you away from the drama and too much detail.

6 Tips to Remember when Complaining about Your Boss

1. No emotion
Easier said than done of course!
If you realise you are getting upset, see yourself as a third person looking down at the conversation. This will give you a more neutral and disengaged perspective of the situation. Another solution is to think of something you find funny. Ideally use a work related image or scenario. Something like the Dilbert cartoons or the series The Office are an option.

2. Management
Consider how it looks from a bigger picture. The person you have escalated the issue to will certainly be thinking about that, so put yourself in his or her shoes. This will also mean you won’t automatically assume he or she is going to take your “side”.

3. Decide what you want
Be clear about what you want them to do. They may have suggestions and ideas of their own so but be prepared to state what you want so they can actually help you achieve it.

4. Business area
Determine how your problem relates to one or more business areas. They will be interested in products, quality, customers, etc, so you want to show how your problem is affecting the bigger picture and the business in these areas. Once you have concrete business examples you will have a winning formula to get their attention.

5. Facts
Focus on the facts. Restrain from complaining about your boss’s personality or assumptions you have made about certain attitudes and decisions.

6. Future
This is important as you want to move forward. Keep the focus of the conversation on what will happen in the future rather than what has happened thus far. This is not to say you can’t use information from past incidents to support your case. It is about staying focused on what needs to be done to rectify the problem.

Further Suggestions

- Document everything (this should prove to be therapeutic as well as useful!)

- Make a mote of incidents that drive you nuts. Leave it for a few days and revisit the list upon further reflection.

- Determine if there is a pattern in your boss’s annoying and offensive behaviour. Pick the top 2 or 3 and make suggestions of how to handle similar situations if they happen again. Remember to edit your own suggestions so as to remove traits of anger or sarcasm.

Documenting everything in this way will help you take positive action as well as support you should you ever need to take further action…

Ideally you will also analyse your own actions and behaviours to determine how you have been handling yourself in the job.

Until something happens, do your best to be seen as team orientated and co-operative.

Have you had to go over your boss’s head to complain about their behaviour? How did you handle the situation?

Did you enjoy this blog post? Take a look at Aim to Be Coaching Blog for more posts by Ana Antunes da Silva. You'll be able to get the full experience with images etc as well as sign up for a FREE Coaching session.

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Ana Antunes da Silva

Coach - Facilitator - Consultant

Read more from Ana Antunes da Silva

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