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Tips on How to Effectively Confront a Boss or Leader

Updated on August 25, 2010

Conflict whether at home or work can be stressful and draining. Conflict can be painful and lead to misunderstanding and separation. Conflict with a leader or boss can be even more stressful because depending on their disposition, confronting your boss can have dire consequences such as demotion or termination. That is why it is so important to know how to deal with conflict in a way that is constructive to both you and your employer or leader. If you find yourself asking "How can I effectively confront my boss?" then, Robert Kelley has some excellent advice on the subject.

In his book The Power of Followership, Kelley outlines some tips on how to effectively confront your boss or leader. Those tips include

  1. Don't be afraid to disagree on important issues;
  2. Create trust and avoid mistrust;
  3. Don't go in angry or with your own ego on the line;
  4. Talk to your boss or leader privately;
  5. Choose the right timing;
  6. State the issue clearly and succinctly from your point of view;
  7. Come prepared with potential solutions;
  8. When brainstorming possible solutions, consider your boss's point of view.


Effective Followers are not Afraid to Disagree on Important Issues

First, Kelley suggests that most employers or leaders do not want employees or followers who are mere yes-men. The effective follower is one who sees himself as an equal of the leader but with a different role. Because the outstanding employee views him or herself as equal to the boss they are not afraid to confront them when they think they are going down the wrong path. If you want to be a valuable contributor to your organization then it is important that you openly share your ideas and opinions in an appropriate way at the appropriate time.

Create Trust and Avoid Mistrust

The second tip when confronting your boss is to create trust and avoid mistrust. If you are asking yourself, "how can I effectively confront my boss?" you need to remember that he is only going to listen if you are trustworthy and reliable and have built a rapport of credibility. If you are a willy nilly worker who lacks a sense of self-discipline, gives a half-hearted effort, and constantly puts down the decisions of your boss, he or she will rarely want to listen to what you have to say. But, if you are an effective follower who understands the vision and goals of the organization and the needs and constraints of the leader then you will open up the opportunity to give needed input. if you want your boss to hear your ideas you need to create trust and avoid mistrust.

Don't Go In Angry or with Your Ego on the Line

 A third tip related to confronting a boss or leader is: don't go in angry or with your ego on the line. Approaching your boss is not about him or her being wrong and you being right; it is not about him or her being an idiot and you the brans of the bunch; it's about doing what is best for the organization and keeping to critical path activities that will accomplish the desired need or goal. You may be passionately against a proposed idea, but if you are asking yourself "how can I effectively confront my boss or leader?" then you need to act calmly and rationally and et aside your own ego. It is not about you; it is about fulfilling the proposed project in the optimal way.

Talk to Your Leader or Boss in Private

Talk to your leader in private is a fourth tip when confronting your boss or leader. The first three tips addressed the preliminary set up and attitude to gain the right to be heard. This tip is one of four that talks about your approach. It is difficult to gain trust and credibility if you are constantly dressing down your leader or boss in front of others. Even if you have something important to say or have the company's best in mind, your leader will rarely receive what you have to say if you do not show them due respect in front of others. The best way to confront anyone especially your employer is to ask to speak with them in private.

Choose the Appropriate Timing

Another tip when confronting a leader is to choose the appropriate or right time. The best time to approach your employer or manager is not when they have a pressing deadline and they are overwhelmed with the stress of completing a project. Kelley suggests that if you are asking yourself "how can I effectively confront my boss?"; then, you need to gauge the appropriate timing when he will be free to give you his or her undivided attention.

State the Issue Clearly and Succinctly

When you feel the need to confront your boss, a sixth tip is to: state the issue clearly and succinctly. Take sufficient time to write out your concern so as to know firmlyin your mind what you need to say and how best to present your point of view. If you are asking "how can I effectively confront my boss or leader"; then you need to walk into your meeting prepared.

Come Prepared with Potential Solutions

If you want to be seen as an effective follower or employee, then the seventh tip is to go to the meeting prepared with potential solutions to the issue or problem. It is not enough to come prepared to state the issue clearly and succinctly. If you want to add value to your organization and to your bosses decisions, research potential solutions and come to the meeting ready to share those solutions. However, remember to check your ego at the door.

Consider Your Bosses Point of View

The last tip shared here is to consider your bosses point of view when discussing the problem or issue. If you want to be considered an effective wmployee and you are asking "how can I effectively confront my boss?" about a difficult issue; then you need to be prepared to actively listen as well as to speak. When you actively listen to your leader's point of view, he or she will see that you are respectful of them and their ideas. When you are respectful, you will create trust and avoid mistrust and build the kind of rapport by which you can readily share your thoughts and ideas, even in the throes of conflict.


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    • profile image


      18 months ago

      nice work

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      These are sensible tips and suggestions. In the end, what matters most is creating a culture that is open but respectful.

    • ecoggins profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Corona, California

      KenWu, thank you again for your encouraging comments. I suppose this might best be titled "how to confront your boss in a western culture." Having lived and worked in Cambodia, I have observed that each culture requires relevant approaches to life's issues. So you are right in reality people are overshadowed by their boss' authority and are afraid to confront them.

    • KenWu profile image


      8 years ago from Malaysia

      Those are excellent tips but in reality most people are overshadowed by their boss authority, so even it the superior is wrong, it's still the best solution. Yeap, rated useful!

    • ecoggins profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Corona, California

      Lilly excellent suggestions thank you.

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from Central Oregon

      I like the ideas behind this, I have to say from life experience, that if you have any meeting behind closed doors, or out of earshot of a reliable witness; with a superior, it is not a bad idea to ask that it be recorded. The most honest man or woman in that position, will lie if it suits their purposes. If you are Good at what you do, you may very well be a threat to them. Some States allow recordings to be hidden, but it is a good idea to let them know you want it recorded. I promise.


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