There's no way around it, the workplace is full of difficult situations. And for many, it doesn't get much more challenging than a boss about to make a terrible decisions. You want to say something, but deep down you think it's a mistake to speak up. On the other hand, you know the implementation of this decision is going to waste a lot of time, money, and energy.

So how do you handle this situation? How do you tell the boss, he/she is wrong?

Understand the Situation

The unfortunate truth about terrible decisions, is that they can happen any time and in many forms. By understanding the situation in which these bad ideas are being proposed, you can determine where to delivery your counter point in the most effective way.

What makes the where so important, especially with leadership, is that it can have a direct effect on their authority. You never want to negatively impact their ability to lead. So the vital insight here is, pay attention to the level of authority being put on display. That's what you need to understand about the situation.

Now when it comes to the actual where, you have two choices: in public or in private. Anytime power is being showcased, you're going to want bring up your disagreement in private. To make this judgement call easier, I've put together this list of authority displaying situations.

  • Company Announcements
  • Meetings with Someone Who Out Ranks Your Boss
  • Reprimanding or Rewarding a Co-Worker
  • Meetings with Clients or Potential Customers

I know it's tough to keep quiet in these situation, since there can be some major ramifications for bad ideas in these circumstances. But if you respect your boss and you want to keep the relationship strong (for career reasons), then hold off speaking your mind until it's just you two. They're human and they'll make bad decisions. If they're a strong leader, they'll find a way to correct the mistake.
Side Note: As I said early, these are judgement calls. There are going to be instances in the above situations where your boss makes mistakes. If he/she is making a mistake that reduces his/her authority, it's okay to speak up publicly to restore it. The point of all this, is to make your leadership look strong, so that you look strong.

How to Speak to Your Boss

When it comes to correcting your boss, tone means everything. One mistake people make when they finally decide to tell their boss about his/her error is, they use this know-it-all attitude. They act like the mistake is obvious, and only an idiot would make it.

The tone is all wrong. You want your leadership to take actions and correct the error. When you outright tell someone they're wrong, they're going to push back - especially a boss. It's human nature to prove your stance correct. That's why I try to remember this little saying - "Just because it's true, it doesn't mean you're right." Basically what this means is, you may be factually correct, but the way you're going about it is all wrong. You never want to make someone feel stupid. It just doesn't work out.

Another mistake people make with their tone, is that they're too soft. When the pendulum swings too far in this direction, a person's views are not taken seriously or the message just isn't received. You're brave enough to say something, but too nervous to get it out coherently. You beat around the bush, and the boss simply moves on after the meeting. He/she just didn't get the message that they made a mistake.

So what's the correct tone? You need to take the confidence of the people in group one and mix it with the emotional understanding of group two. The boss needs to believe that there's really an issue here, but you have to understand that they're humans who make mistake.

An effective way to do this is to not make the conversation about the boss or his/her bad judgment, but rather make the conversation about the issue itself. When you take the blame off of the boss and put it on the idea, leadership is much more likely to make an adjustment.

Offer a Solution

If you want to see a better result, create one yourself. This is so incredibly important. One - just because leadership understands there was an issue with their first decision, it doesn't mean they won't make a worse new solution. Two- They're busy people. They may soon forget about the mistake in a week or 2, and just not correct it. Or they'll be unhappy that they have more work added to an already full schedule (I get it, it's their job - but that's how it works sometimes).

More important than that, you look good when you offer a well thought out solutions. And they do need to be well thought out or at least have the first steps ready to go. So many ideas are loved, but die right after the meeting because there's no follow up actions. When you do this, leadership will appreciate your solution because you've taken work off their plate and if it goes well, you've made them look good. And that can mean great things for your career!

Bonus - Make Leadership Your Inspiration

People are more willing to change or implement change when they feel part of the process. An effective little tip is to use your boss as inspiration for your new idea, even if it's not entirely true.

So when you're pitching the idea, you could say something like, "In our meeting you said X, Y, and Z, which got me thinking about A, B and C." It a small ego boost that can really help an idea take off.

Suggested Follow-ups:

Article By: Tom Kieley

About the Author

Tom is the creator of Fulfillingly. He absolutely enjoys giving people the tips and tools they need to find a satisfying career or dependable employee. Tom does
this by combining years of experience with incredible outside sources.

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