How to Approach your Boss with Issues or Requests
Even if you like your boss, confrontation with someone of higher authority usually brings with it some degree of anxiety. If you are nervous about dealing with someone in authority there are ways to successfully approach your boss with issues or requests.
The first concept to understand is that you need to follow chain of command. In other words, the right boss needs to take care of the right things. You would not talk to your director of nursing about a day off, which should be addressed to your manager.
In a hospital setting, depending on the organizational structure, the chain of command is usually: the charge nurse, the assistant nurse manager, the manager, the director and then the CNO. Other structures may be different based on the size or configuration of the organization. You need to understand and be clear about what is your chain of command. Chain of command simply means that the initial contact needs to be made with your first line management representative, which may be the charge nurse.
The reason chain of command is important is because it provides a solid infrastructure for problem solving, prevents chaos in an organization and builds an environment of trust. Any good leader that understands the importance of chain of command will honor it. Believe it or not, there are people who would try to damage the reputation of their manager by bringing issues to leaders of higher authority.
It is also respectful to bring the issues to the appropriate manager first so that he or she has the opportunity to address them. Oftentimes, communication is the problem which is easily remedied with a solid, effective conversation. If there is no resolution, you now have the right to go above that individual to the next level of authority.
If you need to confront your boss, here are some suggestions to make that confrontation the most effective with the best outcome for you:
- Be clear about what it is that you need or want. Have your request outlined in the most comprehensive way and articulate exactly what you want the outcome to be. Lay the issue out right at the beginning of the meeting so that your manager is clear about where you want the discussion to go.
- Present your issues or request in a very professional, unemotional, matter of fact way. Never whine or complain and remember the best way to handle a toddler is to walk away from them. Do not become the toddler. You will lose respect and power in the interaction.
- Talk about your personal feelings and never accuse. If there is an issue with a co-worker, discuss the issue in regards to your feelings. “It seems that whenever I work with so and so, I get the feeling that she or he does not pull their weight and here are some examples.” Or, “It seems to me that I always get the toughest assignments and I don't understand why. I was hoping you could help me.” This is a better approach than “I refuse to work with so and so, they don't do their work,” or “I am tired of always getting the tough assignments.” It is all in the approach as to whether people will engage with you in a positive way and want to help you.
- Always be willing to negotiate. Come with a plan B in your pocket to discuss if you cannot get all that you want.
- Clarify your understanding of the resolution of the discussion. It is always important to make sure that both parties in a conversation have the same understanding which usually is not the case. The best way to make sure that the understanding is the same is to repeat back the resolution as you understand it and have the other person confirm that this is their understanding as well. It is also a good idea to email a thank you to the person you are communicating with and include your understanding in the email so that there is now a paper trail that helps confirm the agreement or resolution.
- Lastly, if all else fails and you cannot come to an agreement, you should now move up the chain of command to the next level of leadership and follow the same recommendations with that person.
Good negotiation is all about being professional, complete and clear. Use these recommendations not only in your professional life but in your personal life as well and your outcomes will be more successful.