How To Talk To Your Boss

Most people, bosses and employees included, want more contact. Employees often feel excluded, especially in times of change, but they can be passive about giving feedback to their managers.

What’s the best time to speak to your boss about important issues? How do they prefer to receive information? Does your manager have his or her own boss to think about? It’s about empathy.

If you want to negotiate a pay rise or promotion, don’t make it a surprise for your boss. If it is a shock, you have created a combative situation.

The adversarial method is not often effective; a lot of bosses say that when an employee insists they will leave the company if they don’t get what they want, then that is exactly what happens...

Be polite, and remember your boss might need to refer a decision to their boss. Make your business case as strong as possible. Be clear about your arguments and the counterarguments.

Many offices depend too much on email. Ask yourself, is email the best way to make an argument, especially if you need to resolve something problematic. It’s so easy to misinterpret what someone says, and then a simple issue becomes a conflict. Also, avoid sending CCs to people in the middle of an email discussion, even if you want more support. It can be a very passive-aggressive way of communicating.

How much should you share with your boss about your life outside work? It depends on the office culture, but don’t imagine that just because your boss has a relaxed management style, that they will be less professional. As a good guide, avoid being too candid. Your boss may be friendly, but that doesn’t mean they are your friend.


  • Always question if you should send an email, or say it in person. And avoid passive-aggressive CCing. 
  • Try to think from your manager’s perspective: how does what you need to say affect them? 
  • Remember that your boss may not be the one making the final decision, so you might need to convince them to convince others. 

Adapted from The Guardian newspaper