How to correct your boss without losing your job

by Jun 15, 2017

How to correct your boss the right way

22793975 - concept of business competition with big and small businessmen correct your boss

We all make mistakes.  None of us like making errors and many don’t enjoy being corrected, especially not in the public domain by someone junior to them.  [Tweet “A decision to correct your boss can be a very challenging.”] The thought process is jangling in your head. Should you, or shouldn’t you and what about timing? When do you deliver the news?  Do you let them continue forward,  oblivious, or do you speak up at the time? Not knowing if your boss will feel appreciative or humiliated and resentful can be a tough decision to make.

Timing and discretion are key factors so it’s important that any correction be delivered in the right way so  the input is received as a positive experience.

Experience is making mistakes and learning from them. Bill Ackman

 It’s very difficult to correct a person senior in the organisation when they make a mistake especially if you are junior, young or a new hire. How you correct your boss will depend on a number of factors.

  • The culture of your organisation. In flat informal cultures it will be easier than in a formal hierarchical one to call out an error at the time.
  • How many layers there are between you and the person making an error? Just how junior are you?  An entry –level employee would be ill- advised to correct a CEO. They could share the mistake with someone more senior on the organogram.
  • The situation where the error takes place – in an internal meeting, with a client or simply a small group. It’s never wise to correct your boss in front of external contacts or their own bosses.
  • The scale of the mistake – is it a small blip or a massive blunder of epic proportions with significant and immediate fall out? If it is genuinely a serious error which will impact the flow of the discussion then discreetly flagging it up will be a problem. Passing a tactful note or asking for a private word could also work.

Read: 4 ways to improve your relationship with your boss

Case study  – examine your choices

In a recent workshop, Gabriella shared how her boss had made a mistake with some statistics delivered in a meeting involving in-house personnel and external stakeholders. The youngest person in the room, she felt compelled to reference more recent research which undermined the position of her boss in the middle of a presentation. She was genuinely confused when her input was not well received.

Gabriella chose to speak up immediately and correct her boss in front of the meeting.  Could she have chosen to find a strategic time and place to discuss their mistake privately? [Tweet “Learning how to handle sensitive situations is a vital workplace and even relationship skill.”]

Gilly Weinstein, Executive Coach suggests that it’s important to reflect on intent.

“What do you hope to achieve when you correct your boss? If the main driver is about asserting yourself or being right, then sometimes it’s best to step back and deal with the issue privately. If the issue is sharing a piece of information critical to the path of the discussion, then flagging it up in a constructive way would be appropriate, but probably better at the end of the presentation.”

Dorothy Dalton, CEO 3Plus International and Career Coach concurs

“We are all there to make our bosses look good. If this is about proving yourself it is best to let it go in a public forum.”     

If you do need to correct your boss, being mindful and empathetic will be far more productive than trying to score points. That is not going to help your career.

If you need to improve workplace relationships with greater tact and empathy Contact 3Plus now!

Staff Writer: Career Contributor
3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Job Search, Career and Mentoring or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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