How to Speak Up to Your Boss

Speaking up to your boss wide version 3

You know the solution to your boss’s current problem.  But, with clenched fists, you lock your jaw and hold your tongue, hoping your smile doesn’t look too fake.  You want to say something— badly.  You don’t know how to speak up to your boss.

You wait for the right moment to share your idea, but something holds you back.

The meeting ends.  Head lowered, you slink back to your work station… defeated.  Why didn’t you speak up?

It’s easy to feel intimidated in a boss/employee relationship.  The truth of the matter is that a boss holds the cards.  When an employee has a better idea, sharing it can come with the risk of hurting the ego of the person who controls their livelihood.

On the other hand, sharing great ideas can also create job security, especially in a highly competitive work environment.

So, how should an employee speak up to a boss?

Timing is everything

Consider the best time to share an idea with your boss.  Is there an audience?  Is your boss in the middle of fifty other things?  Is the idea you have still relevant?  Schedule a meeting with your boss ahead of time to talk through your idea.  This way, you will have his/ her undivided, one on one attention.


Consider the WAY you deliver your idea to your boss.  Deliver it tactfully, using words like, “we could consider this approach” instead of “this idea is much better than yours.”  Also, use team-oriented, company-oriented language such as, “this idea could benefit the company in this way.” Say something positive that is going on in the company before delivering your suggested improvement.

Come Prepared

Do your research and think through what you are going to say to your boss ahead of time.  If possible, have data in hand to support your ideas.   Present solutions if you can, and think through long term aspects.

Once you decide how you will present your idea to your boss, speak up confidently.  Even if the idea is not ultimately used, you will earn respect from your boss if you demonstrate respect for yourself.  And a good boss will realize that an office is better off if employees feel free to share ideas.  Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People ask the difference between a leader and boss.  The leader leads and the boss drives.”

How Assuming Positive Intent Builds Trust

Make sure to address your manager but reflecting on intent. Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, says that the best advice she ever got from her father was to always assume positive intent.

If you are trying to understand others with positive intent, you may do things like 1) keep strong eye contact, 2) calmly ask questions from a place of trust, 3) listen to understand another’s point of view. Ultimately, others will grow to trust you in the same way you show trust in them.

At Artemis Consultants, we aim to place qualified candidates with companies (and bosses) who will drive them to be the best they can be.  Visit our website for information on how we match job seekers to empowering workplace environments.

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