WORKPLACE / JAN. 01, 2015
version 3, draft 3

How to Tell Your Boss He's Wrong

Your boss hired you. Your boss signs your paycheck. Your boss decides whether he wants to keep you on during times of downsizing or provide you with your pink slip. In today’s tough economic times and difficult labor market, it’s important for many people to keep their jobs.  

But what happens when you know your boss is wrong: do you inform him of his errors or do you keep quiet and let the company sort it out? It’s a dilemma that has plagued so many of us - what boss wants one of his subordinates to outsmart him and remedy an incorrect statement, assignment or project? 

Although the reaction of a boss is hard to determine - will they demote you or will they promote you? - it’s still an important step to take, and one that may be celebrated by your colleagues, management and perhaps even future employers. Standing up to the boss is indeed hard to do. 

The question that everyone asks is: how do you tell your boss he’s wrong? How can an employee go about it cautiously and diplomatically without getting on his bad side? Well, there are a variety of ways to inform the boss he’s wrong on the matter in question. Essentially, it takes a non-judgmental, polite and private way to do it without fear of reprisal. 

Here are five ways to tell your boss he’s wrong: 

1. Privately 

Nobody likes to be embarrassed in front of others, especially their own employees. To show a level of maturity and respect, ask to speak with your boss privately in his office. Here is where you’d inform him of their mistake. This shows that you respect their position and showcases your empathy. In other words, don’t try to outdo your boss in front of the workforce. 

2. Time 

Don’t go into an entire 10-minute diatribe about how wrong your boss was in what they said or did. Instead, take just a few moments, outline to them that they made a simple error and briefly explain what the real facts are. Don’t digress, don’t show how smart you are and don’t show how obtuse your boss is. Nobody likes a showoff. 

3. Email 

If you lack the courage to confront your boss face-to-face then send a short but kind email. The email shouldn’t be quite long and should say something to the effect of: "Hi sir, I just did a quick check on what we were discussing earlier and I found out that you mildly mistaken and it’s actually this way." It’s brief, private and electronic - just don’t CC it to the entire office. 

4. Professional Demeanor 

Although every employee should act in a professional manner at all times - sometimes people never grow out of the high school mentality - this should transition into speaking with your boss, too. What does this mean? Stand up straight, speak calmly, refrain from using vulgar language and "like" or "basically" and ask the boss if he understands where you’re coming or if he agrees. 

5. Reaffirm 

Soon after telling the boss he’s wrong, reaffirm that you like to consider all perspectives of an issue and you think the boss is open to all types of suggestions, even if they go against the grain. At the end of it all, the whole situation should be respectful and simple. The entire meeting should be a positive experience for both parties and not completed with the fright of losing your job. 

Remember, even if you think the boss is wrong it may not be so. Although you could be 95 percent correct, there is still a five percent chance you’re wrong so be prepared to "eat your own words" and admit you yourself were incorrect. Your reaction to being corrected could turn out to be just as important as how you tell the head honcho he’s wrong. 

Image source: DN

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