Bosses are complicated things – they’re kind of your father, mother, and best friend (if you’re lucky) all packaged into one person. Now think back to the last time you had to tell your father or mother they were wrong. Chances are, and this is especially true if you live in an a frontier market because of complex family relationships, that it wasn’t easy. The same is true when you have to tell your boss that they’re wrong. Even if you have an excellent relationship with them the bottom line is you have to do what they say. So how do you get the message across without putting yourself in a difficult situation? Here are a few tips to help you out.

Words To Avoid

When your boss is wrong, you have to phrase things gently. Not quite like a child (because in that relationship you’re the decision maker) but something like it where you need to be extra sensitive to their feelings. There are certain words and phrases you simply cannot use. Some of the ones to avoid are:

  • Wrong – in any form: You’re wrong, this is wrong, I wish you’d see you’re wrong.
  • You think you know but…
  • I know a better way [than you].

The idea is to tell them they’re wrong without really telling them. In other words, you need to weave it into the conversation rather than blurt it out loud.

Buffer The Conversation

Anyone who has taken a business communication course knows that to criticize someone you have to buffer the conversation. This means you start with a positive, come to the negative, and then end with a positive again. It sure seems like a lot of work, especially for those of us who like to be straight forward but believe me this technique works. Never go straight for why the boss is wrong. Start with what they’ve done right, weave in the wrongs and end with how everything will be great.

Learning How To Phrase The Negative Positively

Sugar coat. You must learn to do this if you’re going to tell your boss that they’re wrong about something. Consider the following sentences:

You’re looking at the wrong number for sale targets.

This is an interesting figure to look at but what if we also include numbers from the districts and towns as well?

See how the second one is so much nicer? And it starts with a positive and doesn’t include the word wrong. Communication is an art after all!

Time It Right

You wouldn’t want to be given bad news at the end of an exhausting day would you? The same goes for your boss. Don’t give them a complicated conversation about why they should change their thinking because after all, they don’t know that they’re wrong. And don’t do it right after a long meeting or big lunch either. New ideas are more accepted earlier in the morning before everyone’s brains become clouded with day to day operations. Start early, start positive.

Even if your boss is wrong they’re still your boss. Give them the respect that they deserve simply for being more senior to you and work on establishing your reliability to them. Chances are that they’ll also respect what you say. Got any feedback on this one? Please leave your comments below.