Tricky Work Conversations

Do you dread approaching your boss about certain things? Here’s how to address problems at work the easy way.

It doesn’t matter how well you get on with your boss – at some point we all have to have an uncomfortable talk about something work-related. But don’t worry – there are ways around even the most awkward situations.

‘About what I said after that second bottle…’

‘This is one of the most common situations to cause embarrassment with a boss,’ says Jenny Ungless, life coach at ‘The best approach is a simple, private, verbal apology for your behaviour (an e-mail won’t do!).’ Don’t dig yourself in deeper by trying to explain why you said what you said when you’d had a few drinks, though. Ungless advises you, ‘Apologise; say you didn’t mean it and that it won’t happen again. And leave it at that.’

‘I’m seeing someone I work with’

‘When you need to come clean about a work relationship, honesty is the best policy,’ says Ungless. ‘Your boss doesn’t need to know all the details but it’s polite to let them know what’s going on – especially if you both have the same manager. Some companies have strict policies about couples working together, particularly if one of them is in a position of authority over another. Check the rules.’

‘I’m leaving’
‘However tempting it is, don’t tell your workmates you’re leaving before you tell your boss, as you run the risk they’ll hear it from a third party,’ says Ungless. And even if you’re officially meant to resign to HR, she advises telling your boss in private first. ‘It’s best to explain it properly, and you’ll need a reference, so leave on good terms.’

‘I have a problem at work… it’s you’

‘If you don’t get on with your boss, be honest about it,’ says Ungless. ‘If they’re making your life a misery, ask for an informal chat. Be diplomatic and only mention relevant issues. Give examples of when your boss has upset you and say how you think the situation could have been handled.’ lf you’re worried he/she won’t listen or take you seriously, make notes, which (as a last resort) you could show HR.