How to Express Frustration to Your Boss Without Getting Fired

By Staff Writer Published on May 16, 2017

Difficult conversations in the professional world are unavoidable, especially with your boss. Use these tips to effectively discuss tough topics with your supervisor and other employees without putting your own job at risk.

1. Address Issues Early

Is there an employee consistently arriving late to work and leaving early? Is your boss starting to offend you with the way he or she talks to you in front of other coworkers? Addressing issues that are important to you before they worsen will not only allow you to assert yourself but will also prevent you from unexpectedly exploding on your peers. Intervene quickly enough to eliminate an emotional response and approach the situation with logic.

2. Talk to Your Coworker First

Before knocking on your supervisor’s door with a simple complaint, try talking to whoever you’re having an issue with first. Oftentimes the subject of your concern may not even be aware yet that their behavior is questionable. Discussing it early on can lead to swift, easy adjustments.

For example, if you feel you have a coworker who is not pulling their weight, start your conversation with curiosity and concern before jumping to anger. “Last week we agreed I would do part A and you would do part B, but I ended up doing both. Did you understand that was what we were doing? How did you see your part in it?” Or you could even just show you care: “Hey, I see you’re struggling to get your part of the assignment done. Is everything OK?” 

3. Set Up a Meeting

If talking with your coworker is not an option or does not result in a resolution, make time to alert your boss about the ongoing problem. Set up or ask for a meeting with your supervisor. This lets him or her know that you have something important to share. It also helps ensure that you’ll get undivided attention amidst his or her busy schedule. Setting time aside can help your boss get in “receive” mode and lead to a more productive discussion.

4. Tactfully Explain the Situation

Plainly explain the situation and give context about what’s troubling you. Avoid directly placing blame on others, and own any fault you have in the predicament. If you’re upset about getting passed over for a promotion or receiving a poor evaluation, whining about it will only put your supervisor on the defensive. Simply state your feelings: “I was disappointed that I didn’t receive the higher rating.” Then focus on a solution, “What can I do better to ensure I’m in the running for the next promotion?”

5. Listen and Resolve

Be open to what your supervisor has to say. They may already be aware of the situation—in fact, they may have already taken steps to remedy the issue. On the other hand, your boss might have a different perspective than you do. Either way, neither of you should leave the meeting with unanswered questions.

If your boss denies your educated request for a raise, resolve the disagreement with a plan. Set specific goals with your supervisor that could make you worthy of consideration for a salary increase, and schedule future meetings to track your progress.

No matter how difficult the topic, using these tips to open a conversation with your boss can help you productively express your frustration without putting your position on the line.