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How to avoid confrontation with your boss

by on February 8, 2013

davidbrent2Having a full blown argument with the boss has to be one of the worst things any worker can do. Yet if your manager is a little on the demanding side it can be hard to avoid confrontation.

From gruelling workloads and long hours to wage freezes and unpaid overtime, there are plenty of reasons to be mad at the boss. But how you deal with your anger could play a significant part in your progress up the career ladder.

So whenever you start to feel angry, take a few deep breaths and think about the situation. Try to remain calm and see things from their point of view. This can be hard – especially if the boss is shouting in your face – but it will help you to remain focused and avoid a verbal backlash.

Remember too that just because your boss is losing it, doesn’t mean that you have to react in kind. If they’ve decided to start shouting in an open office, anyone could be listening – including the Managing Director.

Instead, wait until they’ve finished and think carefully about what you say. Something like: ‘I’m sorry you feel that way, let’s see how we can work it out’ is great because it’s noncommittal and offers a solution.

Get into the habit of documenting your work and recording all your accomplishments. So next time your manager decides to have a go, you can back up your statements with evidence of all your hard work. It’s a lot harder to argue with hard facts than simple statements. There’s no need to get flippant – hopefully your working record will speak for itself.

Sometimes talking things over can help you gain perspective but choose your friends wisely. Venting can be a great way to offload but if the boss gets to know it could spell trouble. Better to chat to someone outside of work rather than a colleague, who could be involved themselves.

Even if you’re performing well and everything is up to scratch, highly critical people will always find a way to complain. Working for this kind of boss isn’t much fun but don’t let it get to you. Look at the bigger picture and ask yourself if it’s truly worth an argument.

If you do need to confront the boss, be prepared to express your opinion behind closed doors. No manager will ever want their decisions questioned within earshot of other colleagues. Arranging to meet them outwith their usual office environment can also make the situation less threatening.

Finally, if you are going to challenge your boss make sure you can deliver viable alternatives to any problems you highlight. Just complaining for the sake of it rarely gets you anywhere.

Confronting management is tricky but it can also be a steep learning curve. Even bosses have bad days sometimes and shout for no reason. So knowing how to defuse tense situations can be a valuable skill.

That way, when you become the boss, you’ll know exactly how to handle frosty confrontations.

This article was written by Karen Stewart and originally ran on

Image from The Office by BBC Comedy.

From → events

  1. James permalink

    A response to a manager who is “shouting in your face”?… in an open office environment? In a Scottish local govt establishment?
    1. Ask to speak to them in private and make clear that you are very uncomfortable with that approach. 2. Express your willingness to listen and try to respond to any concerns put calmly.
    3. Keep a personal record. 4. If it continues, speak with HR (accompanied by a staff or union rep if available)
    This almost American sounding article might be better titled “How to adapt to a culture of unacceptable behavior from some managers without upsetting them or making waves that might prejudice your career”
    I have decades of real world experience working / managing in a range of demanding environments from engineering and construction to education. A very occasional instance of losing the calm and dealing with staff aggressively may be forgotten – but no article should promote a simple ‘paws up’ response. It is absolutely guaranteed to demonstrate unhelpful indicators as to what you will ‘put up with’, it will embolden bully type personalities and such behaviour should not be being sanctioned/tolerated in a corporate sense. In establishments where it actually is tolerated and challenging this might affect your prospects, then perhaps the best response it to look elsewhere for a job.
    NB How does it follow that it’s hard to avoid confrontation with managers who are “a little on the demanding side”? That relates to all managers. It’s their job. If you mean temperamental or aggressive or highly demanding managers then say so.
    “Confronting management can be tricky [but]? it can be a steep learning curve” Steep learning curve? And what about the role of Performance Reviews? That is the key vehicle for discussions and record of your work performance and competence and any agreed actions for improvement.

  2. billy permalink

    Sorry what?

    “Shouting in your face”…

    Is in fact intimating and threating behaviour which is in fact criminal activity.

    • Thanks for your comment, if you could provide a link which may be explain why this is a criminal offence for other reader to review that would be very helpful.

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