How to Confront Your Boss (Respectfully, of course)
Confrontation can be quite an intimidating word. Consider these “strategic guidelines” for how to create a positive change in an otherwise negative environment.
1. Know Your Issue
Be in the know. Whether there are multiple issues you’d like to address, or a singular one it is crucial that you have a detailed outline of talking points. Knowing exactly what the topic(s) of conversation are will ensure that your grievances and concerns are heard. Is it favoritism? Is it manipulation? Is it gaslighting? Did they side with a rude client over you? Did they overlook you or your abilities? Or is this patient related? Were you uncomfortable with a treatment or the way something was administered? Whatever the topic may be, be sure you have done your homework so you can address your issues in an organized and professional manner as this will be easier for your boss to follow to create a resolution plan- for everyone’s sake.
2. Write it Out
Assess, then address. Create organization to your meeting by writing down your thoughts beforehand. Be sure to give examples and provide proof of the situation if needed. This will give your boss the tools they need to help resolve the issue(s). There are times when providing examples can seem like you’re hanging someone out to dry. Unfortunately, there are times when this is unavoidable but it’s often for the greater good of the staff and the company as a whole. Consider this, if the issue is big enough to bring up, then it warrants acknowledgement and resolution. Using this method does not always mean someone will get in trouble. If you have a good leader, they should be using this as a constructive training tool and addressing it with everyone, so you are all on the same page. That way, no one feels like they’re being “singled out”. Providing these examples is critical to your professionalism and shows that you are taking this seriously, so they should as well. Even if you don’t use every example on your outline or read exactly from it, this allows you to have clear thoughts instead of fumbling over your works or worse forgetting to mention a very important or relevant to your concern.
3. Use Examples
Examples are key. They are critical to further prove your case as they will help make your frustrations seem credible. Taking someone’s word for it is not concrete proof and is not credible enough to bring to a superior’s attention if the situation needs to be escalated. While we expect our boss to trust us and our word, the reality is this is not the case as people lie all the time. Today we live in a society where words can be empty and just about anyone can say whatever makes them look better no matter the effect it may have for someone else. Meaning that your boss can never really know your word’s true validity. Vet med is no different than any other industry in this regard. When it comes to delivering your point, always remember that “it’s not about what you know, it’s about what you can prove.”
4. Schedule a Time
We never have time. It goes without saying that our industry is crazy busy. This goes for every single position in any clinic. Though we may not see it, our bosses are generally always extremely busy with a full schedule. Simply pulling them away for a “quick chat” usually just doesn’t work and can sometimes add more stress to your boss making them less likely to really absorb anything you’re saying. Therefore, it’s important to know that if you don’t schedule a time, your meeting may never happen, and your concerns may never be addressed. Though it seems more tedious to schedule a meeting, it allows your boss to provide you with their undivided attention as well as allows you necessary time to prepare.
5. Be Honest & Direct
Honesty is the best policy. This is one of the most important factors in determining whether or you’re your voice is heard. Do not be afraid to be direct and open about the issues you’re seeing or experiencing and most importantly- say what you feel and think. We encourage honesty, but you must remain professional. Keep in mind that due to their busy schedules, if your boss isn’t told about something they generally don’t know about it. Having said that, things cannot change, and issues cannot be addressed if they don’t know about them. Always go in with the idea that the worst-case scenario is nothing changes. If nothing changes or things worsen, we highly encourage you to take a good hard look at your workplace and whether it is a healthy environment for you. Please note that you are not required to tolerate this treatment, and you always have the option of leaving. Always consider yourself and your mental health. Though it may seem daunting, here are plenty of clinics that would love to have you and would value you beyond measure as a member of their team.
6. Be Constructive
Work smarter, not harder. Constructive criticism is not always a bad thing and can often lead to new, creative solutions that may have never been discovered without addressing problems. Thus, causing your team to work smarter, not harder as you all most likely already work too hard. In fact, it can be extremely helpful to any boss, and should be considered a learning experience for everyone involved. This is the perfect opportunity for you to be an integral part of the solution. This is also the perfect opportunity for you to brainstorm along with your boss so you can find a happy medium for what would work for them and their superiors as well as your peers so at the end of the day everyone is happy. Our industry is notorious for breeding negative environments, providing a positive outlook and solutions can make a huge difference in getting your point(s) across to your boss. Consider this scenario- you had a patient scream at you due to the length of their appointment. You did some digging and think you’ve found a possible solution- “We are spending so long getting histories on our patients due to using a paper system rather than an online platform. I’ve investigated Company X, and I think they could be a good option for us. Instead of using our costs for supplies to keep patient records, we could use that money towards paying for this platform and store everything all in one place- no supplies needed. Faster check ins which means we can treat our patients more efficiently and at the end of the day our clients would be happier!” This is addressing a specific concern, providing constructive criticism, and you’ve provided a potential solution to the problem to help resolve everyone’s issues. Since you most likely cannot be the one to enact a policy change, the best thing you can do is bring it to your superior’s attention and provide helpful suggestions.
No matter the workplace, addressing a superior is never easy. In emotionally charged environments such as vet clinics, maintaining professionalism and your composure is not simple task. However, speaking from personal experience, we can assure you that this is truly of the upmost importance. Though feeling stressed about discussing important topics with your superior is completely normal and to be expected- you shouldn’t! Look at this from a positive, constructive point of view rather than a daunting task. If you are positive, or even neutral in your delivery what happens afterwards is not on your part as you approached everything as best you could. By remaining calm, clear, and concise, your concerns will have a much higher likelihood of being heard. They will also have a much higher chance of getting addressed which is the ultimate goal not just to make your life easier, but to make your peers and clients alike have a healthy, positive experience! Crack a few jokes, be uplifting, be honest and remind your boss that you are just trying to make everyone’s days easier and more joyful. Our business can bring everyone into dark places, sometimes discussing core issues and finding solutions can be that very necessary light.
Written by Robyn Dubay-Delatorre
**Stock images used**