Professional Development

5 Things Successful People Say to Their Bosses

Written by Peter Jones

Are you super professional and a little bit frightened of screwing up in front of your boss? That’s totally natural. But being meek and respectful and never challenging your employer can sometimes backfire. Some bosses prefer input and feedback from their employees. Make sure you’re giving it!

Here are 5 things you should start incorporating into your interactions with your boss to form a more constructive relationship for the two of you.

1. “You’re wrong”

While you would never say this in a snide way, it is always important to be honest. If you can practice saying this with enough respect, you might just be able to prove your smarts and talents to your boss when she misses something and you see how you might save the day. If you just let her make an error, that’s on you. Be confident enough to point out what you see. That’s why you were hired! (Not to be a robot.)

2. “No”

Nobody wants a doormat. If something is a bad idea or you know you can’t deliver a project under the parameters set, then it is preferable to say “no” early rather than fail needlessly. Some bosses really like this, provided it clearly comes from a place of respect. Similarly, if you’re asked to do lots of things outside of office hours and you can’t keep it up, stand up for your work-life balance!

As long as you’re doing your job and doing it well, setting boundaries for yourself is always a good idea. You’ll gain more respect that way than not.

3. “I’m fixing it”

So you screwed up. Nobody likes to greet their boss with that bad news. But a good boss would rather be alerted to problem early on—particularly if you can say, in that same breath, that you’re already on top of it and there should be very little fallout. It shows you’re trustworthy and good at coming up with solutions, even under fire: all great boss-impressing traits!

4. “My mistake”

One of the hardest things to do is admit you’ve made an error—and not to make a million excuses immediately to let yourself off the hook. But if you can go to your boss, explain what you’ve done, and cop to it’s being a mistake? This shows your character and can actually lead you to a valuable learning experience. You may even expose a gap in the training for your position. Plus, you’re likely to not make the same mistake again.

5. “I have an idea”

In some ways, this is a magic phrase. Most CEOs are starving for good ideas. If you have one, speak up! Don’t be shy. Especially if your idea would save the company money, time, or other resources and streamline things. Be part of the progress!

It might be scary to approach your boss and go off the script you learned at your first internship, but showing up this way as a grown-up and self-possessed employee can have major gains over the course of your big-kid career.

About the author

Peter Jones