How to handle a boss who likes to jump to conclusions - An angry boss
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CLEO Singapore

Have you had your boss come up to you and rattle off 'facts' that she thinks she knows and doesn’t allow you to cut in? Or perhaps you go up to her, seeking advice, but she assumes you have messed up before you can even put a word in.

Bosses that like to jump to conclusions are difficult to handle simply because they confront you without getting their story straight. They make it a habit to assume, which can promote dissent and breach of trust.

So how do you deal with them?

James Choles, Academic Manager from Professional Development Centre at the British Council in Singapore, said, 'We all jump to conclusions now and then. And we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. But making judgements or decisions without having all the facts can be incredibly annoying and destructive to relationships at work.'

But instead of adopting a confrontational behaviour, he reckons it’s best to try to understand what goes through your boss’ mind. He opines people jump to conclusions because they’ve made three assumptions:

  1. I know all that I need to know to understand what happened
  2. I know what the other person intended
  3. The other person is to blame

'There are problems with each of these assumptions, and your responses need to highlight this to your boss,' he says.

And here comes the golden question: should you pao toh your boss to HR or the management?

'Wherever possible, try to sort things out with your manager first and only take things higher as a last resort. Tell your boss that you’d like to give them some feedback and ask if they’re free for a chat,' James says.

When giving your boss feedback, it’s important to:

  • Describe the problem as clearly as you can and the impact it’s been having on you.
  • If you’re comfortable talking about feelings then you can also describe the emotional effects on you.
  • Give your boss space for their views. They may have a very different take on the situation so you need to be ready for this. Listen carefully to what your boss is saying and resist the urge to jump in and ‘correct’ them.

Once everything is out in the open it should become clear that both of you contributed to the problem. You can then offer to improve some of the areas that your boss mentioned ('In future I’ll try to be more …') and hopefully your boss should reciprocate.

Use the right body language

'Body language is important too, so make sure you use lots of eye contact, hand gestures, nodding and smiles (where appropriate) to reinforce the points you're making.' This is important so you don't come across as shifty or defensive.

Don't get defensive

To avoid coming across as defensive, he suggests telling your boss, 'Actually, I see it differently' or 'Could I share how I see it?' In that way, you don't look like you're challenging her authority. 

Try to make her understand your POV

'It's also good to tel your boss that you really intended ('I was trying to ...') and to accept how you contributed to the situation ('I agree that I could've been more ...').' If you made a mistake, acknowledge it.

Managing your boss

To learn more about 'Managing your boss' and other skills for the workplace in small, manageable sessions, visit the British Council's Bitesize 90 programme and send us your details. 

A working professional using a laptop
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CLEO Singapore

This article was originally published on CLEO Singapore

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