Business Communication 101: How To Ask Your Boss Anything

Posted by Elizabeth Levey
July 8, 2015

by Elizabeth Levey

elizabeth-levey-1You’ve sailed through your new hire orientation process, successfully completed your onboarding program, and are buzzing away like a worker bee in your new position at your new company. Things are going great, until it comes time that you have to ask your boss for something.

Maybe it’s time off, or alternative working arrangements, or even a raise.  Regardless of the issue, asking for something can be a bit uncomfortable. Many of us do our best to try to avoid uncomfortable situations, but in order to get ahead at work, you need answers to your questions if you’re to do your job well — even the sticky ones. Allow your emotional intelligence to guide your business communication, and with a bit of preparation, you can successfully navigate these delicate waters. 

  • It’s all in the timing. Is your boss or department finishing up a complicated project, or scrambling to meet a deadline? Maybe she’s traveling like a maniac for the next six weeks.  If so, now is definitely not the time to approach your boss.  Wait until the dust settles, or for a scheduled opportunity like a performance review. 

  • Be professional. One of the ideas we’ve covered in our blog posts on business etiquette is the business-communication-ask-anythingconcept that the “how” matters. There may be an easy or impulsive solution your request, but the best way of presenting this solution is one that also builds a relationship.  Yes, it’s true — maybe Alma in accounting does get to telecommute two days per month, but don’t put your boss on the defensive by comparing your situation, or getting personal.

  • Focus on action. A boss of mine was famous for saying “Don’t come to me with problems — bring solutions!”  She was right.  It’s very easy to complain about a situation, but much more challenging to actually offer alternatives.  Have a few different solutions for your request in mind, so you can tactfully and respectfully offer them to your boss after you voice your request.  

Keep these tips in mind, do your research, gather your courage and request a meeting.  It may even be helpful to write a draft of what you’d like to say and do a quick rehearsal with a partner or even when you’re alone, so your nerves don't get the better of you in the moment.  Don’t forget that you have every right to make requests of your boss. The worst she can say is “no”, right?  

Have you found yourself in a particularly sticky business communication situation? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments below!

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