If there’s one thing that managers have in common, it’s that they all hate surprises. So, if you’re about to spring something on your manager, be mindful of how you do it.
Alert your boss to a problem early—while he or she can still do something about it—is always the right move. It’s never a good idea to dump your problems in your boss’s lap. Instead, approach someone in a way that sets you up to get the best reaction and best engagement from them. Here are a few smart steps that will yield positive results and resolution.
Ask for time. Give your boss a head’s up that you would like to speak with them before you barge into their office or interrupt them with an alarming phone call. Let them know that you have a significant issue to discuss, and ask them when would be a good time to speak.
Make sure your boss is in “receive” mode. Sure you have a burning issue, but your boss may be busy putting out other fires that might even be bigger emergencies than yours. Be aware of what else is going on, and be sensitive about when you approach someone with a problem. Watch for patterns so you can tell when your boss is overwhelmed so you can stay away at that moment. Approach your boss when he or she is in a good place to have a productive discussion.
Own it. Explain the situation, and be honest about how big of a problem it is, but don’t pawn the problem off. Do not make your problem their problem. Instead, say, “I know this is mine to resolve,” then ask for any suggestions your boss might have. Managers prefer to be solicited for advice and wisdom, rather than having to solve a problem for someone else.
Make sure you are also in “receive” mode. You have the opportunity to learn a lot from someone who’s been through this before. Be open to accepting coaching. That’s the best way to solve the current situation well and advance in your career.