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the questions that you’re too afraid to ask your manager

a queue of employees waiting to ask their manager a question

In your working life, there will be times where you’ll need to ask your manager the questions that you’ve been afraid of asking most of your career. This will no doubt feel awkward but it doesn’t have to be. As our careers develop, we face new challenges, workplace scenarios and controversies that will need to be managed with emotional intelligence, maturity and also need us to speak to our manager in order to take agreed actions and find solutions to problems.

not asking your manager questions can have a negative impact

Nobody likes asking a difficult question or having a difficult conversation. Strangely though, not asking the question can have a negative effect on both behaviour and self-confidence. It’s important that you do discuss these things with your manager to maintain a healthy outlook to work as well as building an open relationship.

framing the question is key to a successful outcome

When framing questions it’s important to look at your own situation rather than use comparisons with others or broach them in an accusatory manner.

Example – ‘I do as much work as Max but he’s got a raise and I haven’t’ is not as effective as ‘over the past 6 months I’ve been involved in the following projects and have brought X revenue to the business, I feel my current salary isn’t reflecting my contribution. Is this something we can discuss?’

The difference in both approaches is clear. One is articulated assertively and with maturity and intelligence, whilst the other sounds incompetent, immature and from a jealous perspective. The key to gaining successful outcomes from challenging conversations is to present yourself calmly, but with assertiveness and direction, ensuring that you’re looking for a positive solution that benefits both the business and yourself.

always bring evidence

Bring evidence to difficult conversations. Not a huge file signed by hundreds, but equally not an emotive list of comments. Be clear about what you are discussing and how you will approach it. Prepare and practice out loud. Hearing yourself say these hard comments won’t make it such a surprise when you speak to your manager.

the questions you’re too afraid to ask your manager

During a company-wide research exercise, we asked employees from all levels what were the questions that they were too afraid to ask their managers. We chose the outstanding six and worked with Leadership and Management expert trainer Ian Caldecourt to understand why you need to ask these questions and how you can broach the subject with your seniors.

Question 1 – I’m bored of doing the same unchallenging jobs – can you give me more responsibility?

This question stems from a lack of direction, variety in the role and/or a regular routine that shows no signs of change. Without the variety of purpose, autonomy, creativity and the ability to be challenged and developed, we stagnate and become bored within our roles. However, people cannot read minds, and without communicating this to our managers, solutions to this problem will never be reached. It’s imperative to proactively seek the solution for this problem.

Question 2 – Would you consider me for promotion?

This is a tougher question to ask due to the sensitivity of the subject. An approach to take may be to wait for an internal vacancy and inform your manager that you’d like to/will be applying. This way you’re showing ambition, drive and the assertiveness skills required to move forward with your career.

Question 3 – I don’t understand the strategic objectives of the organisation, can you explain them?

The awkwardness around asking this question is that you’ll feel as though you’re coming across as incompetent or a failure. However, the worrying part for your business should be that they’re not effectively communicating their goals to their team. So how then will teams know what to target, why and how?

With this question, the phrasing of your question is key – explaining that you need them reiterated to ensure that your work is aligned with company goals shows a level of emotional intelligence and maturity that turns what was once thought as a negative issue into a more positive and directional one.

Question 4 – I’d like to take a sabbatical, is that ok?

There are many reasons why we may need to take a sabbatical – something which may be hard for employers to hear.  However, if you have accumulated this time over a sustained period of working for the company, perhaps your working relationships will work in your favour for granting the sabbatical.

Additionally, if the sabbatical is to increase knowledge and study, putting forward a business case to show the positive impact this could have on the business for when you return will again turn what was first perceived as a ‘negative’ situation, into a ‘positive’ one.

Question 5 – I don’t feel like I have a good work-life balance – can I change my working hours?

Heavy workloads, a family at home and more contribute to a lack of work-life balance. In order to ensure an employee is fully engaged and productive in their work, a balance is important.

If you feel that you’re at maximum capacity, it’s important to make your company aware in order to see if they can shift some of the weight elsewhere or provide extra resource. At the end of the day, we’d rather have happy, productive employees than burnt out ones.

Question 6 – I feel isolated/bullied within the team at work.  How do I deal with this?

When dealing bullying in the workplace both parties need to handle with caution. If you’re the one feeling aggrieved, be sure to have recorded evidence, information on the steps you have already taken to try and deal with the situation. That way your company knows you’ve done all that you can to fix the problem before coming to them for help!

The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks of asking these questions. Not every question will get you the answer you wish, but you’ll be much closer to a more positive resolution that will keep both you and your employer happy.

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