Work Related

Playing it Cool – Responding to Your Boss in the Midst of an Argument

Have you ever been in a heated argument with your boss? Did you do something you believed was right but your boss found an issue with it? Did your boss do something to irk you? Are you on the verge of “letting your boss have it”?

Chances are you have experienced one or more of the abovementioned questions, or have been around someone with a similar issue. Listen, there are no finite ways of dealing with these kind of issues; sometimes in reality you may end up winging it and then hope for the best. With the least amount of damage of course!

Let’s be real. Your boss goes on repeatedly about your possible faults, they may be shouting at you incessantly or is just being a drag. You are backed into a corner with the option to fight or retreat. Retreating seems like the safest way to handle it, but it has its consequences. One day you may have an outburst, and that release can create damages.

Fighting also has its effects. You may become mean, nasty, or even physical. Like animals, humans use anger or aggression as a form of survival when they believe their existence or worth is threatened. Frustration is another factor that triggers aggression, especially when a person feels that they are cornered into a situation.

So now you’re asking “What then?”

Well, as I said earlier, there no hard and fast solutions, because in reality people are just different. You can try solutions from a well written blog, article or book, and the situation can still go south. In short, if you’ve decided to come out and fight, do it smart. When I say smart, I mean that you respond professionally and in a way you cannot get fired or be accountable for your actions.

If you’re still looking for answers, I’ve outlined some possible ways you can deal with the issue. In my opinion, you should:

  • Do a self assessment. Ask yourself questions, and be truthful. “Am I productive? Am I really doing what my boss requests? Do I have an attitude? What are the possible things I do that triggers my boss?” I am not saying that you are the problem, rather, I’m trying to let you invoke thoughts about your own behaviours that you may not see in the open.
  • Assess your boss. Ask internal questions about your boss. “When are they friendly? At what time are they grumpy? What makes them tick?” Simple understanding of these factors can help you. Sometimes the triggers may be due to an absent meal (breakfast or lunch), or personal problems. If you have the will power, you can sit one on one with them privately and ask how they are going. Just be you, genuine and true. A small gesture like that can tame a beast; however, tread with caution as some may become defensive and can trigger an argument.
  • Lose the attitude. If a heated argument or conflict ensues, lose your attitude. When I say this, I am talking about the back talk, snide comments, and nonverbal cues such as rolling your eyes. All those are triggers that can inflame a problem. You are also seen as being rude, obnoxious, and insubordinate. In a case where this argument commenced in the open among other employees, it is possible that your actions or response will be noted by on looking workers a vast majority of the time as opposed to your boss. In addition, in times of conflict, a boss looks for ways to mark you down and support their case. Having an attitude is a win for them.
  • Communicate as an adult. Yes, an adult. It is very easy to switch to the position of a child or parent. This comes from the Transactional Theory which generally looks at how two persons communicate. We have the response of a parent, which one can embody through finger-pointing, impatient body gestures, using judgmental language or any other actions you believe a parent will do. Avoid acting like a parent, since you are not speaking to a child. Then we have the response of a child which dwells on feelings. Responses such as “I dunno”, baby talk, “I don’t care”, rolling your eyes, laughter, raising hands to speak and temper tantrums are all based on internal reactions. You are not a child, you are an adult in a professional setting. I would like you to keep the conversation as an adult by responding based on thought. This means that the information received by your boss is to be analyzed, and your body language should be interested, attentive and non-threatening. Your verbal response should incorporate words such as I see, I believe, what, why, how, who, where, true, false, and any other actions you believe provokes thought. Please be mindful that your boss can answer as a child or parent, and it is for you at this point to keep it professional by responding as an adult. Please do not say that they are acting as a child. You should consider their feelings and respond accordingly.
  • Know when to step away. You’re in the middle of a heated argument or conflict with your boss and you’ve realized that it isn’t going anywhere, at this moment you should step away. Leave the area especially if you know things are going to take a turn for the worse. Now this doesn’t mean you should just walk away, because that’s rude; it means that you ask for an excuse, probably to use the bathroom or something. Someone really cannot deny you your bathroom duties. Use this time to refocus and regroup yourself; take a long breath and think. When you are ready, go back and channel the conversation to what is important and needed for progress, because it is highly likely your boss has calmed down. If not, don’t be afraid to state the truth; if you strongly believe that the conflict isn’t going anywhere you can say so, and also ask to do it at a time when everyone is level-headed.

Responding to your boss during conflict in a professional manner is not an easy feat, especially when voices are raised and your capabilities are threatened. Those tips can be used in any conflict and can be tweaked. Once you remember to be the professional adult in the situation, there should be no problems. When all else fails, it would be wise to put your complaint and reasoning into writing and have it documented on file as evidence. You can even take your situation to the head of your boss and ask for a mediation between the two of you. This will be your way of playing it cool and responding professionally in a time of conflict.

1 thought on “Playing it Cool – Responding to Your Boss in the Midst of an Argument”

  1. Verry interesting!! I especially like the first point which focuses on the person themselves..introspection. Often times we tend to blame others for many issues/problems we have and never take the time to assess ourselves.


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