Art was 58 when he realized that his company might have passed him by. He had been with the same employer for 35 years. He still loved the business, enjoyed the young up-and-comers and genuinely respected his boss. Yet, he did not feel like as valuable of a contributor to his company as he was in years past, and it bothered him.
Finally, Art’s friend Peter asked him what bothered him most. Art replied, “The thought of being viewed as obsolete. It scares me from a career standpoint and hurts me personally. I don’t know how to say this to my boss.”
Peter’s response was spot-on — “You just said it, but I’m not your boss.”
Perhaps the deepest need in corporate America that even senior executives and CEOs experience on a regular basis is a toolbox for being productively confrontational. Most employees don’t know how to manage their boss and often work from a place of fear of resentment.
Many managers will not confront administrative assistants who are short and even rude to clients. Talk about underachievement! What does this do for individual performance, organizational results and professional reputations?
The following are important steps necessary for confronting others in a manner that creates stronger relationships and increased productivity:
Change the name and your attitude
Too many people look at difficult conversations as negative and counterproductive; hence, they avoid and dance around them as often as possible.
Instead of difficult conversation, use productive confrontation. The words you choose create the path you use. Knowing that the intended result is to help, not hurt, may make it easier to find the courage to step-up and approach others. Frame it appropriately.
Put it on paper
Before the meeting, prepare a bullet-point structure (not script!) in writing. Be sure that it allows you to communicate your viewpoint in a logical order that is easy to understand and follow for the other person.
Clarifying your points with concrete examples builds momentum and makes a stronger case for being heard with respect.
Be as clinical as possible
Whether you’re intimidated, angered, hurt or resentful, try to consider the impact of how both parties will feel and focus on how everyone can benefit. This will allow you to assume a third-party, objective perspective and maturely manage the confrontation.
Agree on a resolution
At the conclusion of the meeting, discuss what the next step should be for follow-up. This agreement serves as a strategic road map for a stronger working relationship going forward.
Art did approach his boss honestly with concerns and after his boss listened attentively, Art learned that he was not only valued more than he thought, but he was in line for a promotion. Remember, even bosses can’t fix what they can’t see.
Not all corporate stories have a fairy tale ending, but think of how many people wallow in negative emotions from holding back in confronting others. The key is to prepare, be confident and behave with courage.
Joe Takash is the president of Victory Consulting, a Chicago-based sales and leadership development firm. He is a keynote speaker for executive retreats, sales conferences and management meetings and has appeared in many national media outlets. His firm, Victory Consulting, coaches executive teams and individual leaders with a client list that includes American Express, MIT, Prudential and
Turner Construction. Learn more at