6 tips for raising an issue with your boss

It can be scary to approach your boss about an issue you’re having in work, but these tips might help.

Written by Amanda Roche


If you’ve got an issue with something at work – especially if the issue is sensitive, like bullying or unfairness, it can be daunting to speak to your employer about it. No matter what the issue is, if it’s causing you distress or unhappiness at work, it is so important that you speak up about it. Being unhappy at work can be damaging to your emotional and mental wellbeing. It’s unfortunately unlikely that the problem will go away on its’ own, and may actually get worse.

I have had a good bit of experience in speaking to my boss to air my grievances at work. The steps below helped me explain the issue I was having and find a solution with my boss. They may work for some people and not for others, but they’re worth thinking about before approaching your boss.

Step 1: Research

This step is beyond vital. There’s no point in charging into your employer’s office like a raging bull, to ask why you didn’t get paid this week, only to discover that an email was sent an hour ago giving a full and clear explanation as to the delay.

Without gossiping loudly to other employees, try and ask your co-workers if they’ve experienced the same issue you’re having, and what their thoughts are. Try and see if the issue is affecting others, and what they’ve done or not done to resolve it.

Ask around and find out if your boss is even aware of the issue, and they are, what they’re planning on doing to resolve it.

It can be helpful to explore your rights as an employee too. Websites like Citizensinformation.ie, Employmentrightsireland.com and Workplacerelations.ie are all very good sources of factual, clear information that may benefit you. Citizens Information also generally have a walk in office in most towns if you’d feel more comfortable talking to a person about it.

Step 2: What do you want to say?

Once you’re satisfied that you’ve done the appropriate research, I’d recommend sitting down, and thinking about exactly what the issue is.

For example, is someone harassing you at work? What exactly are they saying or doing that is causing you upset? Do you feel like your voice isn’t being heard at work? Why? What examples and scenarios do you have to back it up?

A good idea is to write down your thoughts and some examples, and think about what and how you want to bring to this to your boss’ attention. That way, when you do go to speak to your boss, you won’t be fumbling around in your brain for examples to back yourself up.

Don’t worry if other employees have already spoken to your boss about the issue. The more people that speak up about it, the better.

Step 3: Who’s the boss?

So now you’ve got an outline of the problem, and what you’d like to say to your boss. The important thing to do now is, to consider who do you go to? In many workplaces, you will have different levels of employer – supervisor, manager, HR manager.

In the past, I’ve often had a grievance with a supervisor, and gone to their manager to report the grievance. Sometimes, it’s simply been a case that I don’t feel comfortable going directly to the source of the problem, or I felt it wouldn’t have helped.

I could write a whole article on who you should go to with your grievance, because a lot of the time it depends on what the grievance is – but the important thing is that it should be someone you trust and someone you feel will help the situation.

Step 4: Be confident – believe in yourself

I know that this is probably the step that a lot of people will fall down in. I myself suffer from anxiety, so when I’m outside the door of the office, about to knock, I’m SHAKING.

It’s definitely not the easiest thing to do, but the most important thing is to believe in yourself. Having done your research and thought about what you want to say will help give you some confidence.

A lot of people who are bullied or harassed in the workplace don’t report it, and sometimes convince themselves that they deserve it, or it doesn’t matter. Trust me, if something is upsetting you, making you not want to go to work, or affecting your mental health in any way (regardless of how serious you think it is or isn’t), it does matter, and your boss needs to know about it.

Step 5: The meeting

If they arrange a meeting with you, turn up on time. With the research you’ve done before the meeting, you’ll hopefully be able to explain the issues clearly and steer the conversation towards finding a solution. When you do speak to your boss, don’t forget to remain calm and be as courteous as possible.

Be ready to answer questions that they might have. If you’re unsure of your answer, take some time to think about it, or tell them you’ll have a think about it and come back to them later in the day/week.

If you feel like you need support during the meeting, you can ask for a trusted colleague to sit in on the meeting, or someone from HR.

Take notes after the meeting on what was discussed and feel free to share the action points with your boss so you both have a record of what was discussed and what needs to be done.

Step 6: Follow up

In some situations, you may not even need this. Sometimes the solution is found straight away. If your boss promises to get back to you with feedback or a resolution, don’t be afraid to check up with them if they delay in getting back to you.

Don’t be afraid to remind them that your grievance is important and deserves fair attention. If the solution or advice they gave you doesn’t make you feel better or solve the problem, make them aware of that. It might help open up a conversation about other solutions or you might consider taking the issue to the next step on the ladder if necessary.

Remember, most employers genuinely want their employees to be happy at work. Happy employees stay long term, are loyal to their employers and work hard. Hopefully some of these steps will work for you and you’ll be able to find a solution to whatever issues you’re having. Best of luck!

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