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Employee Ninja Skills: Confronting Your Boss

Digital is stressful. Everyone is usually flat out, and good working relationships and teamwork are all that stands between you and chaos and infighting.

Difficult deadlines, changing specs, changing demands, the sheer pace of the medium and the marketplace... and no-one is allowed to vent on the client, so where you do think all that frustration will go?

Added on 03.02.2015

Whatever your concern is - implementation on one project or delivery of multiple projects within the overall timeframe you've been allocated - you are going to have to lock horns with your manager at some point. That's just the way it works. When it does happen, here's what you need to bear in mind.

Are you reading the situation right?

Are you sure you're understanding what's happening - and your boss - properly? Remember that they could well have other things to consider that might inform their actions, and may need to act on information that you're not privy to. What are their concerns, and are you sure you understand these? Are they valid from your point of view? If not, why not?

Speak in haste, repent at leisure

Fired up? Ready to 'kick ass'? Good luck with that. If you're looking to 'win an argument' then you're not helping your boss or your company. You have a viewpoint that you think is important: if it truly is then it will stand scrutiny in the cold light of day. Be passionate about your viewpoint, but never let that be seen to be arrogance, aggression or confrontation.

Keep calm

If your boss, or others in the discussion, are getting worked up, then don't escalate the situation. Don't talk above others; don't raise your voice. Let people finish, pause, and then say your piece. If it's getting hectic then you can slow it back down again.

Respect is everything

Chances are you didn't land a job in digital because you had nothing to say for yourself. You're probably confident and outspoken. But don't EVER let a lack of shyness be mistaken for a lack of respect for your boss. Even if you feel that you could do their job better, always treat them with respect. NEVER get personal. Passion without self-analysis or humility will only look like arrogance.

Keep it factual

Facts speak for themselves. If you're dealing with the fallout from an emotional situation, then appeals to emotion are not going to get you out of it.

Communicate well

What is the core issue? What's the bottom line? How does what you're saying relate to that? Remember you might need to draw people a map to your concerns. Demonstrate clearly why you're concerned, where others come in, and the choices that are open to them. Please do bear in mind that your concerns might be overwhelmed by those of others, and that if others have shown clear understanding of your position and are unmoved then you've done all you can.

Try a dress rehearsal

One great tip for diffusing situations and remaining in control is to have a 'dress rehearsal': write a letter saying all you want to say and read it out loud. If you're away from work, vent all you want. Shout, scream, whatever.


  1. think about what you said, and how it might go down; and
  2. think about the likely responses to what you said, and how you would counter them in return.

Not only will you be calmer when you get to say it 'for real' in front of others, but hopefully you might have identified their concerns. Finally, the most important thing you need to ask yourself is this...

Where is this going?

Perfectionism is pointless. So you're right: so what? Who will be helped by doing things your way? The secret to getting your point taken is to show how everyone benefits from doing it your way. The less they do, the less luck you're going to have. It's not about being right - it's about being agreed with.