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How to Answer Your Boss Respectfully

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Respecting your boss is part of your job expectation, whether you agree with her methods or not. If she says something that rubs you the wrong way, take a deep breath before you answer to better control your response. If all else fails, put yourself in your boss's shoes. If you were in charge, how would you want your employees to respond?

Remember Yourself

Even if you don't like something your boss says, remember your role before responding. Like it or not, you’re the employee, she’s the boss, and at the end of the day, it’s her call. If you keep this dynamic in mind when you respond, you likely won’t overstep your bounds.

Check Your Tone

If you’re angry or have an attitude, it will be evident in your tone if you aren’t careful. Keep your voice quiet and level. Don’t yell, whine or clench your teeth. Don’t speak too fast or it might sound like you’re telling your boss off, and don’t speak too slow or it may seem like you’re trying to imply she doesn’t understand something.

Listen First

Most likely, your boss’s perspective is based on the underlying goals and values of the company. Listen closely to her statement, and consider her point of view in light of the company’s broader mission. Regardless of your personal feelings, show respect while your boss is speaking. Clear your mind so you really hear her, instead of just waiting for your turn to talk. Maintain consistent eye contact, but don’t glare. Nod in the appropriate places to show you’re listening and don’t fidget, cross your arms or roll your eyes.

Professional Address

When you answer your boss, call her what you usually call her. If you’re on a first name basis, calling her by her last name might intimate that you’re trying to establish distance. If you’re not on a first name basis, calling her by her first name might seem that you’re trying to undermine her role. Be consistent with prior exchanges.

Good News First

When you disagree with your boss, begin the conversation by discussing the positive. Tell your boss what statements you agree with before countering with your point of view. If you want her to reconsider, say so respectfully: "This is important to me. Can you take a day to think about it?” or “Can we give my plan a trial period?”

In Writing

If you’re answering your boss via e-mail, use a professional rather than a casual tone – no “Hey” or “How’s it going." Instead, greet her with, “Good Morning, “ “Good Afternoon,” or “Hello.” When sending an email, you should avoid cc’ing anyone ranked above your boss, so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to go over her head to make a point. When dealing with matters concerning your pay or performance review – or any issues that carries a high emotional current – it may be best to have those conversations in person.


Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.

Photo Credits

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