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The Right Way to Talk to a Boss That You Feel Is Displeased With Your Work

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It is not a good feeling to receive a poor evaluation from a boss or a reprimand for something you've done. However, an employee can turn this situation into a positive and constructive experience with the right approach and a diplomatic attitude. Above all, it is important to remain calm and to offer a response that is productive and not detrimental to the employee's future at work. Sometimes, the employee's response will impress the boss and lead to another opportunity later.

Written Evaluation

If a supervisor presents a formal evaluation in writing, the employee should respond in the same manner by writing a response and action plan. These types of evaluations occur at set times in the year or are prompted by disciplinary measures. Following procedures usually spelled out in employee handbooks, a worker will have the chance to respond and present a case for continued employment. In such circumstances, the evaluation and response should be as detailed and specific as possible, so that the employee and employer understand the problem and can work to solve it.

Informal Evaluation

In the case of an informal and unplanned discussion regarding an employee's work, the employee should ask for another conversation with the supervisor to address the problem and discuss the plan going forward. The discussion should occur at a convenient time for both parties and in a quiet area, without distractions and out of earshot from other employees. In this setting, both parties will feel comfortable having an open discussion.

Discussion of Problem

Before a solution can be determined, both employee and employer should be clear regarding the nature of the problem and why the supervisor is displeased. If the employee is uncertain about the problem, she should calmly ask questions of the supervisor to understand what happened. She should then ask what the supervisor would like to see change. The employee should demonstrate a willingness to be flexible and to find a solution.

Action Plan

Once the employee has all information, understands what the employer needs and what mistakes were made in the past, he can formulate a plan of action to present to the supervisor. A successful plan can be formulated by the employee or in cooperation with a trusted colleague. Regardless of whether the initial complaint was presented in writing or orally, an action plan should be submitted in writing to document the employee's willingness and desire to do better.


Alison Lake has been a journalist and editor since 2001, working with numerous newspapers and magazines. She has served on the world news desk of the "Washington Post" and contributed to The Atlantic, Foreign Policy Online, Al Jazeera English and GlobalPost.

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