How to frame a problem to your boss the right way

Flagging up a problem to your boss can be tricky. You don’t want to whine or complain. And you certainly don’t want to come across as looking defensive, desperate or disparaging. So what should you do?


According to Forbes, there are three common mistakes that people make when bringing problems to their boss:


  • They highlight the problem but not the solution. If you lead with the solution, the problem becomes obvious without taking centre stage, and the conversation is much more positive. You’ll be considered proactive and your boss will be more receptive to your idea.


  • They fail to acknowledge responsibility either in causing the problem and/or in steering the proposed solution. So when you shine a light on a problem and its solution, ensure you communicate to your boss that you’re personally invested in the matter. Detail your proposed plan of action and your role in contributing to a successful outcome.


  • They see things in black and white, but the reality is almost always a selection of greys. Using absolute statements like ‘this strategy will fail’ to frame an issue will get your boss’s back up and lead to confrontation. To stimulate productive, honest discussions, it’s much more effective to remain open-minded and aware of the pros and cons both of the problem and its solution.


So next time you need to flag up a problem to your boss, lead with your proposed solution and add in a generous helping of responsibility and honest, thoughtful, open-mindedness. You’ll improve the chances of your idea being approved, and gain some valuable brownie points from your boss in the process.


Do you agree with the ideas outlined above? Please get in touch to share your experience in the matter. And if you’d like us to cover any particular work or recruitment challenges in future newsletters, please let us know. Your team of expert recruitment partners at ABL is, as ever, here to help!