How to handle difficult conversations with your boss

There are some subjects that can be really hard to talk about with your boss, one is burnout and the other is about a mistake you made at work. We’re going to look at both of these separately and then highlight a solution that could make this easier for employers to speak up about both of these issues.

Firstly, let’s looks at burnout. It’s something that’s been in the news a lot this year following the announcement that New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern was to step down from her role, saying she ‘no longer had enough in the tank’ to do the job.

The HR company, Remote has also recently revealed from analysing Google search data the conversations workers are seeking the most guidance for online, and coming in at number eight is ‘how to talk to your boss about burnout’.

Burnout is a growing concern for many employers. Westfield Health[i] recently reported that almost half (46%) of workers are close to burnout highlighting the impact that the past two years, which includes the pandemic, has had on workers across the UK.

They found that nearly two-thirds (62%) of employees worked more hours during and after the pandemic and one-in-five (19%) undertook an extra 5-10 hours a week. Employees who have been working from home are more likely to feel at risk of burnout (50%) than those who have been going to the workplace (41%).

According to the charity, Mental Health UK[ii] burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion and can occur when employees experience long-term stress in their job, or when they have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time.

Common signs include feeling tired or drained most of the time; having a cynical/negative outlook, procrastinating, and taking longer to get things done. It’s something that needs to be nipped in the bud as it will affect performance and productivity eventually.

Secondly, let’s consider making a mistake at work. Looking back at the analysis , Remote found ‘what to say when you’ve made a mistake at work’ is the 10th most searched question workers are seeking guidance on.

Interestingly, being hesitant to speak up at work is a common problem with studies suggesting employers are even hardwired to remain silent, with 50% keeping quiet at work[iii].

Another study during the pandemic years by Feel Good Contacts[iv] found that 42% of UK working adults are working in fear, scared of making a mistake at work.

There may be many reasons why this would be the case such as fears over losing their job, but the reality is that mistakes do happen, and feeling able to speak up is key to resolving them. Employers shouldn’t be kept in the dark no matter how insignificant the mistake may seem as there may be more consequences an employee isn’t aware of.

Honesty is something that builds trust. It comes down to the culture of the organisation and good employers work hard to create an open culture whereby people can feel comfortable talking about difficult issues. Building trust and openness where employers can approach their manager if they have made a mistake means things are less likely to get covered up which may cause problems further down the line.

It can help businesses thrive and innovate too as people are willing to put ideas forward. Going back to burnout it can help tackle this too as employees will feel more able to speak to their manager about their workload before things escalate.

So, part of the solution for companies to help employers feel at ease discussing tricky topics is an open and transparent culture where everyone feels valued. An important element in developing this is ensuring employees are given regular feedback about their performance as well as the chance to give feedback on how they think work is going for them.

This is where a technology solution such as Activ Appraisals can be a big help. It’s a great way to ensure that regular and accurate feedback is given and for managers and employees to work together to set realistic, actionable goals. Together they can assess the right level of workload by looking back at past performance and ensure employees are not under too much pressure.

It also gives employees the opportunity to let their manager know if they have any issues with their work, plus a safe space to own up to any mistakes they have made with work – if they haven’t done so already.

Being able to schedule regular reviews and appraisals can help foster a more open culture where employees feel supported and that their employer is encouraging them to succeed in their roles. It can help identify training needs too to help employees progress in their careers.

In this day and age when recruitment and retention are a big challenge for many employers carrying out regular appraisals could be just the motivator to keep employees enthusiastic and productive and want to stay with the organisation.



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