DOES your boss motivate you, or do you find him difficult to deal with?

When I am running a seminar or workshop on leadership, sales or customer service, the comment I hear most is: “How can I achieve when my boss doesn’t motivate me, and makes my life difficult?”

So the next question is: “What are you going to do about it?”

One of the best ways to deal with difficult people is to give them feedback on their performance. You tell them when they do things you do like, and you tell them when they do things you don’t like.

It’s exactly the same with your boss. Now I appreciate that we're getting into scary territory here, but you will have to be brave and take some action.

There is no point in going on about how your boss needs to change, because that’s unlikely to happen unless you do something about it.

The rules for giving your boss feedback are:

1. Do it as soon as possible

When your boss says or does something you do or don’t like, you need to say something right away. If it’s something you do like, it’s not much use saying weeks later: “Thanks for helping me, Dave, with that difficult customer a couple of weeks ago.”

Dave is going to have a bit of a problem remembering the situation, and the effect of the feedback is totally wasted.

It also makes sense to tell Dave about something you don’t like as soon as possible.

2. Do it in private

You really do not want members of your team or your colleagues hearing what you say to your boss, be it good or bad.

3. Check if it is okay to speak

Make sure that you have your boss’s full attention. There is no point in trying to make your point if he has something else on his mind or if he is working on his computer. It is also good manners and shows respect.

4. Announce your intentions

If your boss is not used to receiving feedback from you, what do you think runs through her mind when you pull up a chair or call her on the phone? She thinks it is bad news. She thinks you are about to complain about something, or you’ve done something wrong, or there’s a problem.

It is important to tell her up front what you want to speak about.

You might say: “Laura, I’d just like to thank you for something you did today.”

Or if it’s something you don’t like, you might say: “Laura, I’d just like to talk about something you said today that I’m uncomfortable about.”

5. Tell your boss how you feel about his behaviour

This is nothing to do with anyone else. Don’t say things like: “Mike, the team doesn’t like the way you speak to us.”

Use lots of “I” messages; say things like: “I’m unhappy with the way you told me how to do that job today. It made me feel embarrassed in front of my team members. Would you be prepared to speak to me in private in future?”

Next: Rules 6 to 10 to help you handle your boss