7 Tips for Talking to the Boss About Changing Positions


It’s common in today’s workforce for professionals to feel that they’re in the wrong job. With companies trying to make do with less people, employees are often put in situations where they are overqualified, under-qualified or even unqualified for their duties.

If you fall into any of these categories in your current job, it's probably time to have a conversation with your boss to find a more suitable position. But having this talk can be nerve wracking, so before you dive in and speak your mind, consider these seven ways to prepare:

Breathe deep and consider the worst-case scenario. A great way to calm your nerves is to take a deep breath. Take a few moments of solace to compose yourself around the issue before taking action. Spend some time considering the worst-case scenario from having this conversation and how you plan to react. Feeling prepared is the best way to calm nerves, but if your fear doesn’t dissipate from this exercise, perhaps you need to take more time to sort the situation out in your mind before approaching your boss.

Own how you got there. You accepted the work you’re doing, and it’s important for you to own that and realize that no one forced you to accept this job or to take on the responsibilities you now have. Of course you need to remember that you’re not enslaved to your job, your company or your boss, but you are also paid to provide a service. Therefore, if the relationship is not working, there is nothing wrong with speaking your mind and trying to renegotiate.  In fact, most bosses will gain more respect for you for taking charge of your own career path.

Decide where you want to go and why. When you have the conversation, your boss will more than likely want to know what it is that you do want in a new position—so be prepared with a detailed plan. After all, if you don’t know what you want, how do you expect the boss to know? Make sure you have some idea about the direction you would like to go within the organization. Your boss might offer another idea, but make sure that opportunity aligns with at least your short-term goals and will benefit your long-term goals as well.

Craft your pitch but don't rehearse. Know what key points you want to make when you speak with your boss about adjusting your responsibilities or position within the firm. Make a list of these items but keep the pitch brief. It’s acceptable to bring a small list into the conversation to help stay focused and on point, but don’t write out the whole idea conversation and limit your rehearsal. You want your pitch to come across as authentic and natural.

Schedule an appropriate time. Schedule the meeting at a convenient time for your boss and know his or her style. Does he/she prefer formal meetings in the office? Or is it better to schedule some time to chat over coffee or drinks? If you’re not sure, ask around. Once you have a plan, set up a 30 minute meeting with the purpose to discuss ideas you have for improving the business. After all, that should be a big part of your list of goals.

Make sure your goal is win-win. Before your meeting, figure out how your proposed changes will improve the business—whether it’s the company’s bottom line, greater productivity or increased employee morale. And if you can’t come up with anything, it’s time to adjust your goals. Sure, your ultimate goal is to enhance your career, but any suggested moves should also have a positive impact on the company’s business, and you must be prepared to talk about both.

Speak, but don't forget to listen. This conversation should not be a plea and should not be approached as an interview. It should be a two-way conversation between two professionals who have a common goal: to make the business of your enterprise better. Therefore, when you walk in with your goals and how you plan to make these changes, understand that your boss will have his/her own goals and objectives. Make sure you listen and adjust your pitch accordingly. Remember, you are looking to enhance your career by making a better contribution to the organization. If you keep that in mind throughout the conversation you should walk away successful.

Lindsay Broder, The Occupreneur™ Coach (on Twitter @occupreneur), is a certified professional coach based in New York. A Wall Street veteran, she specializes in Occupreneur™ coaching, strategy and crisis management services for executives, business leaders and organizations who strive to improve their businesses or careers.