Sadly there are many people who dislike their boss intensely.  They may be frustrated by the behaviour of their boss and their approach, but they don’t say anything and their boss is oblivious to their thoughts and feelings.  However, as a subordinate should you make these feelings clear to your boss? Is honesty really the best policy?

While in theory honesty is the best policy, telling your boss the whole truth and nothing but the truth could amount to career suicide.  Organisations are littered with people who told their boss exactly ‘how they felt’ only to find themselves side-lined or overlooked for promotion at a later date.

In practice, most people avoid saying anything to their boss; they simply keep their head down until there is an appropriate opportunity for them to leave.  The old adage that people don’t work for (or leave) an organisation, they work for (or leave) their boss is very true.

However, bosses often complain that their staff don’t tell them the whole truth, and become frustrated by staff who will not tell them exactly what is going on.   It is probably true that the majority of executives are far more concerned about their business than their own position or ego, They really want to know what their staff think so that they can change things and make improvements.

None the less, it is important to recognise that for anyone to want to tell their boss the truth, they need to feel safe.  One of the ways that this can be achieved is to explicitly ask for feedback on specific issues.  For example, feedback could be sought about how the boss could make their subordinates jobs easier, or whether they have any habits that are frustrating or demodulating.  If a boss listens and acts on the feedback they are given then slowly but surely greater trust will be built.

Trust is vital for openness and honesty in a boss and subordinate relationship.  Managers and leaders can learn how to build more trusting relationships with the right leadership development and coaching support.  It is important to note however that it is ultimately the leader’s responsibility to demonstrate that they are trustworthy before they can expect to be trusted by their staff.