Your boss just did something wrong. What do you do? Report them, ignore it, or talk to them? The answer may depend on a number of factors.
What the boss did or did not do may make the difference. If the action breaks the law or goes against a company policy (especially one where termination is a potential outcome), it is best not to approach the boss directly. In these situations, talk with an independent party – someone who is not directly affected by the incident. This may be the human resources manager or possibly the owner of the company. Let someone in the company try to handle the situation before seeking outside assistance.
If what your boss made a correctable error, try to approach them directly. Examples may include the boss forgetting to highlight an important contribution in your performance review, scheduling your hours for the next week, committing to too aggressive project deadlines. Ask to talk to them about the situation and share your concern for the oversight. Give them the opportunity to make it right. If you feel you are not receiving a fair re-evaluation, then take it to the next level in the organization. Remember, fair does not always mean your way.
Facts vs. Hearsay
Did you witness this event yourself or is it something you heard through the rumor mill? If you heard it, saw it or read a document on error in question, take the time to respond effectively. Organize your thoughts, facts and documentation before approaching anyone about the situation.
If you are working off hearsay, reconsider if you need to take action. Encourage the person with direct knowledge to work through the issue. If you take the problem to someone, your credibility may be compromised by a lot of “I don’t know” answers to their questions.
Is this something that is happening over and over again or is it a one time event? Think through if forgiveness is a better tact to strengthen relationships than calling someone out for a misstep. There are subtle ways to convey the error through humor and forgiveness.
If your boss is continuing to make the same mistake, it may be time to take a more direct approach and initiate a conversation with them. Try to state the problem, how it affecting you and what you would like to see different. A good reference is our article on “Is it Time To Tweak Your Boss?”