How To Come Back After Stepping On Your Boss’s Toes

You may think your job is at risk after stepping on your boss’s toes, but the truth is that you can always come back from it.The exception? If you’ve done it more than three times.Three strikes you’re out is a general rule of thumb, and it’s probably time for you to move on if you’ve gone around your boss that many times.But if it’s been two times or less that you’ve undermined your boss by going straight to their boss, you still have a strong chance of coming back and remaining a valuable employee and team member.

After you realize you’ve pushed your boundaries, you might feel embarrassed and paralyzed, but there are five effective steps you can take to mend the relationship.I know someone personally who got a raise and promotion after stepping on her boss’s toes more than once.

Here’s how she messed up…

Her company was holding a live conference on a topic she happened to be an expert on. Instead of pitching her speech idea to her boss, she went directly to the founder.

In her mind she thought it would be more effective and efficient, since the founder was in charge of choosing speakers. In reality, she was figuratively flipping off her boss, and totally out of line.

So how did she come back and end up nearly doubling her salary and reaching a senior position after starting off at the company in an entry level position just a year and a half earlier?Here are the exact steps she took, and what you should do to come back and keep excelling at your job after stepping on your manager’s toes:

1. Be honest.Do not try to talk your way out of it. As soon as you realize you went around your boss and they know it, be completely honest about it.Do not try to dig yourself out of the hole by making excuses or playing dumb. Be direct.Say something along the lines of, “I’m so sorry I went around you. I made a mistake and I’m ready to do whatever it takes to fix it and prove myself. I know it may take time but I’m willing to put in the effort to re-earn your trust.”

2. Understand what you did.Although admitting your mistake and being honest is the first step – and crucial –it’s not enough.You need to show your boss you understand the ramifications of what you did and why it’s wrong.Reflect to your boss that you understand exactly what you did and how it’s going to impact your position, him or her, and the whole department.Say something along the lines of, “I know that my action was wrong, and it could reflect poorly on the whole department and undermine your leadership. That was never my intention, and I now realize my error. I apologize and I’m ready to work hard for your trust and the trust of the department.”

3. Prove yourself.Now it’s time to do better, every single day. Be conscious of your behavior in 1:1 interactions and meetings, especially with your manager.Be honest and thoughtful when you speak, especially when you’re giving feedback. This is the time to be humble and show that you can be a team player.This can be challenging, but it’s worth it.

4. Go above and beyond.Part of proving yourself is going above and beyond, but it’s so important that it deserves its own section – I don’t want you to skim over it.This is the most important time to go above and beyond for your manager and your department. Ask your boss if there’s anything you can take off their plate to make their job easier.Come in earlier in the morning and work later hours to prove your dedication. Instead of saying you’re too busy when a team member asks for help or your opinion on something, take the time to support them and then stay later to finish your work.It’s worth it during this fragile time, after going around your boss.

5. Don’t kiss up.After you’ve stepped on your boss’s toes you DO want to go above and beyond, but you DON’T want to suck up to them. This will just upset them more and lead them to believe you’re manipulative and just in it for yourself.Be authentic when you ask if you can take tasks off their plate, not fake. Don’t act desperate.Stay calm and present in your power as a valuable member of the team, while also acknowledging and being conscious of the fact that you’ve done something wrong.Yes, you need to rebuild trust, but you don’t need to be syrupy sweet to make up for it – no one wants that.

If you’ve stepped on your boss’s toes, just take one action step ASAP.Depending where you are in the process – for example, did it just happen today, or a week ago? – choose just ONE appropriate step from the list of five and commit to doing it tomorrow.

Share it with us in the comments below – we can’t wait to hear from you, and we appreciate your honesty and vulnerability.

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