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Ask Liz: how can I tell my boss to speak up without being rude?

Ask Liz: how can I tell my boss to speak up without being rude?
Dear Liz, my boss always mutters under her breath rather than addressing me directly and there’s only so many more times I can say ‘pardon’ or ‘what did you say’. How can I tell her to speak up without being rude?


Sorry, on a serious note, are you sure that you are not experiencing hearing issues and are you clear that they are not suffering from hearing challenges?

I suggest that you have a chat with HR to make sure that your boss is OK. HR could then have a chat with them to see if in fact all is well, and potentially give them confidential feedback.

Is it just you with this problem or are others having the same experience?

If all clear on the above say to your boss, "This is rather difficult for me, but I am having issues hearing you properly and I am aware that I keep saying pardon to you. Please could I ask you to speak up, so that I am clear about what you are saying to me."

Or, could it also be a personality clash… is she deliberately muttering under her breath?

If so, this could benefit from you having regular one-to-one meetings to ensure that you are on the same page professionally, that you are clear of her objectives and that you are catching everything she needs to say to you directly.

If the muttering continues, then I think you would have further grounds to follow this up!

If you have an HR-related issue that you need answering by our expert Liz Nottingham, HR Director at Starcom MediaVest and VivaKi Country Talent & Transformation Officer, please contact her via Any questions published will appear anonymously.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA's terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA's newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 04/06/2015

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