We unearthed an old NY Times article that had some great information on how to communicate with alpha bosses.

What is an alpha boss? An alpha boss is determined, commands respect, leads with authority and is above all competitive.

If this describes your boss, read on to understand how you can create a strategy for talking to your own boss about your plan to live in the grey. (If this doesn’t describe your boss, it most certainly describes someone in your life, so read on anyway!)

The first thing you should do is figure out what type of alpha leader you have. This knowledge will help you tailor your request based on their style and will get you further.

The four types are:

alpha visionary someone who brooks little disagreement with his or her goals
alpha strategist – an intellectual who can pull together disparate concepts into a game plan that all around them must follow
alpha executors – tactical martinets who shine at putting in place the ideas of the strategist or visionary
alpha commander a charismatic type who insists on unflinching loyalty and obedience

If your boss is an alpha visionary and you’d like to approach him/her about an idea you have that will help you live a more grey life, describe how it would look and the results it would bring. In contrast, if your boss is an alpha strategist, woo them data that specifically speaks to why it makes sense for you to do what you are asking. An executor needs to understand everything about the logistics of your proposal. A commander will respond best to a passionate, more emotional case – just be sure you make your loyalty clear.

Here are a few more things from the article to keep in mind when dealing with alphas at work:

1. Never ask alphas to defend their positions.
Instead, ask them to explain them. When you approach them with curiosity, you’ll gain insight to how your boss thinks. Before approaching them about your grey ideas, think back to previous conversations to see if they can provide a clue to your boss’s thought process. Also, be sure to point out that you understand their goals. Once they understand you are both on the same page, they’re more likely to listen to what you are saying.

2. Make sure the alpha always feels in control.
Present your idea and ask for their input on how to make it better. Giving them this buy-in will help ease the approval process.

3. Think of everything.
Alpha bosses, particularly alpha executors, want to know every detail so be prepared.

4. Don’t confuse an alpha’s arrogance with total self-confidence.
Sometimes a gruff comment from a superior can knock an employee off-kilter and drain their own confidence level about approaching the boss. Just keep in mind that your alpha boss is human too and has an inner-critic just like the rest of us (in fact, their’s is probably louder than yours). If it comes from a genuine place, pump your boss up with specific praise, before you ask for their input on your strategies to live more grey. A little confidence boost never hurt anyone.

5. Don’t complain to alphas.
They see it as weakness. Instead, ask for help (see point #2).

Good luck! Let us know how you use this information to talk to your boss. Please share any other tips you may have in the comment section below.


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