My boss asked me if I have an idea for a solution to a problem he is facing. I've determined that this can not be achieved without having negative effects, so we would need an alternative approach.

The alternative seems totally valid for me, but it is obviously not what my boss wants. So the question is: Should I tell him this alternative solution or should I just tell him nothing because the alternative is not what he originally wanted?

Please take into account:

  • The situation is more like that he asked me "if you have a good idea for this problem, please tell me". It is not like that I must come up with a solution.
  • I am a fairly new employee, having now nearly 2 years of experience being <25 years old while my boss has more experience and is >50 years old. I do not want to look like the new genius employee who thinks he knows better than the experienced ones.

If I tell him, would it be better to email him (we are an IT-company) where I can explain the points in detail, or should I talk personally to him? Note that I am often at customers so it might take some days or weeks until the next time I see him.

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    Mail him the link to your previous Workplace question Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 7:11
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    I do not want that he knows my workplace account. Maybe I will ask question in the future I do not want him to know they are from me.
    – Uooo
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 7:12
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    @SimonO'Doherty It's not like I cant answer these questions myself. This question is about how to tell my manager that the solution is not the one he wants. Please take into account the two points i mentioned in my question: I am not required to come with a solution. However I want to tell him the solution I have discovered without looking like I want to say him that I know better then him (the second point in my question).
    – Uooo
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 13:26
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    The question How can we motivate employees to complete IT certificates? does not cover how to explain this to my boss. Remember, the solution mentioned there is not the one he wants! That's what this question is about, these two are different.
    – Uooo
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 13:27
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    @w4rumy I've edited your question to make it more succinct, and to more clearly separate it from your previous question. Please take a look and make sure it still appropriately covers what you want to ask.
    – yoozer8
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 17:56

2 Answers 2


In cases where I'm given a problem to solve, but there is no perfect solution, I usually try to write up a list of options, with their pros and cons. At the top I'll include a summary of which option I think is the most viable and why. Include the solutions you came up with and rejected because you know they won't work - and list why they won't work.

Don't phrase it as "here are your choices, pick one". Instead say something like:

Here are the options I've come up with so far. I think X or Y might work well. What are your thoughts?

If necessary, follow up emails or a meeting will happen to discuss it.

  • In addition to having the same name as me, you have the same answer I would've written. Weird. Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 21:08

Your last question mentioned:

"I was asked by my boss if I have any ideas on how to motivate our employees to complete certificates?"

So unless something has changed which we are not aware about, I will take it that your boss wants a list of solutions.

First while your boss may have more experience/knowledge then you, you need to show that you have done your research on what you are going to suggest. This will add credibility to your statements, and show you aren't just pulling answers out of the air.

While all good answers in the previous question, do not take them at face value. Research those solutions. Eg. "Company X did solution Y and found a n% increase in certifications".

I'd recommend using something like a fishbone diagram to work them out.

The second part to this is how do you get him to pick the solution you found to be the best (based on research)?

If you want to sell something, you need to give a context to compare against so that it looks like the better option. So if you can find other solutions which have flaws, list them with the emphasis on the flaws vs the solution you want.

To put it in an example. If I tried to sell you a single solution costing $1,000, you probably wouldn't buy it. But if the other solutions mentioned were $10,000 and $20,000 you would consider it cheap.

More details on how to do this is in Dan Arielys book "Predictably Irrational".

Lastly if you want to do this by email or in person is very dependant on your manager.

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