We Are Sunshine

What Not To Say To Your Boss

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

We’ve talked quite a bit about improving management skills, so this time we’re going to discuss employee self-management. Employees want to work in an ideal environment with great people and have no problems arise – which, honestly, can only happen in a perfect world. We can’t always get along with others or get what we want 100 percent of the time, so it’s only natural that we want to voice our opinions and concerns. However, approaching situations the wrong way and saying the wrong things can be damaging to your career.

Megan Malugani, contributing writer, and Charles Purdy, senior editor, have compiled a list of nine things bosses hate to hear from their employees and give you examples of what you should say instead:

1. “I need a raise.”

Never enter salary negotiations talking about what you need – for instance, because of rising costs or a new expense. Your employer doesn’t care about your financial problems. However, management probably does want to reward success and keep high-performing employees satisfied. A raise request should always be supported by evidence of what you’ve achieved for the company – along with information about what people with your responsibilities typically earn.

2. “That just isn’t possible.”

Always speak to your boss in terms of what can be done. For instance, rather than saying “We can’t get this done by Friday,” say “We could definitely get this done by Monday, or if we brought in some freelance help, we could meet the Friday deadline.” When you talk to your boss, think in terms of solving problems for her, not in terms of putting problems on her plate.

3. “I can’t stand working with (enter name here).”

Complaining about a coworker’s personality usually reflects more poorly on you than on the coworker. Don’t make these kinds of conflicts your boss’s problem. If you’re complaining about someone taking charge, for example, your boss will see that person as having initiative and you as lackluster. You might feel as though that person oversteps or dismisses your ideas, but these are things that need to be worked out between yourself and your coworker.

Of course, management is interested in problems that jeopardize the company’s ability to function. If you have to speak to HR about a problem, such as a colleague’s threatening, illegal or unethical behavior, keep your tone professional and the focus on work.

4. “I partied too hard last night – I’m so hung over!”

If you think this will ever be a legitimate excuse for your boss, think again! We all need to blow off a little steam every now and then, but your boss does not need – or want – to know the details. And it’s no excuse for not being able to do your job. Even if you have a friendly relationship, he’s just as likely to react with (unspoken) disdain as sympathy. Maintaining a solid veneer of professionalism will pay off when it’s time to discuss promotions.

5. “But I emailed you about that last week.”

Alerting your boss to a problem via email doesn’t absolve you of all responsibility for it. Bosses hate the “out of my outbox, out of my mind” attitude. Keep tabs on all critical issues you know about – and keep checking in until you hear a firm “You don’t need to worry about that anymore.”

6. “It’s not my fault.”

Assume responsibility and take steps to fix a problem that you did, in fact, create. And if you are being wrongly blamed for a problem, saying “Let’s get to the bottom of this” or “What can we do to make it right?” is much more effective than saying “It’s not my fault.” Remember, you’re a professional, not a child.

7. “I don’t know.”

If your boss asks you a question you can’t answer, the correct response is not “I don’t know.” It’s “I’ll find out right away.” Bosses want to know you have their backs, and having a willingness to find answers is a great way to show that. “I don’t know” gives off the impression that it’s not your job to know anything about that subject, but if your boss is asking you then it’s your job to know it.

8. “But we’ve always done it this way.”

Change is good, but not always fun. You may find yourself with a new boss who wants to try new things – and the best way to present yourself as a workplace relic is to meet change with a “we do it this way because this is the way we do it” attitude. When a brainstorming session takes place, be part of it and stay open to new ideas. If you have concerns about a new idea’s feasibility, say “I think for this to work, we will have to…” Don’t kill new ideas with negativity.

9. “Let me set you up with (a friend of mine. My sister. My roommate. Etc.)”

Avoid the urge to play matchmaker for your single boss. The potential risk far outweighs any potential benefit. In modern workplaces, hierarchical structures are often less rigid, and bosses will often end up in semisocial situations with their direct reports. Smart workers will draw the line at “oversharing” – definitely something to keep in mind if you’re connecting to your company’s managers on social networks like Facebook.

Also, we wary of bosses that want you to set them up with someone in your circle. It’s not only unprofessional, but it’s a sign of overstepping – which often happens if you and your boss are on friendly terms. Don’t be afraid to say no because, as stated earlier, the risk is greater than the reward.

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