Don’t Ruin Your Career By Saying These Things To Your Boss
In this day and age, bosses may seem less like the traditional figures of authority and more like a colleague and friend. However, this does not mean that you have free reign to speak your mind in front of them especially when it comes to the topic of work. We asked bosses to share with us what they think are the most damaging statements that can hurt your career and paint you in a bad light.
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Text: Sasha Gonzales / Her World / April 2017
*Names have been changed.
“How do I benefit from this?”
It’s fine to ask questions if you’re tasked with something, but there is such a thing as a wrong question, says Theresa*, who manages a boutique PR agency. “This is no different to asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’”, she explains. “It’s like saying you’ll only do it if you stand to get something out of it. To me, that says you’re not a team player. If you are asked to help another team, take on something new or given an additional responsibility, it’s l because your boss feels you are capable and trustworthy. So, just do it, and see it as an opportunity to learn and grow instead of asking what you will get in return.”
“This is just disrespectful,” says Theresa. “Your boss is your boss for a reason – she’s more experienced and skilled than you, and she’s likely solved more problems on the job than you have. So, when she says something, trust that she knows what she’s talking about. You can ask her to explain what she means, and you can even disagree with her, but you should never, ever cross that line where you start questioning her judgement.” If you do have a better solution to offer, Theresa suggests saying something like, “I would like to give an alternative solution – will you please hear me out?” That’s being assertive but still respectful and polite.
“At my last job we did it this way”
While there’s nothing wrong with introducing a new way of doing things, it irks some bosses when you insist on doing something in a completely different way to what you’ve been told. Says Fiona*, a team supervisor at a publishing company: “Every company has its own process for getting things done. You’re part of that company now, so you should trust that the processes they have in place work for them.”
And there’s no need to bring your old job into the picture. “If your previous company did indeed have a better method of doing something, you should ask your boss if she’s okay with you using that method instead of trying to take control and change things up,” Fiona adds.
Even if you’re having a slow day, you can still find something to do, be it clearing your email inbox, organising your desk, helping your colleagues, or planning the next day’s schedule. “This statement tells me that you lack enthusiasm for your job,” says Fiona. “You should always take the initiative at work and look for ways to be productive. Simply waiting for work to be given to you is not sending the right message to your boss.”
“I’ll do it, but it’s not my priority right now”
If your boss assigns you a task, you should get on it as soon as possible, unless she tells you that it can wait. “This is the one statement I hate hearing,” admits Joanne*, managing director of a career consulting company. “It shows that you don’t know how to prioritise your duties. Everything you do at work is important; some tasks may not be as urgent as others, but if your boss gives you a deadline, you should do your best to meet it. If she doesn’t give you a deadline, ask her for one, but don’t tell her that you left something undone because it wasn’t important to you.”
“Can I leave early today? I don’t have much to do”
“This is just as bad as telling the boss that you’re bored,” Fiona points out. “Furthermore, you’re paid to work a certain number of hours a day, so what makes you think that you’re entitled to leave the office before everyone else? Even if you’re having a slow afternoon, you should find something to do until it’s time to clock out. You’re not getting a salary just to kill time.”
“I want to speak to your supervisor or HR about this”
No matter how unhappy you are with your boss, you should never say this to her. Why? It’s petty, plus it has the air of a threat. “You can say this in a restaurant when you’re dissatisfied with the food or the waiter, since you’re a paying customer, but it’s a different story at work,” says Theresa. “If you don’t get along with your boss then it’s your choice to find another job or ask for a transfer, or stay put and iron things out. But you shouldn’t undermine her authority by threatening to complain about her.”
“That’s not in my job description”
Occasionally, you may be asked to do something that’s not part of your job scope. Do it anyway. This shows your willingness to try new things and tells your boss that you’re helpful, reliable, versatile, and a team player. Says Joanne: “Refusing to do it, and then justifying your answer based on the fact that it’s not part of your role, is a cop-out. Being asked to take on something new is a privilege, because obviously your boss wouldn’t have asked you to do it unless she believed that you could. So you should see it as an opportunity to learn something new and add to your list of skills. It’s a great opportunity to show her what you’re capable of, so just say yes and go with it.”
“I’ve had it with this company and this job”
We all get frustrated when things get stressful at work. There’s nothing wrong with confiding in our co-workers when we want to get this frustration off our chests, but that’s where the complaining should end. “This is like saying, ‘Get screwed, all of you’,” says Lisa*, who manages a department at a leading media planning company. “If you’re not happy about something, find out what the problem is and find out how to remedy it – in a civilised manner, of course. You don’t throw a tantrum and act like your boss or company owes you something. No matter how angry you are, try not to let your emotions boil over. If you need help to get your temper under control, get it.”
“Do I really have to work with her?”
“This statement lacks professionalism,” says Lisa. “You can’t expect to get along with all of your colleagues, all of the time, and the last thing your boss wants to hear is that something cannot get done because two people on her team can’t stand each other. And the truth is, to many bosses, such a statement can sound quite childish, like you’re complaining. You’re not in kindergarten! If you’re paired with someone you don’t like, you just have to find a way to make it work so that the job gets done.”