Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Seven Deadlies

Even if you’re self-employed, like I am, you have a boss. As far as your clients are concerned, you’re an employee, and they’re the boss. So it pays to consider it a “boss-employee” relationship. That’s why an article from US News and World Report caught my eye. It had a pretty catch title: “7 Things Never To Say To Your Boss.”

The first one was pretty obvious. Don’t say “That’s not my job!” The way your boss looks at it, practically everything they ask you to do is your job. So was the second: “”It’s not my problem.” It is if the boss says it is. And it’s best to think about how to help fix the problem rather than send the message you don’t care.

“It’s not my fault.” Four of the deadliest words. Human nature being what it is, the more you deny it, the more people (the boss) will suspect it IS your fault. According to the article, bosses are more concerned about fixing the problem than fixing blame – although there are certainly many exceptions to THAT – so, again, it’s best to try and find a way to fix the problem, no matter whose fault it is.

The fourth deadly phrase is “I can only do one thing at a time.” What that says to your boss is you’re not up to the challenges of your job. I learned something a long time ago from a really good boss – sometimes you have to “manage your manager.” If you’re working hard on a project the boss has given you, and he or she asks you to do something else, it’s often better to say “I’m working on the Jones project right now – help me prioritize: is this new task something you want me to deal with right now?” Let the boss decide, and your bee-hind is covered!

Although the temptation may be great, it’s not wise to say “I am way overqualified for this job” anywhere the boss might hear it. Maybe you ARE overqualified, but you took the job, you gotta own it. Complaining that it’s beneath you will get you zero points. This point relates to the sixth deadly phrase: “This job is easy – anyone could do it.” If the boss hears you say that, the boss will interpret it as you saying work is stupid.

Remember the story of the young employee who made a Facebook post about how the boss makes them do all this stupid crap at work…and forgot that the boss was a Facebook friend, and saw the post…and responded by saying the stupid crap is called YOUR JOB, and by the way, you’re fired. If the job truly is beneath you and too easy, find a different job. That’s pretty hard to do in this economy, so if you can’t find another job, you’ve got to do the job you have now, and ride it out until the economy turns around.

And the seventh deadly phrase: “It can’t be done.” What the boss hears is “I can’t do this.” And while it may be true, it might be wise to play detective, and rather than say you can’t do it, ask the boss why he or she wants you to do it (ask politely!) and try to get at what problem the boss is trying to solve with the “impossible” task. Teamwork!

Words to the wise.

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