Monday, November 17, 2014

What not to say

I recently came across one of those "lists" articles, "Nine things never to say to your boss." I find this an interesting example of intercultural and intergenerational communication. As per usual, I prefer to break up the list into themes:

Saying no
"That just isn’t possible." "I don't know." "But we've always done it this way."
In any organization, results matter. Don't put up roadblocks; instead, try to find the solution. From the article: 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.
Just complaining
"I need a raise." "I can’t stand working with ____." "I partied too hard last night, I'm so hung over!"
No one wants to hear complaints. If you must issue a complaint, you'll meet with success if you frame it with a solution. For example, if you are asking for a raise, first talk about how your work has benefited the organization. From the article: 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.
Not my problem
"But I emailed you about that last week." "It’s not my fault."
Take ownership for what you do. We all make mistakes; how we respond to them defines who we are. From the article: Are you a whiny 8-year-old or a take-charge professional? 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.”

Not convinced? These themes are commonly identified by business leaders. Your campus chancellor or president (or CEO, if you're in industry) doesn't want to hear about problems, they want solutions that help them meet their bottom line: whether that's helping the campus, or driving profits. Be empowered to step forward and contribute. Similarly, retired General Electric CEO Jack Welch shares ten behaviors that can damage your career. They fall into similar categories: Saying no ("Resistance to change"), complaining ("Being a Problem Identifier vs a Problem Solver"), and avoidance.
image: hujikari


  1. Ha! A brilliant primer on sycophantism. But I do agree that whining is the language of the unempowered.

  2. I disagree on the sycophant comment. I really do see this as a productivity issue. I attended a CIO conference a few weeks ago, and there is a stark difference to how certain people in higher ed approach issues, vs those in industry. I have several peers and coworkers who like to vent and complain, but never take action. Making a legitimate complaint about a real issue is one thing, but grousing about things you can change is not helping the organization to move forward.

  3. The Director I worked for in Prescott, WI school district used to say, "To complain is to volunteer." You should print that on a sign and post it near your office. Then implement!


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