Many leaders will tell you that the most important aspect of business today is communication. An open exchange of ideas in the workplace is key to facilitating creativity, connecting authentically with clients and even maintaining happy employees. But no matter how open your boss is to your ideas, there are still some taboo talking points. In fact, saying something the wrong way can make a lasting negative impression on your manager. Want to avoid foot-in-mouth syndrome at work?
Here are seven things your boss hates to hear:
1. I have a problem
This could very well be true. Problems come up and are solved in the workplace every day. But when telling your boss about what’s happening, it’s better to identify issues as challenges instead of problems. Why? It may just be semantics, but your word choice says a lot about you. A problem sounds insurmountable, whereas challenges are overcome. A problem represents a barrier or roadblock, but a challenge is an obstacle course, ready to be taken on. You get the point--using the word challenge instead of problem shows your boss you are ready to tackle whatever is standing in the way of success. Any problems with that?
2. I can’t
Again, this is semantics at play. No one expects you to be able to do everything, but your boss wants to hear what you can do and what is possible, not what you can’t do or what you feel is impossible. So instead of saying, “I just can’t have this finished by tomorrow, it’s impossible,” tell your boss when you can have it finished realistically. If you feel you’ve been asked to do the impossible, be prepared to explain exactly what you’ll need to turn it around: “We can finish this with ______ additional team members,” or “I can accomplish this if I have support from ______.” Keep it positive!
3. I’m so hungover
You may have been partying all night with your colleagues, and maybe even your boss, but don’t expect sympathy at work for your overindulgence! Even if your boss feels the same way, he or she may be disappointed if you confide in them. It’s best to put on your poker face, take a couple of aspirin, drink an extra coffee, and get through the day like a professional. (Same goes for telling your boss you’re “really tired” or “kind of sick”--if you made it into work, suck it up!)
Don’t swear in front of your boss. Doing so will make you appear to have a bad temper and a lack of self-control. Remember that you are a representation of your entire company, so keep it classy and clean!
5. I need a raise
Your boss wants to hear why you deserve a raise, not why you need one, which usually implies a personal financial issue. If you are trying to negotiate a higher salary, you need to ask in the most effective way--by bringing evidence of your successes and keeping personal needs out of the equation.
6. I don’t like working with ________
Nothing annoys your boss more than hearing about petty personal grievances among team members. Your manager can’t resolve every small conflict that arises in the workplace, so don’t make his or her job more difficult by complaining about colleagues. Chances are, if you are right about the person, your effort to work well alongside them will get you further with your boss than your complaint will.
7. That’s not my job
Hearing this is like nails on a chalkboard to your manager. If your boss asks you to do it, he or she likely views it as your job. Why argue? If you genuinely feel like something is not right, approach your boss to discuss a challenge you are facing with some of their requests, but never say that something they ask you to do is not your job!