10 things your boss isn’t telling you

Part of being a boss is having difficult conversations. But managers are human, and while they should be tackling difficult or awkward topics head-on, in reality plenty of them shy away from it. Here are 10 things that your boss might be too uncomfortable to say to with you.

1. You talk too much in meetings. Before you take up the group’s time at the next meeting, ask yourself if everyone there really needs to hear what you’re about to say.

2. You’re spending too much time on Facebook. You might think that it doesn’t impact your productivity, but most managers are sure that it does. They don’t want to see you logged into Facebook or other social networking sites when you’re supposed to be focused on work.

3. You’re too emotional. If you routinely get upset, offended, or angry, your boss might dread giving you critical feedback, to the point of avoiding it altogether– which will put you at a huge disadvantage. You want to know what you could be doing better, and you’re more likely to hear it if you don’t make it difficult for your boss to tell you.

4. You dress inappropriately. Especially if you’re a female employee with a male manager, you might never be alerted that your necklines are unprofessionally low. But that doesn’t mean that people aren’t noticing and taking you less seriously because of it.

5. Your attitude sucks.If you’re high-maintenance or complain frequently or don’t ever take ownership for your work, your boss probably considers you a pain to deal with. Guess what that means for you? Less interesting assignments, less flexibility, lower raises, and ending up at the top of the list if cuts ever need to be made.

6. There’s a reason you’re being micromanaged. Your manager might love to back off if only you’d stay more on top of things, stop letting things fall through the cracks, and generally be someone she can rely on more. She’s hovering because you haven’t given her reason to trust you.

7. You bring your personal life to the office in ways that make people uncomfortable. If you’re making personal calls that involve yelling, swearing, or crying, or if you’re regularly telling your coworkers about your latest marital fight (or latest hot date), it’s a safe bet that people around you are cringing.

8. Your bias is showing, and it makes you less credible. Most managers can tell when you’re not “playing it straight with them.” The way to have real credibility with your boss is to be vigilant about putting all the facts on the table when you’re talking through an issue, and even be candid about your own biases.

9. Your coworker earned that special treatment. Sometimes the reason that your coworker gets to come in late or get better projects than you might be that she worked all weekend and regularly outshines you with her work.

10. You don’t need to agree so much. Good bosses want to hear differing opinions. If you can tell that you’re on a different page than your boss – about a project, how realistic a deadline is, or the best way to deal with a difficult client – don’t ignore that difference. Bringing your different outlooks to the surface and explicitly talking about it may reveal that one of you has information that the other doesn’t have, which can result in one of you changing your stance. Plus, if you stay silent and it turns out later that you were right, your boss may be irked that you didn’t tell her about the case for proceeding differently.

Now, to be clear, a good boss won’t stay quiet on any of these topics. But there are plenty of not-so-good bosses out there. And you probably know if you have one.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 8 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamie*

    This is an awesome post – and should be mandatory reading for everyone who has a boss. I love self-evaluation via a numbered list.

    Seriously, I really do. That looks kind of geeky in print, but there’s just something about applying organized logic to people issues that makes them seem so manageable.

    I would love to know why #9 is an issue for any boss. I know it is, I’ve seen more than one reluctant to discuss it – but I have never understood why this is a touchy subject at all.

    A couple of years ago one of my co-workers was making some snarky comments about my hours and how I could come and go as I please. During this time I was working routinely until after 11:00 pm and weekends on a project, scheduling around the availability of an out sourced programmer. When I heard there was some resentment about my wandering in about 9:00 am I mentioned that I had been three weeks without a day off and hadn’t gotten home before midnight all week.

    She understood, resentment ceased – life went on. My boss didn’t tell her because “You’re schedule is none of her business.”

    I don’t know why extenuating circumstances fall into the category of awkward conversations.

      1. Jamie*

        The comment section on the linked article…what article did they read??

        Seriously, maybe I’m not smart enough to follow the segues – but I can’t for the life of me figure out how what you wrote would prompt those responses. It almost seems like the comment section was juxtaposed with that of another article!

  2. Anonymous*

    The problem with #10, though, is that some less-than-perfect bosses will take any disagreement, however respectfully phrased, as a personal attack. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, not opening myself up to that again. So it’s “smile and nod and do what I’m told” – 0h, and cover my behind – very important, that. And if that makes me a less valuable employee in some ways, they have only themselves to blame.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think there it’s about knowing your boss. Totally agree that some don’t welcome dissent — but people shouldn’t paint every boss with the same brush and instead should pay attention to what the signals from their particular boss are telling them.

      1. Anonymous*

        Let’s just say that, based on previous experience, I’ve found it better to assume that they don’t want to hear anything but “yes, of course – best idea ever”. Until/unless they have clearly and repeatedly demonstrated otherwise…with my coworkers, because there’s no way I’m going to be the one to stick my neck out. I’ve had a couple of bosses who weren’t that way, but they’ve been the exception, definitely not the rule.

        1. Anonymous*

          And one must be careful of the Samuel Goldwyns: I don’t want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their job.

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