5 things your boss won’t tell you

Ever wonder what your boss knows but might not be telling you?

No matter how much of a chatterbox your boss might be, chances are good that she’s not telling you everything – because most companies require managers to keep certain types of information confidential. Here are five common things that your manager generally won’t tell you about.

1. Your job might be eliminated soon. When company are planning layoffs, they’re often tight-lipped until they’ve made definite decisions about whose jobs are being cut. In fact, many layoffs are announced on the same day that people are expected to leave. So even if your boss knows that you’re going to lose your job — even if she knows that your whole department is losing their jobs, and that even she will be out of work — she generally isn’t allowed to share that knowledge until the company makes an official announcement.

2. Your coworker is in the process of being fired. If you’ve been wondering how your slacker coworker who surfs the Internet all day still has a job, and you’ve been growing increasingly frustrated that your manager lets him get away with it, realize that your manager might be dealing with it behind the scenes. Managers don’t generally broadcast their disciplinary actions to others, and in most cases, when someone is in the process of being fired, you won’t know about it until it happens. So just because you don’t see your manager addressing a performance problem, it doesn’t mean that she’s not.

3. There’s a record of everything you do on your work computer. You have no privacy. Companies increasingly warn employees that they monitor computer usage, but employees often disregard this section of their employee manual – and then are shocked to learn that their employer monitors their email, their Internet usage, and any other activity they do on their work computer, including personal email. You should never use your work computer for anything you don’t want your boss to know about — whether it’s job-searching, online shopping, complaining about your job, or anything else.

4. Your coworker is making a lot more money than you because he asked for it. Think salaries are fair and set to equal amount of money for equal amounts of work? Think again. Your coworker might be doing the exact same work as you – or even less – but earning significantly more. If your coworker negotiated better than you did when he was hired, and especially if you didn’t negotiate at all, he could now be commanding a much higher salary. However…

5. You could get a raise if you asked for one. You might think that your company will offer you a raise if you deserve one. But more often, you need to ask. Sure, you might get the same cost of living increase as everyone else at the start of the year without having to ask for it, but if you want a more sizable raise, one that truly reflects the increase in your value to your employer, you generally need to speak up and ask for it. Don’t wait around for your manager to give it to you on her own.

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

{ 16 comments… read them below }

  1. Tiff*

    #6: Sometimes she has no more power to make a change than you do.

    Especially if you work in a process-heavy beaurocratic environment. She can advocate and suggest, but unless your boss is a senior level executive or the business is structured in a way that offers managers a lot of freedom, she can’t just make the decision.

  2. ChristineH*

    #3 – Computer use being monitored

    Ugh, I think many people forget this. Even I was guilty of this at a previous job when I complained about things to other coworkers via email. I used to think only Internet surfing was monitored. Now I know better.

    1. class factotum*

      Yes – please do not write emails from your work address to your soon-to-be-ex fiance complaining about her drug use and mental problems. When I am hired to sort through your emails once you are no longer working so I can save the ones related to federal contracts and delete everything else, I am going to learn way more about you than I wanted to.

      1. some1*

        & delete the emails between you and the COO about you too want to put on the next layoff list before your last day.

    2. Jamie*

      Yes – and when someone leaves and IT is going through their emails, it can be awkward for those still working there when the back and forth about how the IT’s promotion to Director was bullshit and didn’t mean anything…was just done to placate her, because all they care about is making her happy. And how she’s thinks she’s so smart, but if she was as smart as she thinks she is she wouldn’t have to work “the hours of a psychopath – she could get everything done in a couple hours a week like we do, ha ha.”

      Not that I have personal experience with the above scenario. Ahem.

      Although I did learn something from that exchange – I had no idea prior to that that psychopaths were known for their work ethic. If only they’d use this energy for good.

  3. twentymilehike*

    When I am hired to sort through your emails once you are no longer working so I can save the ones related to federal contracts and delete everything else, I am going to learn way more about you than I wanted to.

    I don’t know … I rather enjoyed going through my old coworkers personal photos from parties and emails to friends in her sent folder. There are really only two of us here that are very computer literate, and it’s really quite a fun little treasure hunt to see what people save on the server! Would anyone like to see my boss’s naked ex-girlfriend? LOL

  4. Blinx*

    The thing is, we know that the bosses have info that they are not privy to tell us, but I wish they would just admit it. When asked point blank about impending layoffs, instead of saying “I don’t know anything”, just be up front about it and say “I’m not at liberty to say anything.”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Most people will take “I’m not at liberty to say” as “there’s something to say here, but I can’t say it.” Which companies obviously don’t want.

  5. some1*

    related to #2: Some employees are protected on-high for some office political thing that you don’t know about. It’s incredibly unfair, but it happens.

  6. KS*

    At my last job, my boss shared that 2 coworkers were going to be fired after tax season. It was really unsettling to me when working closely with these 2.

    My level was a senior accountant and my boss was a partner. It wasn’t the type of thing a partner needed to share with someone at my level and I was very uncomfortable knowing what was going to happen to them.

  7. Vicki*

    #6. He’s about to resign.

    Like everyone else, your boss won’t tell you he’s leaving until he’s given his two-week’s notice to his boss. And sometimes, he’ll wait a while after that to tell you, or let the higher-up boss spread the news. Sometimes, his boss will say that two weeks aren’t required. and he’s out the door. That leaves precious little time (if any) to scramble you into a new position. Sometimes, the result is that you don’t _have_ a new position.

    “Plan” accordingly.

  8. Editor*

    That happened to me at one of my previous jobs. (The boss leaving without saying anything. Surprise!) That was still easier to deal with than finding out my mentor committed suicide.

    Another thing your boss often can’t tell you is how things are imploding politically and financially at higher levels in the business — so, like in the case Vicki mentions, you don’t know you should be shopping your resume around. You may not have heard the company didn’t get an RFP to renew a contract that is a significant part of the business, but which won’t expire for another 18 months, for instance, even though the fallout has already started.

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