6 Things You Should Never Say to Your Boss

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking how they can establish better relationships with their managers.  It seems that everyone – from the entry-level college graduate to the seasoned middle manager, has this issue.  To start, I recommend never letting these tempting phrases pass through your lips:

It’s not my job.

When your manager asks you to do something, she wants you to accommodate her.  She wants to view you as a can-do member of the team who will be willing to pitch in and help when necessary.  Telling her that something is “not your job” – even if it’s true – will damage that perception.

It’s not my fault.

Taking responsibility is one of the elements that sets apart successful employees from unsuccessful ones.  Instead of looking to place blame, help your manager figure out what the team can do to remedy the situation.

I can’t work with Person A.

This is an office, not a club, and your manager does not want to hear that you have a personality conflict with a co-worker.  You can work with this person, and you will work with this person, so focus on what you can do to improve the relationship without your boss’ intervention.

I can’t do X.  I have to do Y.

Instead of telling your manager you can’t do something because you have too much on your plate (which will lead him to think he can’t depend on you), detail your to-dos and ask for his help in prioritizing them.

That’s not possible.

A purely negative attitude like this will turn off your manager.  Even if you really believe it’s not possible, be constructive.  Say something like: “That’s one approach, though here are some of the challenges we’ll face.”

Everyone hates this place.

You don’t actually know how everyone else feels, so speak in terms of your own experiences.  In doing so, be specific about what isn’t working for you, without using strong emotion words like “hate.”  And whenever possible, try to identify potential solutions so your manager doesn’t see you as the complainer.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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