4 Things Your Boss Doesn’t Want To Hear (And What To Say Instead)

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Even though we’re seeing impressive recovery from the Great Recession, many companies are still on edge, considering low profits and nerve wracking bottom lines. For those who want to keep their jobs and advance up the promotional ladder, communicating carefully to the higher ups is crucial. Business always try to attract top talent, but ultimately it’s up to you to make it happen. Here are four things your boss absolutely does not want to hear from you, and what you should say instead.

I don’t have enough time

Since well before the recession officially started, companies have been downsizing, consolidating, and making the employees who are left take on more and more tasks. None of us have enough time, and that almost certainly includes your boss.

Instead of sounding cranky and frustrated, try out:

“I would love to take that on. Can we sit down and discuss prioritizing that with the other tasks I have?”

The key here is that you don’t want to just say yes, especially if you’re already busy. You’ll end up overwhelmed and overworked, and that’s not fun or fair. But at the same time, you need to appear willing. By implying to your boss that something else is going to have to fall off your plate if you add this on, they (should) get the hint to make sure that they’re asking you to do something business crucial. Sometimes, going an extra mile counts a lot in the long run.

It’s all Someone Else’s fault

This is just as annoying as its cousin, It’s Not My Fault. Blaming someone else is not the way an adult manages a situation. Even if it isn’t your fault, pointing the finger makes you sound like a spoiled child who let the dog eat their homework. If the problem really was your fault, just apologize, tell your boss what you’re going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and then make sure it doesn’t happen again.

If it actually was all someone else’s fault, try:

“I understand your concern. I agree that this situation did not play out in a way that was positive for the company. I’d like to sit down with both you and [whoever is at fault] to better understand what went wrong and how to manage this better next time.” 

I can’t do that

There are two things that “I can’t” might mean. The first is that you actually can’t, in which case there are more business positive ways to phrase things. The second is that you won’t, in which case you’re better off stating the source of your objection from the beginning. If you really and truly can’t – when your boss is asking you to draw two red lines in blue ink, for example – then you could try “I’m sorry, I’m a little confused. Are you asking me to…” And then restate their request. This usually clears up any confusion and gets their respect, and if not, it’s the beginning of a dialogue to make sure clarity is reached.

If what you mean is you won’t, then try:

“There’s a lot of potential here, but I see some challenges. Our mission statement says that we prioritize customer satisfaction at all costs, so it seems like raising prices while lowering services might be contradictory with that?”

I’m so hungover

Or “My spouse is so aggravating,” or “Jane in accounting is so mean,” or intimate details of your Friday night date. Your boss is not your best friend, or if they are, talk about those things outside of work, not inside the building.

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