Ask Our Boss: What Should I Stop Doing in the Workplace?
In our monthly column dedicated to helping you succeed faster, our publisher Alison Rice is answering your most pressing career questions. You know, the stuff you really want to ask your boss but can’t. Have a question? Ask it on Instagram or Facebook by tagging #AskOurBoss.
I feel like I’ve only just qualified to write about this because I’ve only just stopped doing some of these things myself.
Now, let’s take a moment to analyse my first sentence. Sounds pretty normal and probably a bit familiar, and you maybe kind of already like me because:
- I started by telling you how I feel
- I talked my expertise down
- I personalised it
The truth is, that really was my opening sentence. I share that because talking about how we feel, playing down our value and personalising everything, runs deep in the female psyche. It’s our genetic makeup, it’s in the social norms we were raised to respect, and the hours and hours of school time that taught us how to be polite in front of the teacher (the boss) but learn our worth by way of social status in the playground (the office floor).
So I’m not going to personalise the fact that I personalise—whoa.
What I can do and you can, too, is acknowledge any behaviours that might be career-limiting, implement some simple strategies and then—the best bit—grow both personally and professionally. To help us tackle this one, I have some observations I’d like to share. Some from a management standpoint, and others from peer-to-peer interactions I’ve had or witnessed.
Keep scrolling to discover what they are.
Stop: Using the word “b*tching”
I tend to glaze over a bit when someone says “I don’t want to b*tch but…” Well, you are gal pal. We are doing ourselves no favours by even using this word in the workplace. Do you ever hear men use it in meetings? I don’t. If you need to make your boss aware of a toxic situation or person, you also need to spend some time thinking about the “hows and whys”.
- How is this impacting me doing my job?
- Why is that person behaving that way/why did this happen?
- Why do I care about it so much?
- How could I help fix it?
After you’ve answered those questions I’d be surprised if you still want to raise it with your boss instead of the person/people involved, but if you do, start by outlining your intention, not how you feel. “I want to make you aware of this with the intention of gaining some strategies to help handle it on the floor.” Then you might want to bring in your hows and whys, to give your boss context (but know that while it is important to you, it may not be to them). This also shows that you’ve taken initiative, you’re not looking to download or have a b*tching session, and you’ve approached it with the business’ wellbeing front of mind.
Stop: Trying to guess what your boss/everyone else is thinking
You walk past your boss in the kitchen and she/he didn’t smile back, so now you’re thinking the worst possible scenario with you out front and centre. How insane does that look written out? But for some reason it makes logical sense at the time. You’re personalising.
The only thing I can share here is managers are usually juggling an enormous amount of pressure and sometimes you’ll see it on their face. Hopefully not a lot, but we are human. So if we didn’t smile in the kitchen this morning, it’s more than likely because we are trying to figure out how to win more business or grow the business.
When you’re trying to guess what someone else is thinking, out loud it sounds like: “I didn’t want you to think I was…”, or “I was worried you were thinking that…”. Ladies, we’ll go crazy if we keep this up. Rest assured that if your boss is thinking something they need you to know, they’ll tell you.
When it comes to your colleagues, you might need to ask them (yes them, not other people). The only other thing I would suggest here is a moment of self-reflection, because if you’re worried that you came across the wrong way, did the wrong thing or feel guilty about something, that’s personal work you need to do. Maybe it is in your delivery, the language you’re prone to use, or the choices you’ve made, just don’t burden your boss or colleagues with your internal dialogue or fake scenario building. Save that for your friends, your family, and your therapist.
Stop: Taking feedback so personally
Ugh, I know. Hearing you’ve misjudged a situation, behaved inappropriately, or didn’t do a task right… none of it is easy. I’m yet to meet a manager who likes giving difficult feedback, and for that reason some just don’t give any at all. Or worse, there are those managers who only praise good work leaving everyone feeling like a superstar with nothing to learn. I’ve been on all sides and what I can tell you is getting feedback—especially the difficult kind—is a gift.
Knowing what we’re doing wrong or could be doing better is the path to promotion. It is how you handle yourself following feedback that is the true test of both your emotional intelligence and your value as talent in a business. Throwing a tantrum or talking ill about the person who gave you the feedback won’t go unnoticed. Rising to the occasion and taking steps to improve shows maturity, confidence, and control. Never forget that getting ahead is all about how coachable you are, and how you handle yourself under pressure.
For more sage career advice, shop The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career by MyDomaine founders Hilary Kerr and Katherine Power ($17).