How (not) to talk to the Boss


Do you want to have a good and lasting relationship with your boss? How do you keep your boss in a good mood?  Much is written about the dos and dont’s. I would like to especially concentrate here on the dont’s.

You certainly do not want to give him any reason to think that you do not like the company, that you can not handlehow not to talk to your boss your work or that you do not like your work. Sounds logical, does it not?

Say the wrong things

And yet employees everywhere and on a daily basis violate these basic rules. As with the – at first glance completely harmless – comments below. Put yourself in the shoes of your employer and you immediately realize what unpleasant consequences a simple hick-up like this can have.

The basic rules: never pronounce one of the below sentences in the presence of your boss.

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That is not my job

Most employers will assume that your work consists of what they ask you to do. Therefore, never say that a certain job does not belong to your tasks. What you can do is make it clear that it is not a good idea or in the interest of the company. Also immediately indicate to your boss that the job requested is questionable and why it is better for everyone to let someone else do it. You may tell yourself that it remains tricky anyway.

not my problemThat’s not my problem

Your employer will automatically assume that you are not very concerned with your work. A misunderstanding that you can easily avoid, by just having an open mind to the problems at hand. Even better is of course to do your best to help because a problem in the workplace is a problem for everyone within the team.

That is not my fault

The louder you call that something is not your fault, the more people will suspect you. Therefore avoid these words and be prepared to handle the situation as best as you can. In the end, it pays off far more to find a solution than to find a guilty party.

I can only do one thing at a timedo one thing at the time

Are you betting that your boss recognizes that he gives you too much work? You better think twice, as he will search for the cause and suspect that you can not handle your work properly.

I am overqualified for this job

Simply put, you have accepted this job, so live by it. Complaining about your diplomas or skills not put to work will also reflect badly on your colleagues and your boss may think that you are a bastard. Not immediately the way to make promotion.

What a piece of cake!

In this case, it seems like you find the work in question too easy (read: not very challenging or even stupid). Maybe you said this because you only wanted to convince your colleagues and boss that you are really good at your work. Maybe words are not enough.  You best prove it, as is often the case, with deeds.

That’s not possible

These are probably the worst words you can say to any boss. Even if a particular assignment is a real ‘mission impossible’,  you do not want your employer to suspect that you can not handle your job. So first find out why you are presented with an almost impossible task and take action to achieve the intended goal as well as possible. Your bet will be rewarded twice as well.

zip it about your personal lifeYou do not have to tell everything about yourself

Talking about subjects that do not relate to the work can create a more personal bond between a boss and his employees. But many people, and therefore also bosses, tend to talk exclusively about themselves when they do not know their interlocutor well.

Many employees, and especially new employees, have little interest in the last holiday, the antique collection or the beach house of their manager. (New) employees want to hear whether they are doing well and what can be improved. Employees who have been working for the same employer for a long time also prefer a boss who is visibly caring about them rather than a manager who constantly talks about himself.

My private life really does not matter to you.

“And, how do you make it, uh, your children?”, “Are you going to do something nice tonight?” or “Who do you thinkprivate life not applicable tonight will win the match?” are questions from bosses who seem to be disingenuous or forced for some employees. Managers have two options: either they really get to know their employees and they know the names of their children, or they keep it strictly professional.

A good way for managers to show that they consider their employees important is the 20% rule. Talk about yourself only 20 percent of the time and let the other person speak for the rest of the time. Getting the feeling that you are being listened to is very important to most employees.

Do you not you see that I’m busy?

You will see it, every time your boss decides to talk to you extensively, it does not really work out well and you get stuck in the work. Do not ever use these words to him. Of course, you make time for your manager, even if you have to work overtime to get your work done. Timing is everything, and therefore bosses must realize that you just want to do your job.

You claim that you respect me … then give me an important assignment.

Bosses can show respect for their employees by entrusting them with important assignments. If, in addition, they allow their employees the freedom to decide for themselves how to complete certain crucial tasks, this ‘respect’ will not go unnoticed. Showing trust does a lot.

Conclusion + recommendation no. 1

So you see there are a lot of pitfalls that employees can fall for, even to the point where dismissal will follow. I hope that I have shown you that even when your intentions are good, you can just make a totally wrong remark with all adverse consequences as a result. Heeding a bit of the above advice can prevent a lot of unwanted circumstances and make your working life a whole lot easier. However, just in case your conduct leads to your untimely dismissal, here is something you can do right away.

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2 thoughts on “How (not) to talk to the Boss”

  1. I have a bit of problem with my boss in the sense that he is a little to friendly. He asks a lot of personal questions and sometimes get a bit to nosy. For example, when I can’t make it to a dinner with colleagues after work he is really pressing me on why I can’t come and asks me what I’m doing instead and so on… Do you have any advice on how to deal with that type of boss or what a good response would be in a situation like that?

    I like the advice on taking responsibility for your own fault. I would say that’s good life advice. Far to many times people like to blame others or circumstances when things go wrong. Being honest, taking responsibility and work to find a solution is always the best way to go.

    Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work!

    • Keeping in mind that a boss generally should be businesslike and professional (80% business and 20% private), you will need to treat very carefully. The 20% private is meant to be somewhat superficial, being polite as is the case in any human relationships. However, this guy wants to poke around in your private life, which is entirely yours. Maybe he does not trust you anymore. I am not sure if you maybe missed many dinners like that? My advice to you is to make it it a habit to go and have dinner with your colleagues as part of your work ethos and the unavoidable team building. Your boss will stop asking and this will take your relationship to the next level.


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