For the past 24 years, I have been someone’s boss – research assistants, secretaries, programmers, tech writers, artists, animators – the list is long, of both people and positions. When I told my niece the title of this post, she asked,
“Wouldn’t your boss just tell you (whatever it was)? Isn’t that the good thing about being the boss, you don’t need to bite your tongue?”
There are many reasons your boss won’t tell you what he or she is thinking. Maybe El Jefé doesn’t want to get sued, hurt your feelings or put up with a scene in the office. If you are a contractor, the boss may find it simpler to just not renew your contract. It’s easier for the boss to say that Bob got the promotion because he has more experience or they just don’t have enough work to justify two assistant widget makers.
Okay, fine, as a public service announcement, I am going to tell you what your boss did not.
1. Show up when you are supposed to show up. This may seem a bit hypocritical if you read this blog often and know that I don’t do mornings, but that’s not the point. The point is that if I say I will be in Fort Totten, North Dakota at 10 a.m. on April 10th, if you come into the office at that time, you should find me there. Reliable competence is worth more than unreliable brilliance. I can make promises to a customer based on reliable competence and know that those promises will be kept.
2. Get your work done. On time. I really don’t give a fuck that “something came up”. Don’t ever, ever tell me that you couldn’t make a meeting because you got caught in traffic, were snowed in, your internet was down, your car broke down, your phone was disconnected or a hundred other excuses. Get your shit together. There are millions of people in this country who manage to get to work despite traffic jams and snow, who pay their bills on time and don’t get their utilities disconnected – join us! Before you start telling me that there are poor people in America, blah blah blah, let me tell you this – I left home at 15 years old. I know plenty about being poor. I also know that the public library has Internet, there is such a thing as public transportation, which brings me to …
3. It is not my job to fix your problems. Here is the deal that you and I have – you do work and I see that you are paid the amount we agreed at the time we agreed. If I say I’ll pay your expenses, you will get exactly what is promised. If you don’t have child care because your ex-husband is a jerk, then you need to figure that out. I managed to start and run a few businesses as a single mom and then a mom of several children. In our company, people are allowed to telecommute most of the time and are welcome to bring their children and even their dog to the office. If you can’t work late because your child insists that you attend every single one of his soccer games – then you need to provide junior a reality check that he is not the center of the universe. If you broke up with your boyfriend and spent all night crying – I really, truly still expect you to get your work done today.
4. Don’t just do the bare minimum! Most jobs offer a great opportunity for people to LEARN and unlike college, they actually pay you to do it. What a deal! At The Julia Group, you can learn how to do everything from complex statistical calculations to use the video editing software. Specifics may vary from one job to the next, but the more you learn, the more valuable you are to us and the better it is for your future. Don’t just do only what you are specifically asked and then sit on your hands. Suggest something! Ask questions! Explore! There are a ton of resources for learning about your job – an internal wiki, the internet, books. There is no excuse for anyone ever to be just sitting around doing nothing.
5. Passive-aggressive is bullshit. I know people who are very good at whatever the boss specifically tells them to do, but don’t let him or her know, for example, that there will be an inspection tomorrow. If confronted with this fact, they act injured, “You never told me to tell you if the IRS was coming in.” As my mother used to say, if you work for a man, you ought to work for him. If you hate your boss and your job that much that you are trying to sabotage him or her – quit. Go somewhere you will be happy instead of staying around and trying to make everyone else pay.
6. Understand the difference between a major life event and life. In the past year, one of our employees had a baby and another was married. I expected for them to take time off – and they did. It would have been weird if they didn’t. That still doesn’t justify YOU not getting your work done.
7. If there is a problem, of any kind, let me know as soon as possible. Sometimes I will be sympathetic – as with the person whose baby had surgery – and say take as much time as you need and let me know when you are available. Sometimes I will be unsympathetic, as in you miscalculated how long a task would take – but I’ll be a hell of a lot MORE unsympathetic if you don’t let me know you will miss a deadline until I call you three days after the work was due.
8. Related to all of these, no matter how brilliant or hard working you are, there is a point beyond which it is not worth the pain in the ass of putting up with you.
If you take all of these 8 points to heart and mend your ways, before you know it, you will be the boss and God will prove he has a sense of humor by giving you employees exactly like you were.