5 new ways to hack your boss (without a machete)
When I started my first "real job," I didn't realize how many situations I'd find myself in that were utterly different from most of what I'd encountered before. On top of learning the tasks specific to the job, I had to navigate office politics and figure out what it meant to be "professional." I had to make decisions about these things on the fly, without any experience and with only my intuition to guide me. I made a few mistakes while I figured it out, but eventually I learned to survie and thrive. While I'm still no expert, what I offer here are hacks to common problems that have worked for me and for those I know.
Note: These hacks will be particularly relevant to entry-level positions, but could be useful at other times, as well.
When you've just finished a project:
Let him know you're thinking about the future. Either ask him, "So, what's next?" or let him know you'll be needing some time to get things together before he approaches you with the next project. Something like, "I'm getting ready for the next project. Could we talk about it in an hour/this afternoon/tomorrow/next week after I tie up some loose ends? I've been focusing on getting this done but want to make sure I haven't let anything fall through the cracks." Both approaches let him know that you're focused on what is best for the company. The second allows you to look this way but gives you the break you need when the project you've been working your butt off to finish is finally done.
When she's pointing our your little mistakes (Again!):
Remember that this is part of her job, and may be as distasteful to her as it is to you (or may not, depending on the boss). If the criticism is particularly difficult for you to hear, remember to breathe before you say anything. A deep breath or so, when done surrepitiously, can give you the strength to respond calmly. Then, if it's appropriate, defend yourself. If her criticism is just, nod as she speaks. Tell her, "Thank you for showing me how you would prefer this to be done/how this should be done/how to add a column of numbers/whatever." If she persists, or is talking to you about something for the Nth time, say, "This seems to be something that you want me to work on/I should work on. Are there any resources available to help me improve?" Whether you need to be on time, make the web page load faster, or something else, it's hard for a boss to fault an employee who wants to change. If she points you in a direction, follow through!
When you're swamped and he wants you to do more:
Be honest about what you can do. Most supervisors appreciate hearing when their people are overworked and stressed. If he likes up front, honest people, say, "You know, I'd be happy to take that on, but realistically I won't be able to get to it until I finish with X, Y, and Z. Will that work for you?" He may take it to someone else, or he may give it to you, but either way he knows what he's looking at. If he's going to lay it on you no matter what you say, try, "I'll take that on. Right now, I'm working on P, D, and Q. Where does this fall in priority relative to those?" With this, he knows where he stands and what you have on your plate, and he can determine when you get to it.
When you know you've made a big mistake:
If you can't fix it in time, be the first to let her know. Swallow the butterflies and make your weak knees walk to her office (or write that email). Most of the time she's going to find out anyway, so you're only prolonging the agony and creating a ton of anxiety for yourself if you don't tell her. Your poise and honesty will also make an impression, even if she's upset and there are consequences. At the very least, she'll have a positive sense of your integrity for any future recommendations. At best? You might save your job.
When you're interviewing for a different job:
In a few companies, this is considered tantamount to treason. If you work for one of them, keep it under the table but don't lie if you're asked directly. You might be asked to leave, but they won't be able to fault your integrity in a recommendation. But if you work for most companies (or, at least, most of the ones I've experience/heard about), be honest. Tell her what you're doing. If you're valuable where you are, you would be surprised how many times she will do all she can to get you a counter-offer. If she can't or if she has some other motivation to not re-hire you, she will appreciate not being blind-sided when you turn in your notice.
Photo by littledan77