In a perfect world, an employee's relationship with his or her supervisor would be an affable yet respectful one based on trust, communication and a sense of working toward a common goal. But don't get too comfortable. Friendly workplace repartee is fine and all, but as a rule of thumb you should always think before you speak in the presence of an authority figure so as to not regret keeping your tongue leashed in your mouth.
Below we've rounded up eight cringe-inducing things that you should never say to your boss unless you're itching for an awkward censure session, a good, old-fashioned chiding or even a pink slip. And these count for telecommuters, too; just because you don't see your supervisor on a regular basis doesn't mean you can set them up on hot dates, discuss your wicked hangover or complain about how horribly bored and unmotivated you are.
1. Did you hear that hot gossip about Andy in IT? Scandalous, am I right?
Unless the bossman or lady also happens to be a close BFF that you've known for years, water cooler hearsay, particularly when it involves co-workers, should remain right there — at the water cooler. Interoffice chatter can be damaging enough, and when you involve a higher-up, it has the potential to get really messy. For that same reason, you should avoid speaking poorly or complaining about your boss to co-workers, no matter how trusted. Gossip mongering works in mysterious ways and you never know what will get back to him or her. Don't get involved — plain and simple.
2. Can we talk about that gift subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club?
Avoid discussing holiday bonuses — or a lack thereof — with your boss. It's bad form. A bonus is a bonus, and you should thank him or her whether you're the recipient of a generous check or a year's supply of canned preserves. If you're upset about a holiday bonus that's underwhelming or nonexistent, remember Clark Griswold and don't go complaining to your off-kilter cousin Eddie. And when it comes to pay raises/salary increases, don't simply ask for more money. Prove yourself and approach the topic tactfully — avoid ambushing your supervisor and making demands/threats. The key here is to engage your boss and initiate a dialogue before negotiating. How have you already gone above and beyond and what are your commitments for the future? You never know; he or she may very well be on the same page as you when it comes to a potential salary increase. Also keep in mind that the ultimate decision may be a human resources matter and totally out of your boss' hands.
3. I'm busy. Ask Rita to do it.
Four things that should never come out of one's mouth in the presence of an employer: "I can't," "I won't," "that's impossible," "ask somebody else to do it," or, gasp, "do it yourself." Sure, you may be swamped beyond belief with TPS reports, but if a higher-up comes to you for something, your first impulse should be to say "of course" (sigh and roll your eyes after the boss has left the room). If a task is seemingly impossible to take on, don't reject it outright. Instead, arrange for a meeting to discuss your workload with your supervisor where you can discuss possible solutions. He or she should realize that stressed-out and overworked employees lead to lowered productivity and should be sympathetic to your cause.
4. I heard through the grapevine that you have a Match.com profile up … care to meet my recently divorced neighbor?
Unless your name is Patti Stanger, don't attempt to meddle in your supervisor's romantic life (or lack thereof). Matchmaking amongst co-workers is a mostly acceptable practice, but don't get your boss involved unless he or she specifically requests that you help hook 'em up.
5. OMG, I'm so bored!
Just as you shouldn't tell your boss to stop putting things on your desk or your head will positively explode, you shouldn't complain to him or her about being bored or that your job is too easy (there's a reason Angry Birds was invented, you know). If you're truly feeling listless and unstimulated beyond belief, be proactive and ask for additional work or volunteer to chip in with something that needs attention. Chances are, your wish will be granted and your supervisor will appreciate your initiative. If workplace boredom remains a constant problem, perhaps it's time to start putting your feelers out for another position within your company or elsewhere.
6. Happy hour lasted until 2 a.m. for me last night. Can I take off early?
Unless he or she was with you partying it up last night, your boss is likely to have little sympathy for your extracurricular activities, especially when it involves drinking. Don't bother complaining about being hung over to them. Keep a large bottle of Advil at your desk, drink plenty of water and learn from your mistakes. It's not their problem. Also, avoid talking to your boss about your personal financial woes, your marital problems, romantic conquests, proclivity to gambling, politics, religion or anything else that could result in awkward silence or lead your boss to believe that your hot mess of a personal life is interfering with your ability to function at the workplace.
7. I watched "9 to 5" and "Horrible Bosses" back-to-back this weekend. Care to meet me in a deserted parking garage after work?
Expressing your displeasure with a tyrannical or incompetent boss by telling him or her you've been loading up your Netflix queue with workplace revenge fantasies isn't exactly a step in the right direction. If your boss is indeed displaying verbally abusive and unpredictable behavior that's interfering with your performance, stand up for yourself, document what's been going on and consider setting up a meeting with human resources to discuss your grievances (no water cooler gossip). It also helps to remember that you're not alone. According to a 2011 survey conducted by OfficeTeam, 46 percent of respondents claimed to have worked for an "unreasonable boss." Thirty-five percent of employees polled hung in there and attempted to deal with the issue while 24 percent "stayed put and suffered through the torment" from nightmarish boss archetypes such as the "bully," the "micromanager," the "poor communicator," the "saboteur" and the "mixed bag." And as corporate etiquette expert Diane Gottsman tells CareerBuilder.com's The Work Buzz blog, the best — and classiest — revenge against a horrible boss is success.
8. Really? Is this the best the company could do?
It doesn't matter if you're referring to new office chairs, the communal fridge or the location of a company retreat or holiday party. Don't go on a whiny tirade to your supervisor about petty things regarding company spending that don't sit well with you. Not every company lavishes its employees with Herman Miller and Morton's, and no one likes a person with a bloated sense of entitlement, especially bosses.
Related work advice links on MNN:
- The modern office worker's guide to health
- 10 telecommuting pitfalls to avoid
- 5 ergonomic chairs to consider
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Busy: Kevin H./Flickr