I really don’t know why I am so enamored of the macho website askmen.com. After all, they didn’t include me on their list of the Top 49 Most Influential Men. On the positive side, they also didn’t include me on their list of the 99 Top Women or the 29 Top American Cities. I really hate it when I end up lower than Granville, Ohio.
Of course, my favorite Top 10 extravaganza is the “Top 10 Things To Never Say To Your Boss,” even if its author, Ross Bonander, has a fairly Paleolithic view of the workplace. In 2011, who gives advice for “the next time you’re chatting (the boss) up by the water cooler”?
Let’s face facts: People have congregated around the water cooler since Mr. Dithers chased Dagwood around his desk. Still, I suppose the same management no-nos could make sense when you’re chatting the boss up by the espresso machine or the ozone generator. Let’s take a closer look and decide.
“Impossible — that can’t be done” is No. 10 on the don’t-say list since it suggests “indifference or a lack of effort.” Frankly, I think it suggests great personal courage. Of course, given the fragile egos of our managers, these seldom heard, discouraging words could derail the progress of American industry. But is that really so bad? What if a direct report to Apple CEO Steve Jobs reacted to the idea of a sleek, interactive, multimedia tablet computer by saying, “Impossible — that can’t be done.” We’d never have to suffer iPad envy again!
No. 9: “This is the best they could do, huh?” is “one of those smart-ass comments that indicates to your boss and to others that you have a deluded sense of entitlement.” As an example, the list-maker believes this is an inappropriate comment to share with your manager in response to “the banquet hall at the family-style restaurant rented for a Christmas party.”
I agree. Considering the pittance you are paid and the measly bonus you can expect, a basket of stale rolls at the Olive Garden is probably the best perk you’re going to get this year. Instead of complaining, show the boss you appreciate the party by loading up her Gucci briefcase with spaghetti Milanese. And don’t forget the Parmesan! Your boss will be so grateful, she may invite you to next year’s executive Christmas party — at the banquet hall of a family-style restaurant in Tahiti!
No. 8: “That’s not my problem” is a nugatory nugget to avoid, according to the author, who blithely assumes that “at the very least, your boss is looking for someone to take responsibility of the solution to this problem — even if it wasn’t yours to begin with.” I disagree. What the boss wants is not someone to take the responsibility; it’s someone to take the blame. You need to make it instantly clear that the person to blame is not y-o-u, and that you have proof. “That’s not my problem,” you could say. “When it all went down, I was sound asleep in the maintenance closet.”
I must also reject the rejection of statement No. 4 — “We should totally hook up on Facebook.” I assume you and your boss are already BFFs on Facebook, a cozy plus-one on Google-plus, linked-up on LinkedIn and planning your first date on Match.com. If you have yet to socially network with your boss, you should know that reporter Bonander believes “social interaction with your boss should, almost without exception, be discouraged.”
Really? A psycho loner like your boss would definitely appreciate a dose of digital companionship. Who knows? He might get so involved on Facebook that he’ll never know you’re slipping out the fire exit every afternoon at 2 p.m.
I can, at least, endorse the negative effect of saying No. 3: “I got so trashed last night.” This admission might indeed suggest to the boss “that you have difficulty keeping your work and your private lives separate, and that you don’t have much discretion at all.”
That’s why I recommend a slight change: “I got so trashed yesterday afternoon when I was supposed to be in the status meeting.” This demonstrates that you care enough about your job to do your drinking at work. You could follow up by inviting your boss to sample the bottle of tequila you keep inside your computer, where all that silly electronic stuff used to go. You won’t need to say anything more. Trust me, that kind of initiative speaks for itself.
Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.