No, I’m not about to actually say these to him anytime soon, but god knows how I’ve felt the urge to say them.
I don’t think I’m the only person who’s spent many an exasperated moment wanting to say a few things to our bosses, but simply can’t. Either you value the job too much to risk losing it, or just in deference to seniority, how we do react to the boss is not always how we feel. So, here’s some things I want to say to my boss, even if he’s mostly not going to read it. Some boss, somewhere, might.
1. You’re not always right
I know conventional rules of hierarchy dictate that we consider the word of our superiors as the holy grail of absolute truth, but it’s possible that you don’t know exactly how my job works. Maybe you’re an excellent marketing guy, but you still don’t know how exactly coding works. So, if I tell you facts about my work, please know that I probably know what you don’t and we both are looking at what’s the best for the business. It’s also completely ok for you to admit that you don’t know something, and I’d be happy to explain. Hierarchy doesn’t have to limit interpersonal learning.
2. Just because you’re my boss, doesn’t mean I can’t judge YOUR performance
Funnily, rules of feedback and performance appraisal only work top down in organizations. However the truth is that I’m secretly judging your performance as well. Maybe I didn’t do as well as I could have, but I noticed you haven’t exactly set things on fire either. I also did notice, your lack the other day to submit a report to YOUR boss. Heard of “Lead by example”?
3. You really don’t have to use jargon with me
I know you’d like to come across as professional, and more informed and so you resort to using terms like “Let’s draw synergies from our collective action by syndicating variables on this component”. But seriously, if you want work done faster, you can just say it in functional terms and I won’t respect you any less. The MBA’s got you this far, talking the language of your audience will take you further.
4. Let’s not pretend to have a “higher purpose”
You’ve tried to motivate me in terms of the “bigger purpose” we’re achieving, and touching lives with our action etc. Let’s face it. Both you and I are in this job for the money and propogating our self interest. I’m likely to be more motivated to do well, if I’m getting a hike and a promotion, than if my performance is helping me “reach my true potential” or helping “change the world” (It’s not) And honestly the better the employees work whatever their motivation is, the better it’s going to be for the company.
5. You’re not helping my career. It’s a part of your job.
In many of our discussions, you talk about exploring my future plans, and how the company can help me fulfill those because I’m supposed to believe that it’s the company’s responsibility to help develop myself and my career. Honestly, I don’t see myself in the company for another 5 years and ideally I want to work at Google. Can you help me get there? No. So, let’s not talk about *my* career development like it’s a service to me, but rather a meticulous plan to get me to commit to this company further.
6. A personal rapport doesn’t hurt
I sent you a “My dog is getting an operation” text the other day. It was my birthday the last week. I know you have a 100 meetings to attend and some high profile work to finish, but a little personal rapport doesn’t hurt. It makes me less intimidated by you, and relate with you a little more. Of course, don’t hug me at every opportunity or ask me when my next period is, but small things like “How’s your dog now?” or a joke about wanting the cake from birthday is a-okay. If I want to take a day off because this, please understand that a job is supposed to enable me to have a better life, not replace one.
7. I really do work better from home.
Let’s face it, the only reason I come to work, is to meet you, and tick the checkbox of being in the office. Unless you’re Google and your office looks like this, I’m actually more productive at home, and my job doesn’t necessitate me to come to work. I wish it was the output, and not the method of inputs that was considered. And when you don’t turn up, I’d ideally like to also not.
8. Don’t apologise for cancelling on that meeting.
Honestly I wasn’t looking forward to it and I was quite happy it got canceled.
9. Want to give me more work? Think of me for for more rewards.
So I’m the go-to person for working on that last minute report to the client for the super important pitch. Or suddenly, I’m also a star coder for the critical project for the company. But how come I was passed for the promotion, right after? Surely, the more-deserving colleague who was not approached to take on the report or the coding project would’ve been happy with the additional responsibility.
Or how about that business trip abroad that I was conveniently forgotten for? Hello! *flashes passport*
10. You want to change the world? Be the most innovative company? Start with yourself
You’ve been spinning the same old managerial spiel managers from the 1990s have spun. (Exhibit A in point 3.) You’ve been denying for eg. work from homes on the pretext of “But there’s no such policy” and you have been doing business the same way probably as East India company did. (Employees don’t get stock, unless you’re a CXO, get your own food, take care of your own transport)
If the company insists on doing things the way they’ve always been done, and sticking to the protocol, how do you expect your employees can do any better? Apple and Google ain’t great companies just because iPhones and Search are the best products, but because they dared to do the business differently, treat their employees not like work-factories, but as people with a stake in the business. You want great work, don’t expect it because the employee has to, but because she wants to.