How Not to Annoy Your Boss

January 2, 2017

How Not to Annoy Your Boss

In the previous post, we identified how you might inadvertently convert a personal attribute into a threat to your boss. I’ll take each attribute and suggest how you might lower the threat level if you think it exists.

You are: So you:
Smarter Correct your boss frequently (or infrequently), especially in front of others

In front of others, in a meeting—not good venues. If the correction must come, it should be in private. Now, I’m not talking “No, the bathrooms are on the left.” There are corrections of minor facts which should not raise the threat level.

But if you are correcting on logic, strategy, policy, tactic or opinion, these are ones which might drop you into trouble. Rather than correct your boss in the meeting, do it in private. But even in private,

NOT “You were wrong/misguided/mistaken…”

INSTEAD “I was a little confused in the meeting. My understanding was that [insert your correct information], but in the meeting, it seemed that it was more [insert error]. Did I miss something?”

Also, think whether the issue is important enough to raise at all. If it will prevent your unit from attaining its goals, perhaps. If no wars are going to be fought if you don’t, think again.

You are: So you:
More articulate Interrupt/take over the conversation when your boss is mucking up or missing the point


NOT “What she meant was…”

INSTEAD “Just to add to what she was saying, [insert better interpretation]…”

And again, do you really need to do anything at all?

You are: So you:
Better liked Offer to intercede on your boss’ behalf with a colleague your boss doesn’t get along with


NOT “I know you don’t get along well with Sandra. Would you like me to encourage her to adopt your plan?”

INSTEAD Do nothing. It is your boss’ job to manage her staff, not yours. Your offer is not likely to be interpreted as kindly meant even if it is.

You are: So you:
Taller Tower over him whenever the two of you are together


NOT Standing whenever you are with your boss.

INSTEAD Try to sit down in his presence. I know, I know, this seems like a particularly stupid one but they don’t talk about the short man syndrome for nothing.

You are: So you:
Thinner Talk about the sacrifices you’ve made to keep and maintain your svelte figure


Give her advice on how to lose weight


NOT “I never eat dessert.” This is said when the boss is reaching for a chocolate éclair. “I just can’t afford the calories.”



You are: So you:
Better dressed Give him fashion tips


Make sure she knows how much the new outfit cost


NOT “You know, that shade of blue really washes you out. You shouldn’t wear it.”

INSTEAD Pick something you can praise “I like that blouse” or again SAY NOTHING.

You are: So you:
Better educated Refer to all the advanced learning you are privy to


Complain if your advice isn’t automatically accepted


NOT “In my Masters’ course, I covered this. I don’t know why nobody will listen to me.”

INSTEAD “I know we need to take into account [name context items like what’s been tried before, personal preferences of those in power, feasibility, cost, length of implementation], but I was wondering if [insert shortened version of your idea] might work.”

Often kindly meant

I know that many of these comments arise because you’re truly trying to be helpful. Just be sure that your boss wants the help. For example, if your boss comes says, “I notice how well turned out you are. How do you do it?”—she’s indicating that she would welcome the advice. Unless you get a signal like that, often your best bet is to be like the three monkeys. See Nothing. Do Nothing. Say Nothing.

Next post—when these tactics don’t work.

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