Twenty-Two Things We Want To Say to Our Bosses But Don’t


I came to realize that there are things we want to say to our bosses but can’t (or won’t.) Most of us don’t want to shoot our careers in the foot or we are not sure how stable our “leaders” are when given honest feedback.  Face it, our managers are perched on a fickle stratum of the corporate ladder.  Even the ones we like sometimes just do things that make us wonder what is happening.

So starting a few years ago I began jotting down little things we all think but never say to our illustrious and fearless leaders.   Here’s the list:

It isn’t all about you.

Managers sometime bathe themselves in the thought that work is all about them, their careers, their worries, their little feelings, etc.  The center of their universe is themselves, a shining beacon for all mankind.  Ugh!  I understand the rampant narcissism in managers, but often times they forget that their job is not to get the next job – but to help develop their staff and get actual work done.

We don’t care about your career, your next promotion opportunity, etc.  We will feign caring if it will make you feel better.  We’d much rather talk about our career opportunities, or lack thereof.

I hate when you tell me how to do my job.

I have no issues with you telling me what you want done and when.  What IS frustrating is when you tell me how to do it.  At that point, why not just do it yourself?  When you do this you are presuming that I don’t know how to do the work; or that you know the best way to complete it.  Worse, you’ve reduced my contribution to being nothing more than a cog in the corporate machine.

Who knows, my way might be better, faster, or less costly than yours. If I don’t know how to do it, I’ll ask.

Just because you’re in charge doesn’t mean you are capable of doing all of the jobs under you. Oddly enough most of us are doing jobs that we trained for and have some experience doing.

I know what you’re up to.

You think you’re getting away with skipping out of the office every Wednesday early to play golf when your calendar reads, “Senior Level Meeting?”  I know.  All of us working for you know.  No matter what little scams you may be contemplating, we are all over it.  Heck, we even joke about them behind your back.

My career success is dependent on you (which is why I may be screwed). 

Companies enjoy saying things like, “you own your own career.”  It absolves them of any responsibility and guilt for your career being mired.  In reality though, your success is directly tied to your manager’s ability to get you the right opportunities or position you for advancement.  If your manager fails in this role, you will be stalled career-wise.

It’s not about the number of hours I work…it’s about my contribution.

There are very few jobs where the number of working hours actually matter.  In this age of 24×7 connectivity, you are essentially on a digital leash every hour of every day.  Managers like to point to things like, “Look at Mary, she worked twenty hours of overtime last week,” as a measure of productivity.  In the real-world, Mary may have worked 20 hours of OT because she is plain slow.

I don’t care how hard or long you work.

This may shock you, but I don’t care if you worked a 70 hour week or if your vacation was interrupted.  It doesn’t impress or dazzle me.  You get paid a lot more money than I do so that you will have to put up with that bullshit.   Your long hours or hard work doesn’t inspire me.

When you claim credit for my work, a part of me dies inside.

True story.  I had a manager who got a promotion to an executive level job.  He went on to tell me that it was, in part, based on a project I had worked on – a project I ended up getting a mediocre rating for.  The rat-bastard got promoted because of the work I did – despite his constant interference.  I would have gotten it done much faster if he had not interjected with his weekly random changes of direction.  While I know this was his twisted way of saying, “Thank you,” it ended up as a miserable fail on his part.  Yet he claimed credit for my work and that helped him make a case for his promotion.

Every manager gets to bask in the glory when one of his/her people do well.  Know this: When you take credit for that employee’s work, you crush a part of their soul.

You can be replaced.

Managers are so cute when they believe they are indispensable.  Many harbor this illusion along with the thought that their staff are easily replaceable.  The really dumb ones try to convince their employees of this myth.  Silly managers.

The reality is the higher up in the proverbial corporate foodchain you are, the easier it is to find some self-absorbed egomaniac who can replace you because your skills are more people based rather than technical.

If you think this place will go out of business if you leave, you are sadly mistaken.

Don’t overestimate my loyalty.

True story again.  When I was a kid I worked at a Drive-In movie theater.  I liked my boss but eventually I got a better job and moved on.  My boss generated paychecks for me long after I was gone, cashing them himself, and used the money to help repair the run-down theater.  When I found out and demanded he stop, he told me I was disloyal to him – but agreed to stop breaking the law.  When I discovered he was still doing it, the assistant manager and I contacted his manager and got his ass fired.  Yeah – I was a bad ass kid at 16.

Loyalty is intangible at work.  It takes a long time to build up and can be wiped out in a matter of seconds.  Just because I seem to like you and listen to your stories about work, don’t presume that loyalty goes much beyond that.  When a manager starts making decisions based on his or hers interpretation of employee loyalty, they’re doomed to fail.

You sometimes sell me out and I despise it.

Sometimes office politics kicks in and you feel the need to compromise your team or individuals.  We get it.  Know this; we hate it.  A spine is a terrible thing to waste.  When we talk to you one-on-one you are very formidable and tough sounding.  Then you go off wimp out.  Please grow and maintain a pair.

You’re not nearly as perfect as you think you are.

To hear you tell it, you are God’s gift to managerial excellence.  Oddly enough you are not perfect.  Most people aren’t.  Sometimes it is downright entertaining to hear you pontificate about how good you are in your role and how invaluable you are.  Most of your staff would love to have a double of whatever it is you’re drinking.

You, however, make mistakes.  Most of the time we let your blunders slip (okay I don’t, but the other team members do).  In some cases we cover them up to protect your delicate ego.

When you say one thing and do another, I secretly plan your murder.

It’s called consistency and you might want to try a cup of it now and then.  When you tell me to do something one way, then contradict that and have me do it another way I find myself plotting your demise.  Flip-flopping, waffling, and changing direction only serves to sow the seeds of unrest with us peasants.

We talk about you behind your back. 

Sometimes we get together and say good things about you, so stop being paranoid.  More often than not, we just validate your current level of craziness with each other.  If it makes you feel better, you are often the focus of your staff’s conversations.  Usually these calls start with, “Can you believe he did that?” and go downhill from there.

When you force me to a social activity, I stick a pin in your voodoo doll. 

If you make me go, it’s not social.  Look, I spend way too much time with people at work as it is.  When you force or compel me to attend after hours events under the auspices of “team building,” I know what you’re up to. This is just a way to squeeze more work time out of me with the promise of simulated fun.  All we do at these things I think, “how can I get out of here without being noticed?”

My time is just as precious as yours.

So when you make me prep for a 7am call, then cancel it after hours the night before (so I don’t find out until 6:45am) I tend to get a little testy.  Oh, I understand that something came up but I could have enjoyed that extra twenty minutes of sleep. Oddly enough, despite our pay differences (which are vast), my time away from work is exactly as important as yours.

You are completely predictable. 

We all know what you’re up to.  Your name and the word “sly” don’t come up often in the same sentence.  After four weeks your staff have pretty much figured you out.  Despite your delusions of being James Bondish, you’re closer to Mr. Bean.   You are not as complex and sophisticated as you think.  Your direct reports have all figured out what your trigger point, hot buttons etc. are.  Sometimes I say stuff just to initiate an overreaction on your part.  (It’s one of the few fringe benefits I have in my job).

This is not a bad thing.  Because we know you and your work traits, we work better as a team.  We’re more efficient and can anticipate what you are looking for sometimes before you know it.

I can tell when you’re not paying attention – and I sometimes take advantage of it.

I know you think you can multitask but no one can.  One certain days, I can jingle my car keys and you will drop what you’re working on to watch them.  Your distractions may be insulting but they also provide us with opportunities.  To be blunt, you have no idea the things I have recorded you agreeing to (wink!)

I respect you – to a point.

Despite your idiosyncrasies I do respect you.  But only until you abuse that respect or give me good reason to question it. Oh, and don’t expect me to demonstrate that respect. I don’t want to look like a boot-licker.

You are more inconsistent than you realize.

Your inconsistencies provide us fodder for talking behind your back.  Even I have to admit, it is funny when you complain to us about the budget while you are on a business trip.  It is hilarious when you tell us there is no money left for training, when we all know you are going to a class.  We find it amusing when you tell us we can’t afford to get something done at work, while you are in the car service on your way to your next trip.  The sad truth is we look for those quirky little inconsistencies between what you say and what you do.  It gives the staff something to whine about.

Just because your boss doesn’t appreciate you – doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pat me on the back every now and then.

With most employees there is very little from turning a frustrating day of feeling unappreciated into a climb onto the roof with a high powered rifle to pick off their manager and co-workers.  It’s a remarkably thin line between the two mental states.  Occasionally, you need to tell me how well I’m doing and acknowledge the hard work I’ve done.  Whether your boss does it for you is irrelevant to me.

You’re not the only one with a crazy boss. 

Think about it…think about it…ah ha!  You got it.

Despite all of this, we have your back. 

I have stood up for you when you weren’t there.  While you have a love fest with yourself, there are others in our organization who are, shall we say, less appreciative of your contributions.  I will never admit it to you, but I have defended you. When others criticize you, I defend you.  The reason is simple – I have EARNED the right to be critical of you – they haven’t.  That, and a modicum of loyalty.

Like these?  Check out my book, Business Rules:  The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords.  It’s a shameless plug, I know, I get it.

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