Thank God It's Monday™ e-zine by Roxanne Emmerich
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Issue: 17
March 16, 2009

Ask Roxanne!

Dear Roxanne,
I'm new to the business world and I want to do it right. I've done a lot of reading with advice about what to do to get ahead, but I'm also wondering what not to do. I don't want to make mistakes that will haunt me later. What's your advice for a real business greenhorn?

- Diane W.

Dear Diane,
My advice for a greenhorn is the same as my advice for a...what would it be, a grayhorn? The biggest mistakes you can make are the ones that infuriate your boss, who for better or worse has the greatest amount of power over your future. I've written this week's column around the three biggies. Everybody makes mistakes, but these are the three to avoid like the Szechuan shrimp at a Chinese buffet on a slow day.

– Roxanne

Do you have a question about how to handle a situation or a relationship in the workplace? Ask Roxanne!


Three Ways to Infuriate the Boss and Shoot Your Career in the Foot

Looking to set your advancement back a square or three? I'll tell
you how.

Whether it's fair or not, one person has more to do with your future career than anyone else—your boss. Oh sure, there are ways around that person's influence. I understand there are also ways to survive a tsunami. But that doesn't mean the next time I go to Malaysia I'm leaving my water wings at home.

If you've decided that solid careers and financial stability are for sissies, here are three ways to infuriate your boss and put a smoking hole in your own foot:

  1. Be two-faced. Remember Eddie Haskell, Wally's annoying friend on "Leave It to Beaver"? Eddie was always over-the-top with the good-boy routine to Mrs. Cleaver's face: "My, what a lovely dress you're wearing today, Mrs. Cleaver!" But the moment her back was turned, Eddie was the head demon in charge of undercutting all she stood for.

    If you want to commit an unforgiveable sin, badmouth the boss's idea by the water cooler right after you told him how much you loved it. Or be a good solider right up until the going gets tough, then bail. Your boss WILL hear about it and will never, ever trust you again.

  2. Let the boss get blindsided by bad news. People who want to avoid surprising the boss go out of their way to communicate news, both good and bad. If the boss gets bad news, especially about your work, especially from another department, and you didn't tell him or her first—you're dead. You will have made the boss look like he or she is out of control and out of touch with the team. You will have become part of the problem. If that's what you were after, well done. Otherwise, yeesh.
  3. Make excuses. Bosses are looking for solutions, period. If you want your boss to see you as completely disconnected from his concerns, start blathering on about what happened that MADE you miss the meeting, or whose fault a mistake ACTUALLY was. HE DOESN'T CARE. I promise he doesn't. So if terminally annoying the boss is your goal, don't own a mistake or help look for a solution. Just make excuses.

If by chance you decide NOT to alienate the person who can do your career the most harm or good, limit yourself to one face, keep the boss informed, and give your excuses to the dog.

Well—depending on the breed.


Three Mindsets for Avoiding the Big Mistakes

Instead of focusing on the mistakes themselves, develop three mindsets that will keep these and similar snafus out of the picture:

  • Consistency. Whenever expressing opinions in the office, run it through a quick consistency check. Are you sending a consistent message, or does it change with the audience?
  • Ownership. Take responsibility for the good AND bad results of your efforts.
  • Solution-mindedness. The moment you find yourself fishing for an excuse, shift to solution mode—BEFORE you reach the
    boss's office.

Ask Roxanne:

Need advice on how to handle a situation or a relationship in the workplace? Ask Roxanne!

Quick Tip:

Get a Reality Check
Identify the person in your office with whom you are the most casual and unguarded. He or she is the opposite pole from the boss. If your messages are consistent between these two, you're good to go!
Let me know how it goes.