12 Things We'd Tell Our Bosses if We Could

What's on your list?

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As employees, we are told to be diligent, to follow through, to be “self-starters,” to have a good attitude, to be flexible and patient and dependable and loyal and respectful. We’re told there is no “I” in “team.” We’re told, “You should just be grateful you have a job.” But surely bosses have obligations to us just as we do to them. And surely one of the biggest of those obligations is to seek out their employees’ point of view.

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Of course, not all employees feel free to say what they’re actually thinking. You know who you are! That’s why in today’s column, the employees of the world get to speak up. What would you say to your boss if you could say absolutely anything at all? This is your chance, people.

Here are a dozen to get you warmed up:

1. “Give me the tools I need to do a good job.” If you’re unsure, ask me. But, basically, time, materials, information, maybe even a little authority—these are what I need to succeed.

2. “Admit it when you make a mistake.” It shows you’re not afraid and is the best way to earn my respect. Whatever you do, don’t act as if you never make mistakes. That’s just ridiculous.

[See why you need to be a decent public speaker.]

3. “Don’t treat me like a cog on a wheel.” I’m an individual. If I screw up, tell me. If someone else in my group screws up, tell him. Don’t blame the whole team.

4. “Ask for my opinion from time to time.” I might be able to offer some good ideas if you listened to me even half as much as you expect me to listen to you.

5. “I truly need frequent feedback.” Please don’t wait till the year-end performance review. I can do a better job for you if you let me know what I’m doing wrong, and what I’m doing right, on a regular basis.

6. “Don’t leave me hanging out to dry.” When things go south I need you to be a leader and back me up. If you are not loyal to me, it is impossible for me to be loyal to you.

[See why you don't need to love your job.]

7. “I can’t hear you when you shout.” Maybe someone once told you intimidation is a good management tool. But seriously, yelling at employees just makes you look weak and ineffectual.

8. “Don’t make me work with idiots.” I realize it’s not easy but if there’s a problem person in the group it’s your job to resolve the situation. Don’t let it drag on and on. It poisons the whole workplace.

9. “Have a clear agenda.” If you don’t know what you want, how do you expect me to? I need you to understand your own goals, and communicate them to me clearly.

10. “Don’t lie about deadlines.” There is no better way to lose the trust of your people than to set “fake” deadlines. Trust me enough to be honest with me and I’ll do a good job for you.

11. “Be predictable.” If you behave erratically I will spend more time and energy worrying about what you’re going to do next than working.

12. “Mentor me.” Ask me my goals. Give me projects that help me develop and grow. I will do a fabulous job for you if you take an interest in me and my career. And that’s a win-win.

Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.


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