How to Lose (or Save) Your Job
How to Lose (or Save) Your Job
Posted January 25, 2010
"It's all in the packaging" applies to more than the latest irresistible gift you bought. It also has a lot to do with how you package your actions and verbal communications at work. Case in point: an independent study we released recently showed that employees spend 19.2 hours in a seven-day week (13 hours during the work week and 6.2 hours on the weekend) worrying about what their boss said or did!
But what about you? How can your daily words and actions be presented so that you advance in your job? This article is based on research that helps identify how you can manage up, which comes in handy with a diffucult boss, in difficult times. And if you work for such a boss - a TOT (Terrible Office Tyrant) - what statements would you never communicate?
While this latter part of the study - verbatim responses from U.S. employees - is more lighthearted, it does illustrate that many offices today unfortunately resemble a corporate playpen, and that there's room for improvement. Let's first take a look at saving your current job.
In a national independent study of 586 employees commissioned by Lynn Taylor Consulting, we asked, "What techniques do you believe work for employees who must ‘manage up' with childish bosses?" Here's how their answers ranked:
1) Strong listening and communications skills
2) Demonstrating calm under pressure
3) Being a good role model for leadership and respect
4) Proactive problem solving
5) Working around a boss's strength's and weaknesses
6) Using humor
7) Showing empathy
This research helped lead me to my favorite acronym, not only for saving your job, which certainly helps during a period of 10 percent unemployment - but also for thriving in it. It's called "CALM" - Communicate (openly, honestly and frequently); Anticipate (remain aware of potential problems before they escalate and offer proactive solutions); Laugh (use levity to diffuse tension and create a bonding atmosphere; and Manage (manage up, or "parent" without patronizing, by using positive and negative reinforcement with certain behaviors, e.g., by setting limits to poor behavior).
How to Lose Your Job
If you consider yourself a maverick, need that extra push to become a permanent entrepreneur - or always wanted to know what it's like to burn your bridges, then you can follow the lead of what some employees dream of saying at work! In a related study, we asked employees to state what they would say to bosses who slip into "TOTdom" (childish behavior), if there was no reprisal.
This is not to say that all employees or support teams aren't capable of behaving like TOTs themselves! If you subscribe to the theory that we all share the same basic human instincts, needs and fears, then it stands to reason that TOTs run across the org chart, whether we're two or 52. With that caveat in mind, here's what employees would say to childlike bosses, in order of priority:
1) Why don't we compromise? (P.S. This is the only phraseology that does work with both children and managers!)
2) I can't hear you when you shout!
3) Stop whining!
4) That's not allowed!
5) I'm leaving!
6) You're cranky; do you need a nap?
7) Go to your room; you're getting a time out!
8) If you ask one more time, you'll never get that!
9) Are you teething or do you just need a cookie?
Saving your job might be the choice for now, avoiding that temptation to be the "maverick" - giving yourself time to seek greener pastures if necessary. And if it helps to use humor to get you through the day, you can always remember these nine phrases that gave our respondents at least some temporary solace.