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4 Things Your Boss Doesn’t Want To Hear (And What To Say Instead)

4 Things Your Boss Doesn’t Want To Hear (And What To Say Instead)

Even though we’re seeing impressive recovery from the Great Recession, many companies are still on edge, considering low profits and nerve wracking bottom lines. For those who want to keep their jobs and advance up the promotional ladder, communicating carefully to the higher ups is crucial. Business always try to attract top talent, but ultimately it’s up to you to make it happen. Here are four things your boss absolutely does not want to hear from you, and what you should say instead.

I don’t have enough time

Since well before the recession officially started, companies have been downsizing, consolidating, and making the employees who are left take on more and more tasks. None of us have enough time, and that almost certainly includes your boss.

Instead of sounding cranky and frustrated, try out:

“I would love to take that on. Can we sit down and discuss prioritizing that with the other tasks I have?”

The key here is that you don’t want to just say yes, especially if you’re already busy. You’ll end up overwhelmed and overworked, and that’s not fun or fair. But at the same time, you need to appear willing. By implying to your boss that something else is going to have to fall off your plate if you add this on, they (should) get the hint to make sure that they’re asking you to do something business crucial. Sometimes, going an extra mile counts a lot in the long run.

It’s all Someone Else’s fault

This is just as annoying as its cousin, It’s Not My Fault. Blaming someone else is not the way an adult manages a situation. Even if it isn’t your fault, pointing the finger makes you sound like a spoiled child who let the dog eat their homework. If the problem really was your fault, just apologize, tell your boss what you’re going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and then make sure it doesn’t happen again.

If it actually was all someone else’s fault, try:

“I understand your concern. I agree that this situation did not play out in a way that was positive for the company. I’d like to sit down with both you and [whoever is at fault] to better understand what went wrong and how to manage this better next time.” 

I can’t do that

There are two things that “I can’t” might mean. The first is that you actually can’t, in which case there are more business positive ways to phrase things. The second is that you won’t, in which case you’re better off stating the source of your objection from the beginning. If you really and truly can’t – when your boss is asking you to draw two red lines in blue ink, for example – then you could try “I’m sorry, I’m a little confused. Are you asking me to…” And then restate their request. This usually clears up any confusion and gets their respect, and if not, it’s the beginning of a dialogue to make sure clarity is reached.

If what you mean is you won’t, then try:

“There’s a lot of potential here, but I see some challenges. Our mission statement says that we prioritize customer satisfaction at all costs, so it seems like raising prices while lowering services might be contradictory with that?”

I’m so hungover

Or “My spouse is so aggravating,” or “Jane in accounting is so mean,” or intimate details of your Friday night date. Your boss is not your best friend, or if they are, talk about those things outside of work, not inside the building.

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You need to be careful whenever you share personal information in a work setting. While all sorts of discrimination are technically illegal, proving discrimination is much more difficult than it looks on paper, and many employees choose to keep a strict separation between their private and personal lives, just in case.

Know your boss; some managers understand and embrace the fact that their employees have lives outside of work, and really mean it when they ask how you’re doing. Others just take surveys from employees to get feedback, and are less open to these sorts of conversations.

If you really are hungover – well, maybe avoid drinking so much on work nights. If your boss asks how you’re doing because you’re clearly unwell, try:

“I apologize, I’m really not at my best. I’m going to get a cup of coffee and focus in on (whatever project you have at the top of your to-do list).”

The key here is to show your boss that even though you’re at work and obviously not feeling well, you’re still focused on work and going to do your best.

Featured photo credit: Kevin Dooley via flickr.com

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Margarita Hakobyan

MBA from the University of Utah

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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