Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

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Soul.in.Progress
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Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Soul.in.Progress » Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:16 pm

Ok, so a recent thread and the responses in it were so highly intriguing to me that I felt compelled to post. I'm an introvert, and this is my first starting of a thread [edited because I incorrectly said first post, but I meant first thread start :oops: ]. I've been a long time lurker and have always appreciated the collective wisdom of Bogleheads!

I thank radnor for his recent thread viewtopic.php?f=11&t=216825&newpost=3334749

and as I was reading through the responses, in particular a few nuggets of wisdom stood out to me, i.e. several people mentioned not to say anything negative about one's boss: eldinerocheapo called it "a landmine" and KlangFool said "it would come back to haunt." I'm sure others may have made similar comments but this is as far as I got in that thread and my intrigue got the best of me :D

I really want to understand this, particularly from anyone who understands why this is a bad thing or has first hand experience that they're willing to share. A little bit of background on me: I've been at the same company (a US fortune 500 company) for at least two decades. My education/degrees are in STEM, and in my current role I am at what is considered a very high technical level. Essentially over the years I somehow managed to climb up the technical ladder, and am a subject matter expert with (I believe) a good reputation in my organization. I have generally enjoyed my employment at this company, though like any workplace or megacorp, I've seen and experienced organizational BS, surprises, good/bad bosses, etc. Being human, I have also made mistakes. In fact, I think my EQ (emotional quotient) is lower than where I wish it was.

Which brings me to the question: why is it bad to say something negative about a boss? Is there never an appropriate time or person within the organization to discuss this with, or is it more that radnor's question was about lunch with the CEO so the recommendation is not to bring petty things to the CEO that should be handled by say, HR, or your one-up manager instead?
With my perceived low EQ, I feel this is one area where I could learn from direct wisdom, because I really would like to learn why this is a bad thing. I somehow must have kept my trap shut just enough over these past few decades to get lucky :shock: , but right now am experiencing a somewhat horrible boss, and would greatly appreciate the wisdom. Thank you in advance!
Last edited by Soul.in.Progress on Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Start by doing what is necessary; | then do what is possible; | and suddenly you are doing the impossible. | -- Francis of Assisi

Teague
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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Teague » Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:33 pm

Soul.in.Progress wrote:Ok, so a recent thread and the responses in it were so highly intriguing to me that I felt compelled to post. I'm an introvert, and this is my first post. I've been a long time lurker and have always appreciated the collective wisdom of Bogleheads!
...
Because nothing remains a secret for long in almost any organization, and eventually what you say will get back to the boss. This is not beneficial to you.

As far as being an introvert, this is very common, and normal, and should not make any difference.
As far as this being your first post, your post count - look over to the right, below your name---------------------------------------------->
-seems to differ.
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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Accrual » Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:37 pm

Teague wrote:
Soul.in.Progress wrote:Ok, so a recent thread and the responses in it were so highly intriguing to me that I felt compelled to post. I'm an introvert, and this is my first post. I've been a long time lurker and have always appreciated the collective wisdom of Bogleheads!
...
Because nothing remains a secret for long in almost any organization, and eventually what you say will get back to the boss. This is not beneficial to you.

As far as being an introvert, this is very common, and normal, and should not make any difference.
As far as this being your first post, your post count - look over to the right, below your name---------------------------------------------->
-seems to differ.
I believe they mean that this is their first authored thread.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Soul.in.Progress » Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:45 pm

Accrual wrote:
Teague wrote:
Soul.in.Progress wrote:Ok, so a recent thread and the responses in it were so highly intriguing to me that I felt compelled to post. I'm an introvert, and this is my first post. I've been a long time lurker and have always appreciated the collective wisdom of Bogleheads!
...
Because nothing remains a secret for long in almost any organization, and eventually what you say will get back to the boss. This is not beneficial to you.

As far as being an introvert, this is very common, and normal, and should not make any difference.
As far as this being your first post, your post count - look over to the right, below your name---------------------------------------------->
-seems to differ.
I believe they mean that this is their first authored thread.
Yes, apologies that is what I meant and I edited my original post just now. Just in case anyone was doubting that I was a human that made mistakes, LOL :wink:
Start by doing what is necessary; | then do what is possible; | and suddenly you are doing the impossible. | -- Francis of Assisi

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Teague » Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:52 pm

Soul.in.Progress wrote:
Accrual wrote:
Teague wrote:
Soul.in.Progress wrote:Ok, so a recent thread and the responses in it were so highly intriguing to me that I felt compelled to post. I'm an introvert, and this is my first post. I've been a long time lurker and have always appreciated the collective wisdom of Bogleheads!
...
Because nothing remains a secret for long in almost any organization, and eventually what you say will get back to the boss. This is not beneficial to you.

As far as being an introvert, this is very common, and normal, and should not make any difference.
As far as this being your first post, your post count - look over to the right, below your name---------------------------------------------->
-seems to differ.
I believe they mean that this is their first authored thread.
Yes, apologies that is what I meant and I edited my original post just now. Just in case anyone was doubting that I was a human that made mistakes, LOL :wink:
No worries. Understand that what may get you is not someone directly going to the boss, but indirectly.

Sometimes this is manifested from passive-aggressive behavior, it's everywhere and all too common, which can be leveled at well-meaning folks as a poor coping mechanism.
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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Pajamas » Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:53 pm

Soul.in.Progress wrote: Is there never an appropriate time or person within the organization to discuss this with, or is it more that radnor's question was about lunch with the CEO so the recommendation is not to bring petty things to the CEO that should be handled by say, HR, or your one-up manager instead?
Lunch with your CEO is definitely not the time to complain about your boss. That is not why your CEO is having lunch with you and your CEO is closer to your boss than to you. It will only make you look bad. The meeting is primarily for the CEO's benefit, not really for yours, even if it is said to be otherwise.

I once had a direct manager so bad that upper management including the head of the division and the head of HR came and met individually with each employee in the department to investigate. Even then, I just described the problems that I personally experienced in a factual way. The problematic manager was simply transferred to another department in a position similar to their previous position rather than in a managerial role and an experienced manager was brought in because the department had chewed through several managers already.

Other than in a situation similar to that, no good can come of speaking badly about your boss. It can only harm you. Even going over your boss to the next level or to HR should be reserved for critical situations such as fraud or harassment that can create liability for the organization and you are still putting yourself at risk.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by KlangFool » Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:59 pm

OP,

1) In order to be extremely useful to you, how about you post something about what you might say about your boss and we can offer the rebuttal on how it may come back to haunt you.

2) You have a job. You are hired to do your job. How your boss does his/her job is none of your business. It is his/her boss's job to make sure that your boss does his/her job. So, why do you choose to comment about your boss? You are being a busybody and stick your nose in where it does not belong.

3) If you have to complain about your boss, it means that you are not being effective in doing your job. It does not matter what kind of boss that you have, you have to be productive. The ability to work with any kind of boss is the sign of maturity and capability. Ditto on working with lousy customers, peers, and so on. If you can only be effective and productive in a perfect environment, what does that say about you?

4) Now, unless it is an outright case of sexual harassment, ethnic violation and so on. Then, you may have to do something.

5) The real world is imperfect. You either know how to deal with it effectively or you don't.

KlangFool

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Loik098 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:15 pm

Soul.in.Progress wrote: Which brings me to the question: why is it bad to say something negative about a boss?
Because the boss cannot control what is done with what you have said, if you choose to go above/around him or her. Above all else, employees want control of their own destiny in the workplace.
Soul.in.Progress wrote:Is there never an appropriate time or person within the organization to discuss this with
The appropriate time is when your boss asks you for your opinion on how he/she is doing their job. The appropriate person to discuss your issues with is your boss, and ONLY your boss. You should resolve issues directly whenever possible.

That said, I think there are very few times when taking this opportunity will be to your advantage. Most people in the corporate world are not wired to accept criticism from those they feel superior to.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by hicabob » Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:33 pm

People tend to be blabbermouths given enough time. I always thought that a person should be appreciative to the person who thought enough of them to hire them so should speak kindly of them. That person is usually their boss.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by WoodSpinner » Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:35 pm

OP

Great thread! I wish I had been smart enough to work on my EQ earlier in my career.

I like KlangFools suggestion to do some role playing on this It's a very effective technique for practicing the nuances of what you want to say.

So much depends on what is going on, your relationship to your boss, and the ability to deliver and receive targeted feedback In a non-threatening way.

That said, my firs step is to usually to try and engage my boss directly around an issue. Typically I focus on:
  • What occurred -- just the facts
    The impact it had on you or others--still the facts
    Suggestion for shifting behavior

It can be a bit intimidating at first but very rewarding.

I often establish coaching agreements early in our relationship which usually helps to break the ice. For instance when I got my latest boss, I sat down with him and asked him to keep an eye out during meetings and provide feedback if I wasn't encouraging engagement (e.g. Causing people to shut down). This made it easier for him to ask for my help and feedback as well

This way, if it's really important and I decide to escalate to the next level (which is not the CEO in my case) it's not a surprise.

Lastly, if it's a harassment , intimidation, violence, or felonious behavior. I would be heading straight to HR, Ombudsman, or a tip line. Fortunately I have not had to do this myself.

Should be interesting to see what others have to say

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by KlingKlang » Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:46 pm

Besides the very real possibility that any negative comments that you make about your boss will get back to him by one means or another, any other manager who hears you criticizing your boss directly or indirectly will be reluctant to hire you or give you a position in their department out of concern that you will speak the same way about them.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Dutch » Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:54 pm

It will come back to your boss.
Your boss will be unhappy with you.
That is bad for you.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by rosylenm » Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:30 pm

I worked at a place once where the CEO decided to "check-in" with each individual staff member to see "how things were going." She had not done this since her first year there (10+ years ago) and I am guessing she wanted to do it again because of a letter that was sent to the Board of Directors from someone who was hired and fired in less than eight days. In the letter to the board (and cced to certain staff members myself included), the former staff member called into question the CEO's ability to run the organization and poor treatment of staff. The Board "investigated" her allegations and found them to be without merit less than 24 hours later (they issued a letter the next day).

So back to the checking in thing (summer 2012) staff was fretting and hand wringing scared about what to say blah blah blah. And everyone was talking about how they were going to tell CEO what she wanted to hear (everything is fine, no problems, etc.). Then comes my turn and I am pretty sure that I am the only dumb dumb who told the truth (or my experience thereof) about what was happening--morale is in the toilet, saddled with a database that doesn't work, certain staff members' productivity scrutinized while others get a pass, etc. Soon after the check in and over the next eighteen months or so, I was disinvited from certain staff meetings (despite being invited by CEO because "my input was valued"; her words not mine), not expected to assist at member events, relieved of almost all non-program related committee duties, de-keyed (used to have after hours access as exempt employee but when we moved was the only exempt employee without after hours access), pretty much ostracized for my failure to fall in line and tell CEO what CEO wanted to hear. Lying is not my forte despite my former profession. The funny thing is, the following year the Board decided, for the first time ever, to do a 360 degree evaluation of CEO with input from all staff members. Not long after CEO's evaluation concluded,CEO decided to retire two years earlier than she had originally planned.

What did I learn from all this poo poo?? A lot about myself and people in general. And speak your truth, but be prepared for the blowback (and there will be blowback).

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by KlangFool » Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:34 pm

OP,

From the book, "The Secret of Consulting" by Gerald M. Weinberg.

If they didn’t hire you, don’t solve their problem. (The Fourth Law of Consulting.) A common occupational disease of consultants: we rush to help people who haven’t asked for help.

[KlangFool] You are hired to do your job. Not doing your boss's job.

Clients always know how to solve their problems, and always tell you the solution in the first five minutes. (The Five-Minute Rule.) Unbelievably, this is true—the hard part is listening well enough to notice.

[KlangFool] In spite of what you believed, your boss know his/her problem. You do not need to tell him/her.

http://www.conferencesthatwork.com/inde ... d-my-life/

KlangFool

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Soul.in.Progress » Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:44 pm

Wow. I continue to be impressed by the wisdom and experience, and generosity with helpful insights, that folks on this forum provide. All replies have been very helpful to me, and I thank each who has replied.

One additional piece of information, is that in my current situation, I believe (based on what I have read from some articles online), that what I am currently experiencing with my new boss, is on the spectrum of bullying/hostility. I think that is why the question about why not say anything bad about a boss was ringing in my head when I read the related thread.

So, while it makes sense to me to not bring it up to the CEO (that was my guess, that lunchtime with the CEO is not a good choice of venue or person), and going routes other than directly with my boss is also not a good choice (because it will eventually get to him anyway and is not the professional thing to do), I guess my follow-on question is: is there any exceptions to cases where I feel there is bullying, intimidation tactics, hostile environment, etc. In that case, is it still best to first approach the boss about my concerns? Or is it better to go straight to HR, or straight to the one-up? Forgive me if I should know this, but I'm just checking if all of the above replies also hold true if I perceive bullying/hostility from my boss? Or is my best option to use my feet and walk away, i.e., leave the job and/or employer?

I thank in advance again, for all responses.
Start by doing what is necessary; | then do what is possible; | and suddenly you are doing the impossible. | -- Francis of Assisi

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by KlangFool » Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:54 pm

Soul.in.Progress wrote:
One additional piece of information, is that in my current situation, I believe (based on what I have read from some articles online), that what I am currently experiencing with my new boss, is on the spectrum of bullying/hostility. I think that is why the question about why not say anything bad about a boss was ringing in my head when I read the related thread.
Soul.in.Progress,

You need to be more specific. In many cases, it may have nothing to do with you. Your boss might be the new kid on the block. He might feel intimidated by you.

You just need to do your job. And, make sure that more than your boss know this.

From "How to win friend and influence people" by Dale Carnegie. People are self-centered. So, they care more about themselves than anyone else. So, it is more about your boss than you. His hostility may have to do with something about himself.

KlangFool

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Tycoon » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:11 pm

What good will come for speaking badly about your boss?
...I might be just beginning | I might be near the end. Enya | | C'est la vie

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:24 pm

Never bite the hand that feeds you or signs your paycheck. Why? Do it and you'll find out when HR pays you a visit, or when you fail to get promoted or when an opportunity opens up but your passed over. Bosses want people they can trust around them, if they can't trust them there is no relationship.
"One should invest based on their need, ability and willingness to take risk - Larry Swedroe" Asking Portfolio Questions

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:31 pm

Let me clue you in on something, HR works for management. If you call HR, they are going to call your boss. Get it? It's like you making an indirect call to your boss.Don't do it, nothing good comes from it and memories are long, the boss will never forget. Call HR for healthcare questions, payroll, retirement.
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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:36 pm

Dutch wrote:It will come back to your boss.
Your boss will be unhappy with you.
That is bad for you.
Last person I know who did this got into a heated conversation with boss, not once, twice and then escalated into a screaming match. Guess who won? :oops:
"One should invest based on their need, ability and willingness to take risk - Larry Swedroe" Asking Portfolio Questions

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Teague » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:51 pm

OP, you may indeed feel there are "bullying, intimidation tactics, hostile environment, etc." Please understand these are not uncommon, not illegal (with very few specific exceptions for certain extreme behavior) and you are likely to encounter this sort of thing at various points in your career. If it's bad enough, it's usually just best to change jobs. Better just suck it up and get used to it.
Semper Augustus

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by rosylenm » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:53 pm

Reading this thread, I feel so grateful for my current workplace (not the nightmare in previous post). It's not perfect and it's a bit dysfunctional at times, but it's workable and everyone there is pretty open to and encourages giving/receiving feedback.

I am going to text my boss right now! :wink:

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by GKSD » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:54 pm

My opinion only and based on my experience. I assume you don't have a personal gripe with your boss and the issue is not of a sensitive nature like harassment. And that all issues are work related and you want your boss to work bit differently or you want your boss to improve in certain situations or you think your boss is dumb and knows less than you.

Saying negative about boss or anyone at work would not be perceived well - you don't want to come across as merely complaining, it will only degrade your credibility. You want to come across as being constructive - you would look good if you put recommendations and suggestions on how to fix things and enumerate clearly how those negative things are hurting the work (projects, milestones, culture etc...). The mechanics of how you would want to deliver the message and the feedback depends on the specific situation and avenues you have. Typically there is a formal feedback cycle (performance ratings) and if you are sought feedback on your boss - you can provide a detailed and constructive feedback during that. If there is no such opportunity, you would want to wait for an opportune time - like wait for next time you see the problem and use that opportunity to bring your non-personal constructive feedback on the table. If it is a public setting, the better for you - you would want to come across as constructive in front of many other people, including your bosses peers. Not to show others that your boss is dumb but to build your credibility in front many others. Do it again next time and again next time. Be positive, persistent and constructive. Focus on the merits of the message only. The odds are that message will seep in but it takes time, you don't want to suddenly rock the boat. Meanwhile continue with business as usual, keep building your credibility, what is there to loose.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by GoldenFinch » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:58 pm

My husband is a boss (owns a tech company). He has employees who adhere to different levels of business etiquette. Some are highly professional and others are clueless. The clueless ones sometimes complain about him and it always seems to get beck to him. Fortunatately for them he is a very understanding sort, but I'm usually surprised about some of the things people will say at work and not worry about their jobs.

Loose lips sink ships. :wink:

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by sunny_socal » Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:01 pm

KlangFool wrote:OP,
<snip>

3) If you have to complain about your boss, it means that you are not being effective in doing your job. It does not matter what kind of boss that you have, you have to be productive. The ability to work with any kind of boss is the sign of maturity and capability. Ditto on working with lousy customers, peers, and so on. If you can only be effective and productive in a perfect environment, what does that say about you?

<snip>

KlangFool
I agree with your other points, but not this one. If you must complain about your boss, it's not OP's fault -it's the boss! I've also had some horrible bosses but it's got nothing to do with me, they were just abusive, power hungry bullies who used others to get ahead.

There are times to complain about the boss, but don't do it at work - complain at home. If the seams are about to burst in any facet of your life, perhaps it's time to find a new job. The bullies also tend to be survivors because they are two-faced: to their superiors they are angels and any complaints generated at work are likely to be met with complete incredulity. Everyone under the boss knows the truth, but there is no easy escape.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by oldzey » Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:08 pm

I used to work in a restaurant back in high school (30+ years ago).

My boss had this saying taped to the wall next to the timeclock:

"If you work for a man, in heaven's name work for him, speak well of him, and stand by the institution he represents. Remember, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. If you must growl, condemn, and eternally find fault - resign your position, and when you are outside, damn to your heart's content - but as long as you are part of the institution, do not condemn it. If you do, the first high wind that comes along will blow you away, and probably you will never know why." -- Elbert Hubbard
"The broker said the stock was 'poised to move.' Silly me, I thought he meant up." ― Randy Thurman

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by KlangFool » Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:08 pm

GKSD wrote:My opinion only and based on my experience. I assume you don't have a personal gripe with your boss and the issue is not of a sensitive nature like harassment. And that all issues are work related and you want your boss to work bit differently or you want your boss to improve in certain situations or you think your boss is dumb and knows less than you.

Saying negative about boss or anyone at work would not be perceived well - you don't want to come across as merely complaining, it will only degrade your credibility. You want to come across as being constructive - you would look good if you put recommendations and suggestions on how to fix things and enumerate clearly how those negative things are hurting the work (projects, milestones, culture etc...). The mechanics of how you would want to deliver the message and the feedback depends on the specific situation and avenues you have. Typically there is a formal feedback cycle (performance ratings) and if you are sought feedback on your boss - you can provide a detailed and constructive feedback during that. If there is no such opportunity, you would want to wait for an opportune time - like wait for next time you see the problem and use that opportunity to bring your non-personal constructive feedback on the table. If it is a public setting, the better for you - you would want to come across as constructive in front of many other people, including your bosses peers. Not to show others that your boss is dumb but to build your credibility in front many others. Do it again next time and again next time. Be positive, persistent and constructive. Focus on the merits of the message only. The odds are that message will seep in but it takes time, you don't want to suddenly rock the boat. Meanwhile continue with business as usual, keep building your credibility, what is there to loose.
GKSD,

If it is a public setting, the better for you - you would want to come across as constructive in front of many other people, including your bosses peers.

Sorry. I have to disagree. I had worked for 30+ years. I have never seen any time that it works well in a public setting. What works is the person seeded the ideas across multiple stakeholders including the boss. Then, he/she get buy-in from the boss and the department. After that, let the boss bring up the idea and he/she may clarify the idea if call upon.

From the book, "The Secret of Consulting" By Gerald M. Weinberg

You’ll never accomplish anything if you care who gets the credit. (The Credit Rule.)

Read the rest of this article at: http://www.conferencesthatwork.com/inde ... d-my-life/

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by KlangFool » Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:17 pm

sunny_socal wrote:
KlangFool wrote:OP,
<snip>

3) If you have to complain about your boss, it means that you are not being effective in doing your job. It does not matter what kind of boss that you have, you have to be productive. The ability to work with any kind of boss is the sign of maturity and capability. Ditto on working with lousy customers, peers, and so on. If you can only be effective and productive in a perfect environment, what does that say about you?

<snip>

KlangFool
I agree with your other points, but not this one. If you must complain about your boss, it's not OP's fault -it's the boss! I've also had some horrible bosses but it's got nothing to do with me, they were just abusive, power hungry bullies who used others to get ahead.

There are times to complain about the boss, but don't do it at work - complain at home. If the seams are about to burst in any facet of your life, perhaps it's time to find a new job. The bullies also tend to be survivors because they are two-faced: to their superiors they are angels and any complaints generated at work are likely to be met with complete incredulity. Everyone under the boss knows the truth, but there is no easy escape.
sunny_socal,

I was a manager for 10+ years. And, I never work for the CEO directly. So, all my bosses are middle managers. I feel sympathy and empathy for most of my bosses. Those in the middle are squeezed from the bottom and the top.

<<they were just abusive, power hungry bullies who used others to get ahead.>>

The middle managers have no power. They do not last long enough to matter anyhow. They essentially can do nothing for or against me.

<<There are times to complain about the boss, >>

Why waste my time and energy? I have better thing to do that make me happy.

KlangFool

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by RudyS » Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:21 pm

I retired 15 years ago, after a great 35 year career at megacorp. I had great bosses, mediocre bosses, a couple of poor ones, and one who was a complete disaster. That was the time I started to think about alternatives. The saying "this too shall pass" has some validity. BUT, I never complained to anyone other than my wife!

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by GKSD » Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:22 pm

KlangFool wrote:
GKSD wrote:My opinion only and based on my experience. I assume you don't have a personal gripe with your boss and the issue is not of a sensitive nature like harassment. And that all issues are work related and you want your boss to work bit differently or you want your boss to improve in certain situations or you think your boss is dumb and knows less than you.

Saying negative about boss or anyone at work would not be perceived well - you don't want to come across as merely complaining, it will only degrade your credibility. You want to come across as being constructive - you would look good if you put recommendations and suggestions on how to fix things and enumerate clearly how those negative things are hurting the work (projects, milestones, culture etc...). The mechanics of how you would want to deliver the message and the feedback depends on the specific situation and avenues you have. Typically there is a formal feedback cycle (performance ratings) and if you are sought feedback on your boss - you can provide a detailed and constructive feedback during that. If there is no such opportunity, you would want to wait for an opportune time - like wait for next time you see the problem and use that opportunity to bring your non-personal constructive feedback on the table. If it is a public setting, the better for you - you would want to come across as constructive in front of many other people, including your bosses peers. Not to show others that your boss is dumb but to build your credibility in front many others. Do it again next time and again next time. Be positive, persistent and constructive. Focus on the merits of the message only. The odds are that message will seep in but it takes time, you don't want to suddenly rock the boat. Meanwhile continue with business as usual, keep building your credibility, what is there to loose.
GKSD,

If it is a public setting, the better for you - you would want to come across as constructive in front of many other people, including your bosses peers.

Sorry. I have to disagree. I had worked for 30+ years. I have never seen any time that it works well in a public setting. What works is the person seeded the ideas across multiple stakeholders including the boss. Then, he/she get buy-in from the boss and the department. After that, let the boss bring up the idea and he/she may clarify the idea if call upon.
KlangFool
Very glad you have worked for 30+ years. I haven't read the article but please don't over-extend and stretch the thought here in literal sense. I am not suggesting to publicly humiliate, or bring forth radical sounding, polarizing view points. That never works. The spirit of what I am suggesting is to slowly build the credibility of the viewpoint broadly, beyond the boss-personality. The mechanics of how to accomplish this cannot really be summarized - it all depends on OP's circumstances and OP would need to figure out the delicate balance and the timing.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by KlangFool » Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:29 pm

GKSD wrote:
KlangFool wrote:
GKSD wrote:My opinion only and based on my experience. I assume you don't have a personal gripe with your boss and the issue is not of a sensitive nature like harassment. And that all issues are work related and you want your boss to work bit differently or you want your boss to improve in certain situations or you think your boss is dumb and knows less than you.

Saying negative about boss or anyone at work would not be perceived well - you don't want to come across as merely complaining, it will only degrade your credibility. You want to come across as being constructive - you would look good if you put recommendations and suggestions on how to fix things and enumerate clearly how those negative things are hurting the work (projects, milestones, culture etc...). The mechanics of how you would want to deliver the message and the feedback depends on the specific situation and avenues you have. Typically there is a formal feedback cycle (performance ratings) and if you are sought feedback on your boss - you can provide a detailed and constructive feedback during that. If there is no such opportunity, you would want to wait for an opportune time - like wait for next time you see the problem and use that opportunity to bring your non-personal constructive feedback on the table. If it is a public setting, the better for you - you would want to come across as constructive in front of many other people, including your bosses peers. Not to show others that your boss is dumb but to build your credibility in front many others. Do it again next time and again next time. Be positive, persistent and constructive. Focus on the merits of the message only. The odds are that message will seep in but it takes time, you don't want to suddenly rock the boat. Meanwhile continue with business as usual, keep building your credibility, what is there to loose.
GKSD,

If it is a public setting, the better for you - you would want to come across as constructive in front of many other people, including your bosses peers.

Sorry. I have to disagree. I had worked for 30+ years. I have never seen any time that it works well in a public setting. What works is the person seeded the ideas across multiple stakeholders including the boss. Then, he/she get buy-in from the boss and the department. After that, let the boss bring up the idea and he/she may clarify the idea if call upon.
KlangFool
Very glad you have worked for 30+ years. I haven't read the article but please don't over-extend and stretch the thought here in literal sense. I am not suggesting to publicly humiliate, or bring forth radical sounding, polarizing view points. That never works. The spirit of what I am suggesting is to slowly build the credibility of the viewpoint broadly, beyond the boss-personality. The mechanics of how to accomplish this cannot really be summarized - it all depends on OP's circumstances and OP would need to figure out the delicate balance and the timing.
GKSD,

By the way, I was the dummy that did this a few times in the public setting. It never goes well. Then, after a while, somebody else brought up the same idea and claimed the credit later since they have the ears of the key stakeholders.

The C-level folks only listened to their trusted advisors. If you are not one of them, do not waste your time and energy pushing your idea.

KlangFool

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Dude2 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:38 pm

I think it is absolutely your duty to complain about a boss that isn't doing his job as well as he should, but I'm not referring to personality conflicts or bullying. Bad decisions made by a boss have tremendous impacts. It is an "all hands" responsibility to correct a wrong course. I have seen VP's fired due to decisions/strategies their middle managers had made where everybody in the chain just nodded all along the way. The corporation needs people on the ground doing everything they can to make things work. Your voice is important and needs to be heard. Tact is critical.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by bluejello » Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:16 pm

There's a right way and a wrong way to do this.

Right way: in a one-on-one meeting, suggest to your boss that if she did X differently, it would be more productive for the team. Be specific and constructive. For example, someone on my team recently suggested that we make certain changes to our recruiting process, which was presented well and received well.

Wrong way: grumble to your co-workers behind the boss's back about how he is terrible at X Y Z. Make it personal instead of professional. Or even worse, grumble to your boss's boss about it.

You should never "complain", but you should give specific and constructive suggestions on how top make your workplace better.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Tamales » Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:34 pm

There are lots of possible scenarios, and doing nothing is not always an option. To some extent it depends on whether you have a type of job where your boss just barks out orders and assigns specific tasks, versus a job where most tasks are fuzzy and evolve based on things you learn along the way and that require frequent interaction with your colleagues and your boss, and your boss has valuable subject-matter expertise.

If the latter, and if you boss is inaccessible, frequently cancelling or rescheduling meetings where you need the decisions or information from those meetings, or is unresponsive to emails or other communications asking for guidance on manager-level decision, or not giving you information you need to do your job or always waits until the last minute, or various other things that DO impact you and your colleagues ability to meet your own deadlines with a high quality result, then something has to be said. But this is a case where it's nothing personal to any affected individual (and the only way you can know this is to talk with colleagues). If you think it's personal to you, then you have a very different problem and the general advice that you'll end up on the short side is probably true more often than not.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by KlangFool » Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:13 am

Dude2 wrote:I think it is absolutely your duty to complain about a boss that isn't doing his job as well as he should, but I'm not referring to personality conflicts or bullying. Bad decisions made by a boss have tremendous impacts. It is an "all hands" responsibility to correct a wrong course. I have seen VP's fired due to decisions/strategies their middle managers had made where everybody in the chain just nodded all along the way. The corporation needs people on the ground doing everything they can to make things work. Your voice is important and needs to be heard. Tact is critical.
Dude2,

<< I think it is absolutely your duty to complain about a boss that isn't doing his job as well as he should,>>

Why? It is not your job to manage your boss.

<< I have seen VP's fired due to decisions/strategies their middle managers had made where everybody in the chain just nodded all along the way. >>

Why is that a problem unless you are the VP? If you are the VP, you deserve to be fired. How do you know that the VP is not one of those do not listen?

<< The corporation needs people on the ground doing everything they can to make things work. >>

The corporation needs people to do their job. As for the rest, why bother? I do not own the company. I am not the CEO. I have neither the duty, pay, and/or responsibility to make the rest of the corporation.

Do the job that others pay you for. Nothing more and nothing less.

Let's say you hire someone to fix your plumbing. Then, the person starts telling you how to be a better parent. Guess what you will do to the person?

KlangFool

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by KlangFool » Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:31 am

Folks,

Why do people underestimate the power of doing nothing?

A good organization has a way to get rid of bad managers. You do not have to do anything. It does not have to rely on someone to complain. It should have a process and capability to do this. Now, if the organization keeps the bad managers, the problem is probably a lot deeper and higher up. So, it is not solvable by complaining about the boss. You should move to some other organizations.

"A fish rots from the head down"
http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/fish ... -down.html

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by KlangFool » Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:43 am

Folks,

Sometimes, the quickest way to get rid of a bad boss is to let things blow up. If you patch those small holes, the bad boss will be around longer.

"Let it be".

KlangFool

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Dude2 » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:26 am

KlangFool,

I recognize what you are saying, and I believe there is truth to it in a particular context. On the other hand, I come from a military background, and we are instilled with a teamwork attitude. This doesn't mean we don't recognize rank and chain of command, but my assertion is that it truly is an "all hands" responsibility to correct the problems from the ground up and not allow disasters to happen. In other words, if you are sailing on the ship, flying on the plane, or riding in the MRAP, it is not in your interest to say, "that's not my job." In fact, if you figure out a way to help fix the problems that you recognize exist, you are setting yourself up for climbing the ladder to the top. Everybody below that VP or CEO essentially also works for them, not just their direct reports.

Good luck. I appreciate your viewpoint.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by jlcnuke » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:39 am

KlangFool wrote:Folks,

Sometimes, the quickest way to get rid of a bad boss is to let things blow up. If you patch those small holes, the bad boss will be around longer.

"Let it be".

KlangFool
Sometimes when things blow up, collateral damage ensues and it's not just the person who was incompetent that suffers. Others just tend to suffer all the way up to the explosion as well.

Constructive criticism and or conversations "with a bad boss" won't always have a positive effect, and often will have a negative impact on the person attempting to give it. Similarly, constructive criticism "about a bad boss" won't always have a positive effect, and often will have a negative impact on the person attempting to give it. That doesn't mean that neither approach is ever unwarranted or inappropriate. It simply means that the individual situation must be analyzed to determine the best solution, which could be doing nothing or talking to the boss or talking to someone else in the organization. What is the "best" solution depends on the individual situation and no answer fits all situations.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by lostdog » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:40 am

I worked in IT for 20 years. Almost the exact same situation as you. I had a bad boss for 5 years and I kept my mouth shut. She eventually was replaced. There will always be people you don't like in a corporate environment. You just have to pucker up and kiss their butt. I got sick and now recovered after two years. We met our "enough" number. Even if we don't invest any money at this point we'll retire comfortable at 65. Based on this I am not returning to the corporate environment. I will be a part time salesman self employed.

If you want out I suggest you save as much as possible. For some people a corporate environment is no different than prison.
"Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify." -Thoreau

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by Lynette » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:41 am

KlangFool wrote:Folks,

Sometimes, the quickest way to get rid of a bad boss is to let things blow up. If you patch those small holes, the bad boss will be around longer.

"Let it be".

KlangFool
+1

After working for two megacorps for nearly 50, I came to the conclusion that if I wasn't happy with something that was relevant to my direct work situation, I had to have the guts to say it directly to my boss. Otherwise if will definitely get back to your manager. This is why I did not place much value on my annual reviews. If there was a problem, I felt I had to deal with it directly with my manager. If you don't think you can discuss it with your manager, be silent.

If the issue was of a general nature such as involving the direction of the company's product line on which I wanted information, I felt comfortable raising this in a general meeting with the CEO.

Where I've worked managers got moved around organizations changed so often I had a new manager at least every two years.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by tractorguy » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:55 am

In my 32 years at two megacorps, I had good and mediocre bosses. I managed to avoid the bad ones, thank goodness. I've also had a couple of overseas assignments which meant that I had ample opportunities to meat a constant parade of vice presidents and executive VP's who were checking up on their far flung empires. My observation is that the executive office and managers 2-3 levels up from those doing day to day work don't have the same priorities, interests, or viewpoint that the working level does. Complaining to them about daily operations is akin to a mouse complaining to a lion that the coyote is too aggressive and the cheese isn't fresh. At best you're going to get ignored. At worst, you've attracted the attention of another carnivore.

The possible situation is;
1) Upper management already knows about your bosses failings and is taking steps behind the scenes to deal with them. These may range from training to disciplinary action. No matter what is going on, all personnel actions must be held confidential and it is between your boss and his management. Just because you can't see the action doesn't mean it isn't happening.
2) Upper management is encouraging your bosses behaviour for one of many reasons. He may have orders to change the department's direction. He may have orders to trim staff and is encouraging people to leave by making it a bad place to work. You don't know what is going on behind the scenes and any complaints are likely to backfire.
3) Upper management doesn't know what is going on. If the company is well run, this will resolve itself. If its poorly run, and the situation stays the same, its time to look for another job because nothing you can do can fix it.

Its been my experience that good managers know about the failings of their staff. Your bosses boss will figure out quickly enough if your manager is creating a toxic working environment. Its pretty obvious when someone is hogging credit, shifting blame, or doing other things to create a toxic working environment. The bosses peers are going to see it and pass the message upwards.
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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by IFRider » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:02 am

Many years in megacorps also (always an IC, never a boss). In my experience speaking badly about anyone in the organization is a bad strategy.
This especially applies to your boss. The golden rule is alive and well.

I've made the mistake of speaking badly about my bosses in the past and learned that 5 minutes of catharsis results in hours worrying
about the consequences.

If you care about your job, or if you care about how you are perceived as a professional, don't do it.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by fposte » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:13 am

Another problem is that some people who freely speak badly of their bosses are chronic complainers who are problems in their own right. It can be difficult for somebody just hearing the complaint to know that this is not you.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by 10YearPlan » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:16 am

tractorguy wrote:In my 32 years at two megacorps, I had good and mediocre bosses. I managed to avoid the bad ones, thank goodness. I've also had a couple of overseas assignments which meant that I had ample opportunities to meat a constant parade of vice presidents and executive VP's who were checking up on their far flung empires. My observation is that the executive office and managers 2-3 levels up from those doing day to day work don't have the same priorities, interests, or viewpoint that the working level does. Complaining to them about daily operations is akin to a mouse complaining to a lion that the coyote is too aggressive and the cheese isn't fresh. At best you're going to get ignored. At worst, you've attracted the attention of another carnivore.

The possible situation is;
1) Upper management already knows about your bosses failings and is taking steps behind the scenes to deal with them. These may range from training to disciplinary action. No matter what is going on, all personnel actions must be held confidential and it is between your boss and his management. Just because you can't see the action doesn't mean it isn't happening.
2) Upper management is encouraging your bosses behaviour for one of many reasons. He may have orders to change the department's direction. He may have orders to trim staff and is encouraging people to leave by making it a bad place to work. You don't know what is going on behind the scenes and any complaints are likely to backfire.
3) Upper management doesn't know what is going on. If the company is well run, this will resolve itself. If its poorly run, and the situation stays the same, its time to look for another job because nothing you can do can fix it.

It has been my experience that good managers know about the failings of their staff. Your bosses boss will figure out quickly enough if your manager is creating a toxic working environment. Its pretty obvious when someone is hogging credit, shifting blame, or doing other things to create a toxic working environment. The bosses peers are going to see it and pass the message upwards.
Lots of truth above! I will add some other potential (perhaps even probable) scenarios:
  • Your boss's boss may not know (or care) how horrid your boss is because things appear to be running smoothly on the surface (numbers are on point, KPIs met, not a huge amount of turnover, etc). Poor leadership is often obscured by good results. It happens. And when it does, these situations are perhaps more dangerous to you if you choose to speak out.
    Or perhaps they are well aware of boss's behavior because they, in fact, are also not so great and setting a bad example for your boss.
    It is also possible that your perspective of a "bad boss" is not aligned with the corporation's perspective. I've seen that plenty of times.
If you're brave (and working on that EQ), you could broach the topic with your boss directly. You could say: "Boss, I've noted x, y and z lately and was wondering if you'd be willing to hear my input on how we could improve/change/work together on a solution". OR "Boss, are you open to some feedback on this (Insert scenario here)?" Good leaders should be open to feedback. Great leaders solicit feedback. Bad leaders could potentially punish you for sharing feedback. But in all cases, I always think it is best to go to the source, rather than around the source, and definitely before/instead of going above the source.

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by KlangFool » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:34 am

Dude2 wrote:KlangFool,

I recognize what you are saying, and I believe there is truth to it in a particular context. On the other hand, I come from a military background, and we are instilled with a teamwork attitude. This doesn't mean we don't recognize rank and chain of command, but my assertion is that it truly is an "all hands" responsibility to correct the problems from the ground up and not allow disasters to happen. In other words, if you are sailing on the ship, flying on the plane, or riding in the MRAP, it is not in your interest to say, "that's not my job." In fact, if you figure out a way to help fix the problems that you recognize exist, you are setting yourself up for climbing the ladder to the top. Everybody below that VP or CEO essentially also works for them, not just their direct reports.

Good luck. I appreciate your viewpoint.
Dude2,

<<In fact, if you figure out a way to help fix the problems that you recognize exist, you are setting yourself up for climbing the ladder to the top. >>

1) I have not seen it works this way in a megacorp. The CEO has a guaranteed employment contract. If it works out, he/she get paid. If it does not work, he/she get paid more to leave earlier.

One of my ex-employer paid 24 millions and 1 million per year pension to the CEO to leave earlier for doing a lousy job.

2) There is an inverse relation between individual contributor and the employer. I had the most bonuses and pay raise when the employer is not doing well and laying off employees. The employer knew it had to do that in order to keep the remaining employees. Meanwhile, when the employer is doing well, I have no bonuses and minimal pay raise.

3) If you fix the problem, it means that somebody is not doing their job. Or else, the problem would never exist. And, if it is not part of your job role, you had stepped on someone's territory. There will be repercussion to your boss and your department. Do this too many times, you will be labeled as a troublemaker and show the door.

Now, if you really want to solve the problem, use the back channel to help person responsible. Provide the solution but do not claim the credit or show your hand. I had done this above and beyond my role and responsibilities. I was a very good team player. But, in the time of laid off, nobody that I help stood up for me. It did not matter. I was let go instead of some other non-team player that only do their jobs. Management only saw me as a troublemaker and busybody.

KlangFool

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by SGM » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:41 am

If you speak badly about your boss to someone they might think "what will you say about me someday?"

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by KlangFool » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:43 am

10YearPlan wrote:
If you're brave (and working on that EQ), you could broach the topic with your boss directly. You could say: "Boss, I've noted x, y and z lately and was wondering if you'd be willing to hear my input on how we could improve/change/work together on a solution". OR "Boss, are you open to some feedback on this (Insert scenario here)?" Good leaders should be open to feedback. Great leaders solicit feedback. Bad leaders could potentially punish you for sharing feedback. But in all cases, I always think it is best to go to the source, rather than around the source, and definitely before/instead of going above the source.
10YearPlan,

<< Good leaders should be open to feedback. Great leaders solicit feedback. >>

Let me play devil advocate here.

1) If the leader is good, this kind of problem will never happen. He/she will have a way to find those things out before anyone has to tell him/her. If a person has to wait for someone to tell him/her, there is something wrong. Telling will not fix this.

2) For anyone that work for a while and somewhat effective, we know our own weakness and strength. We do not need anyone to tell us about that. We know. The only question is whether we choose to deal with it or not. For example, I know my problem. It is just in most cases, it is not important enough for me to deal with it.

KlangFool

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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by nisiprius » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:49 am

The framework for thinking about this should be something like this:
a) Am I seriously dissatisfied with my job because of my boss?
b) What actions are available to me that might change the situation?
c) For each action, what is the likelihood that it will make things better? What is the risk that it will make things worse?

If you are not ready to try for a lateral transfer (change your boss without changing your employer), or an actual job change, simply complaining combines a small, but real, amount of risk with a very small chance of positive effect.

I would avoid volunteering any complaints. If someone from the company were to ask me a direct question about my boss, I would give a factual answer, as neutrally as possible, referencing actual actions.

I would add, with others, that I would not trust to confidentiality or anonymity. You just know how things usually go. Someone says "don't tell anyone about this, not even your wife," and you go home and you say to your wife "I'm not supposed to tell anyone about this, not even you, so be sure that you don't tell anybody else..."

I was once sent a survey form at work that said my replies would be completely anonymous and could not be identified with me personally. I noticed a strange six-digit number at the bottom left corner of the form, with no explanation of why it was there. I decided I was not comfortable with the situation and I didn't return the survey. A week later I got a message saying I hadn't returned my survey, and that I should please do it. Yes, I get it that they didn't really mean my replies couldn't be identified with me, they meant "your replies can be identified with you for purposes of managing the survey but don't worry we won't pass your identity on to your employer." Short version: they didn't mean what they said.
Last edited by nisiprius on Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:58 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Why never speak badly about boss? [Need Bogleheads' wisdom]

Post by LawyersGunsAndMoney » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:52 am

For the vast majority of people, speaking badly about the boss can backfire.

For those that are top-producers, have deep relationships with their bosses that would survive any constructive criticism, and have a firm grasp of office politics - being constructively critical can be sometimes helpful.

At my company I'm in a leadership position and report directly to our Founder/CEO. We are on the same page on some things, and on others we're vastly different, and we've discussed this. Our mid and junior level employees interact extensively with the both of us on a daily basis. I very frequently have discussion with said mid and junior level employees when they come to me with issues or concerns about things our CEO has asked them to do, and often these discussions address some of his managerial "issues" which could otherwise be interpreted as "speaking badly about the boss" but in a way that is geared towards motivating them to do what is being asked in the correct fashion.

I also meet regularly with our CEO to discuss similar topics, as well as with his (and my own) Leadership Coach - who is a great back-channel for this same type of criticism or feedback.

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