What The Boss Expects From You: #3

Honest Abe

I don't have a lot of time to write this. Aren't you busy?

What are you doing wasting your time reading this? What Your Boss Expects of You:

#3: Be honest.

Don't get me wrong. He or she doesn't care if you're honest with other people. Or maybe he or she does, but that's not what we're talking about here. She or he simply wants you to be honest with him or her.


> if you promise to deliver numbers, and the numbers aren't coming in as planned, get with him or her early and let him know that she or he is going to have a problem on his or her quarterly earnings conference call with about 300 analysts;

> if you say you're in Bangladesh, you shouldn't actually be in Petaluma. You'd be surprised how many people at all levels are lying when they tell you where they are.

> if the thing is due on Monday, and he or she drops by on Friday afternoon and says, "Everything under control?" don't say, "Sure!" unless you really mean it. Better to get your ass kicked beforehand than afterwards, when there is nothing you can do about it.

> if he's about to give a presentation at review time that is going to lead to his destruction, you will tell him about it;

> if he or she has snot on his or her nose, you will offer a hankie;

> if there is an enemy at his or her back, you will give a teenie heads-up.

That kind of thing. Your boss expects you to tell the truth when it counts. The rest of the time? Tell him or her that he or she looks good in that new suit.

21 Comments Add Comment

This was a nice article but the deference to political correctness in referring to 'he or she' seemed to detract fromt the article. Can't this be rewritten in a neutral form and be easier to read.

worst article everrrrr...

I don't have a lot of time to write this. I'm busy. But this is fun. Honesty. No-brainer. I'll bet you think you won't get a lot of negative feedback on this one; and you shouldn't. Probably the worst that could be said is that it's a two-way street, and bosses get what they give. But, given that this series is about what the boss expects or wants, rather than anything the underling expects or wants, your focus is legitimate. Now back to work.

Honesty goes a long way as it is an indicator of reliability - I'm a fly on the wall in most high level meetings and they all talk…like a bunch of woman gossiping over Starbucks…Executives flap their gums too. Get caught in a half truth once and they'll never take you serious again. Can't keep your story straight? Trust me, they talk and they will quickly catch on. I've seen promising managers that got caught up in their own reflection give "right answers" versus those that gave "honest answers" - trust me honesty is far more palatable than numbers gone a awry. My boss can deal with honesty when he is headed into a board meeting - it level set's expectation. I've also seen him come flying out of those double doors over inaccurate information, red-faced with steam coming out of his ears…coming unzipped because someone gave a "right answer" versus an "honest answer". If he looks bad to his bosses boss - your going to be feeling worse when your pouring over Monster job postings...isn't there a chapter on this in your "Sun Tzu was a Sissy" book?


And if you want to take a vacation at an inopportune time, your boss also needs to be honest about that not being a good time for you to go.

The boss who lets the employee take a vacation during crunch time and then tries to guilt-trip him afterwards is being deceitful and manipulative.

Yo, A.G. in Jersey City -- the vacation thing was two episodes ago; and sure, Stan screwed that one up, but . . . just let it go, okay?

I normally don't comment against other posts HOWEVER -I'm sorry A.G. in Jersey City- I believe it's not being manipulative so much as it is giving you enough rope to hang yourself...think about it. Here is a clue, perhaps it is a test to see where you are at with your own work related priorities. When an executive has to start thinking for his team (about fundamental things) why keep them on payroll? Either your head is in the game or you can go back to the bench in middle management. These are simple, color within the lines rules - not deep corporate strategy.

The other side of it is when you have a boss who only cares about their butt. The one who re-arranges your projects that screws up your project delivery date just to try and have a bigger bottom line leaving you looking like a liar to your client after you promised (per your boss) that it would be delivered at that time.

You know what? I'm amazed at people who are still ragging me about that whole vacation thing. Look. I believe people should take their vacations. I also believe people should not take their friggin' vacations when I need them the most. Get over it.

And you know what? You don't have to do any of these things. You don't have to show up. You don't have to dress right. You don't have to be honest. Just don't be surprised when the boss starts acting like a jerk toward you. Contrariwise, you give the boss what he wants and most of the time, executive dementia notwithstanding, you'll do better and be happier in your job than if you do not. Capish?

Actually, I think there are bosses out there who really don't want honesty. Take my former boss...a total tyrant who in annual reviews rarely gave constructive feedback and never gave positive feedback. He, in fact, was completely opposed to giving positive feedback and repeatedly informed his underlings of his aversion to giving positive feedback.

When people would finally get fed up with his negative attitude and find another job (which happened frequently), in his exit interviews with the departing employee, he would always ask, "what can we do differently around here." Inevitabley, he would get a response like, "well, you might want to consider giving some positive feedback every once in awhile." (i.e. stop being such a jerk all the time). He would respond something like, "well, I've never done it in the past and I don't think I'm going to start now."

So, I have to conclude this boss really didn't want to hear the truth. He wanted to hear some canned line like, "No, everything was fine; you were fine; I'm sad to be leaving, but [I couldn't pass up this opportunity] [I really want to move closer to family] [it's not you, it's me].

Of course John is right. There are many, many bosses who can't really handle the truth. The one John describes sounds like a total loser. I'm sorry for the people who work for those kinds of people. Actually, most bosses need their truths neatly bundled and wrapped with a pretty ribbon. But this guy sounds like a total moron. We can only hope that HIS bosses will one day start wondering why there's so much attrition in that department. I've seen it happen. I can think of at least two people in the last several years who have been canned because they couldn't retain a functional team around them. So there's hope.

Oh, I also wanted to say a word to Bill in New York. Of course it's weird to read "he and she" and "him and her" all the time. But I get a lot of mail from women who think I am only addressing men when I say "he" all the time, or attacking women when I shift over to "she" for balance. And I don't want to revert to the slopping use of "their" when I'm talking about one person. And I don't want to start using idiotic constructions like heshe or he/she. So it's tough. I actually wanted to point up the weakness of our language in this area by having some fun with the whole thing. Like, is this the way we're supposed to write these days?

I'm totally with you Mr Bing on the whole he/she thing. For the most part I just say screw it and stick with he or him. Being relatively old (66) people are more accepting of my lack of political correctness. I really hate getting myself all twisted around the axle trying to word something that nicely recognizes the existence of both genders. It reminds me of a little spoof I pulled on my wife. I said, did you notice that they're changing the name of the Wegman's supermarket? (She bit.) To what? To Wegperson's.

So, why does it matter if you tell your boss that you are in say, Paris, and really you went to the Greek Isles for the 4th time this year because you met someone really great there and don't want your office to know about it?

Well, Julian... you must really be good at the BlackBerry. And I'd like to know what business you're in. It sounds like fun.

Julian, you don't want the office finding out? or you don't want your "significant other" finding out from the assistant?

Yeah Julian, sounds like you're starting to spin a web of lies. Assuming you're in Greece on legit vacation (and God bless you for having that much time off...are you from France?) its hard to figure whats wrong with saying "I met somebody nice there." I think maybe Anonymous has nailed it.

"At the same time, SEC filings show the company's chairman has made a $13 million profit in the past month selling a stock on the decline." [By Chris Isidore, CNNMoney.com senior writer]

When it comes to honesty, I follow the leaders.

Bing, when are you going to write a series on what your employees expect from you?

never blindside the boss....i guess the article is spot on, on this point....