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Ten things you hate to hear from the boss


Stephen Lacey

Enough with the buck-passing and weasel words.

Enough with the buck-passing and weasel words. Photo: iStock

Following the interest in our piece yesterday on 12 things Australian bosses never want to hear, we thought – in the interests of fairness - we should take a speculative stab at the things you as an employee never want to hear uttered by your boss.  

If we've missed any, let us know in the comments section below.

1. We have to let you go

Could there be a more pissweak way of telling somebody they are fired? The insipidly euphemistic manner in which the whole notion is clothed is enough to make you want to urinate in the fuel tank of your boss's Maserati. "Have" implies he/or she has NO choice (there is frequently NOT a gun at their head). And what the hell does 'let you go' mean? The proper response to this phrase is: "Go where?".

2. You've done great work but there's not a lot left in the budget

Yes, but only because your employer embezzled the money to fund their gambling addiction and keep the mistress in furs. The fact is, you have done great work and it's not enough for the boss to simply acknowledge it. After all, you're not working for compliments; you're working for the folding stuff. That there's not a lot left in the budget shouldn't be your problem.

3. Can you take over this report? By close of business would be great

Issuing unrealistic deadlines is never good for morale. Being 'requested' (read: ordered) to do something in an unachievable timeframe is not only setting you up for an exceedingly late night (during which your spouse might suspect you of having an affair), but also sets up a poor quality result. Be honest and tell your boss you are quite willing to write the report, but you need more time.

4. We've decided to decentralise. Have you ever been to Dubbo?

There are two choices here. You either uproot your entire life, leaving your network of friends and favourite watering hole behind, and move to a place where property prices are cheap and the air is clean, but the most exciting thing is a zoo. Or you stay put and look for another job. Decentralising, or 'restructuring' as it is called these days, is a fact of life when businesses are trying to cut costs. The meerkat enclosure is said to be well worth a look.

5. At least the smaller office will be easier to heat

You can bet your bottom dollar the boss won't be moving out of their enormous Don Draper-inspired space that a professional interior designer assembled for them. Bosses should lead by example, but unfortunately they usually don't. Shifting you down to a smaller office can be demoralising, leaving you wondering whether the next step is the corridor. Or the front door.

6. About this year's team building exercise. Are any of you afraid of spiders?

Nobody, except perhaps your spouse, should be allowed to ask you to do something you aren't comfortable with. There's nothing in your position description about playing high-octane dodgeball, building a raft, climbing a 14-metre wall, or wrestling funnel-webs.  The truth is, unless a team building exercise is meaningful, encourages quality communication, and is able to be transferred back to the workplace; it's just an excuse to see that co-worker you've always admired from afar in a nice, tight pair of leggings/shorts.

7. My kid is starting here next week. I want you to show them the ropes

Just as you aren't being employed to do team-building exercises, you also aren't being paid to be a child-care worker (thank God, because their salary is even more dire than yours). And looking after the boss's offspring is never going to work out well. Either you'll forget yourself and start whinging about what a dick their father is, or you'll overcompensate and look like a dick yourself. That rope you're showing them will become a noose.

8. I'd like you to cover Jim's job while he's on leave. You've got time, right?

Actually, you haven't. That's why they employed Jim.

9. Work from home? I don't think so

So despite all the hoo-haa about your company being in a six-star green rated building, where you compost your own bowel movements to fertilise the rooftop garden, and using soy candles to illuminate the workspaces, and sitting at recycled cardboard desks, you still want me to use all that energy to drive to work to do the same stuff I could do from a laptop at home?

10. I don't want to hear about it; just fix it

This isn't management, it's lack-of-management. And just plain rude.

Communication: it's a two-way street

Paul Barbour, the executive general manager of recruitment specialist the Clarius Group, says honest communication is the key to positive employer-employee relationships. "Irrespective of the message, be honest," he says. "Most people can deal with things, even if it's bad news. It's when you start blurring messages that people become frustrated."

He stresses that honest communication is a two-way street, with the onus just as much on employees as the boss. "People need to be more forthright and we'd all get on a lot better. If you're given an unrealistic time frame in which to complete a task, be upfront and tell your boss it's impossible."

What did we miss? What are some other management-speak classics you've heard?

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59 comments so far

  • "We just need one slide"

    Yeah right. No matter how complicated it is, how long it took, or how important the detail is, Einstein wants 25 words on a PowerPoint to show his other IQ160 friends. Make decisions about me and my team's months and months of hard work on 25 words... with NO or understanding of the subtleties and inter-dependencies and... what do you care. :0

    Did you not get the point of Pointillism? Detail = Big Picture. Think like Seurat.

    Date and time
    August 01, 2014, 1:35PM
    • But, there's more:
      "You know those three days you had off work - when you were so sick that you couldn't get out of bed; well, I've seen the Facebook pictures of you at the 'Rock Concert'".
      "You remember the Christmas party - when you did the Michael Jackson 'Moonwalk' whilst performing a striptease; well, Ms Rigby has decided to accept your proposal of marriage".
      "You know that smart-arse recently arrived university graduate, the one you told that he knew absolutely nothing; well, I've decided to give him a promotion - and he will be your new boss"

      Howe Synnott
      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 2:10PM
    • +1

      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 2:48PM
    • ...or "put that in an Executive Overview". Code word for "Management is too lazy to read the detail of this report that has taken you days and and late nights to prepare.

      Port Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 3:13PM
    • When my boss says ""We just need one slide", I just say "No, we need 2 - a big one and a small one - and a see -saw as well"

      (I build children's playgrounds for a living....LOL !!)

      It Depends
      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 11:17PM
  • ...and yet in yesterday's article, we were told that bosses don't want to hear that something's impossible.
    My personal bête noir is "give 110%", from the mathematically-challenged people brought up on Star Trek without, apparently, understanding the subtext.

    Date and time
    August 01, 2014, 1:47PM
    • We've all got to go to '11', cause it's just a little bit more than 10.

      Spinal Tap
      Hong Kong
      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 3:03PM
    • Oh, God....I cannot stand people or sportsmen/women who talk about "giving 110%". Just give 100%, that will do for now.

      The Black Cat
      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 4:51PM
    • They probably think Spinal Tap is a documentary.

      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 5:16PM
  • "Congratulations on reaching last year's budgets, next year holds some exciting challenges and amazing opportunities in the industry so we have set the budget accordingly"

    In other words, "gee we never thought they would reach budget, we'll make sure they don't get anywhere near next year's budget."

    Employment suicide tip #1. At this point put your hand in the air and ask "Can you give us all a run down of the exciting challenges and amazing opportunities please?"

    Date and time
    August 01, 2014, 1:54PM

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