Outsmarting the HBIC is no small feat (and potentially effing it up can make you an angsty mess). Read on for four ways to pull it off.
“My boss has no time for me.”
“First, try to figure out why exactly she is so busy,” says Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, “then offer to tackle some of her work, which will also help you learn — it’s a win-win.” When you do get a one-on-one meeting, cut to the chase and be prepared. If, for example, you bring up a problem, be ready with three possible solutions. Deploy the same efficiency over e-mail, editing them down to a sentence or two. “If your boss is reading long e-mails, she won’t have time to sit with you and talk about your career and your goals,” says Scott. “If you maintain a productive relationship with her, she’s more likely to invest in you.”
“My boss plays favorites.”
If your manager always assigns the most exciting projects to other people, it’s normal to feel under-appreciated or left out — whether or not he’s doing it intentionally. Start by making sure he knows the value of your work. Crush your tasks, and don’t be shy about touting your results. Still stuck? Ask for ways you can improve or for his thoughts on your efforts. Say, “I’ve noticed that Beth gets great opportunities, and I’d love to understand how I can get similar assignments.” Inviting a performance review is really just another way of proactively asking for help — and people typically respond well to that, says Scott.
“My boss makes me run her personal errands.”
“Sometimes your boss is just desperate,” says Scott, “and it doesn’t hurt to help out in a pinch.” But unless your job title is personal assistant, you need to set boundaries. Next time she asks you to help with her kid’s school project, “Say, ‘Okay, but then [insert pivotal task here] won’t get done,’” suggests Scott. Stressing your work priorities will remind her of your actual duties. If she continues to treat you like a TaskRabbit, it may be time to look for a new gig.
“My boss criticizes me in front of my coworkers.”
In the moment, stay calm: Don’t look scared or get defensive. Later, instead of shit-talking your boss, ask him to elaborate — in private — on what was said. “Embrace constructive criticism,” says Scott. “If you treat it as a gift, you will grow and improve.” Try to agree with at least one point — that will make your boss more amenable when you say, “This is so helpful. Can we talk again the next time you have feedback?”