How to Boss Your Boss

Isn’t it annoying when you ask your boss at work for something completely reasonable and they reply with a big fat unnecessary “NO”?

Now to be clear I’m not talking about a reasonable “no”, like that time I asked to take compassionate leave because my favourite character on Game of Thrones died…

But we need today off!  He knew nothing!  NO!

The situation I’m talking about has more of a 9 to 5 “that man is out to get you” kind of a vibe to it.   I used to have a boss who said “no” to everything, simply because he didn’t know enough about the work we did to say “yes” to anything. 

He was a perfect example of someone who had been promoted above his abilities and couldn’t cope – I believe the technical term is “a dumbass”.  

This situation was very frustrating because the workplace had become stuck in the past as a result of his reluctance to agree to make any changes.

This PC looks a little old, where's the screen?  It's a typewriter.  What's a PC?

One day (when I was definitely not moaning about this situation) a lovely wise colleague gave me some very useful advice; she said, TELL him that you are about to make a change, and STOP asking him if you CAN make a change.

Woman dressed as Yoda speaks Never ask your boss if do the thing you CAN, TELL him, going to do the thing, you ARE.

She explained that if I simply announced to him what I was doing, without phrasing it as a question, he literally couldn’t say “no”. 

To stop me doing the thing he would have to protest it, and to do that he’d need to come up with a valid reason for why I shouldn’t do it, which, thanks to his lack of knowledge, he absolutely never could do! 

As a result, with my new Jedi powers, work became a fabulous, progressive place. 

Woman tries to do an Obi-Wan on a security guard "You don't need to see my identification" he replies "I really do - this is a secure building, get your lanyard."

Of course it’s great to learn a new trick, and I loved my new ability to Derren Brown my way through life, but, as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility.  Literally, if you push for an action then you’re responsible if it goes wrong, so choose your moments carefully.

For example, I wouldn’t recommend using it to tell your boss and colleagues that you are taking the day off to watch a Star Trek marathon – I’m not saying I’ve never done it, just that, it’s a bad idea if you would like to keep your job.

I would also caution against using this too widely on family and friends.  Use it to stand up for yourself by all means:-

I am going to take a course in that thing you always refer to as a massive waste of time!

But NOT to put upon them:-

Granma banging in a For Sale sign after daughter demands childcare saying "I'm dropping the kids off with you for two hours cos they are a massive pain in my ass!"

I have had friends (and at least one relative you might know of) who have behaved this way and there is a reason I’m using the past tense here. 

People might find it hard to say “no” to a statement, but that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually find a way.  By the time I’ve fought through the frustration of being told what to do, I give a much firmer and final “no” than if they’d simply asked me nicely.

Remember to use any Jedi powers you master wisely.  If you don’t, then you’re not a Jedi, you’re a Sith (Star Wars bad guys).

So in summary, it’s ok to tell your boss what you’re going to do instead of asking, if you’re happy to take responsibility.  It’s ok to tell your friends and family what you’re going to do without asking, if it only affects you.  It’s NEVER ok to tell other people what they’re going to do FOR you, ever.

2 thoughts on “How to Boss Your Boss”

  1. You are my hero because you mentioned teo of my favorite things in your blog all while making complete sense: Derren Brown and Star Wars.

    Another great post- this is a big lesson in life that I wish more people knew. The way we phrase in our daily interactions can make a big difference. By simply “stating our intentions” rather than asking does work, but you can also flip it around and do the opposite. If you are the leader and want to guide your people without micromanging, you can start asking questions like, “What would happen if we…”.

    You are using your Jedi mind tricks to make your people think of different details of the job at hand, in this case.

    As always, you keep raising the bar on what a blog should be and I LOVE the artwork!!! Thank you for writing!

    1. Wow Chris, what a lovely comment, thank you so much!

      Completely agree that it works well the other way around too, encourage action by asking questions rather than barking orders, great point, thank you.

      Derren Brown is amazing, also I love Star Wars and take many (possibly too many) of my life lessons from it. I don’t know what it is about a story where the father went over to the dark side… but it really resonates with me somehow.

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