3 things you never tell your manager

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jun 09

While it is important to have a good relationship with your manager, it’s still business. Your manager has tremendous influence over your career, your raises and bonuses, and whether you should stay or go in a layoff.

You have nowhere near the same influence in your manager’s career, raises, or to stay or go in a layoff. The relationship is not equal, even if it might look equal.

Consequently, in unequal relationships, it is wise to not tell the other person everything under the sun.

Don’t tell your manager to lay you off

On the surface, perhaps even in your grandest graciousness, you’d think that telling your manager if a layoff opportunity comes up, you’d “want in” would be a good thing. It tells your manager that your willing to be laid off reducing some management angst and you’d be saving someone else’s position.

But it doesn’t work that way. Instead, telling your manager you would take a layoff if one comes up says that you’ve already given up the motivation of doing your current job. It tells your manager you’ve already decided to move on. Dead man walking, so to speak.

And the killer: even if you want a layoff, you might not get it when your manager follows the legal process of laying people off. So not only do you not get laid off, you have a manager that knows your heart is not in the work. That leads to all sorts of things, none of them good for you.

Don’t tell your manager your retirement plans

Two years ago, I had a person tell me their retirement plans for he and his family and it sounded terrific. The family should have been out of the workforce and enjoying the good life. Then the economy casually took a 40% haircut on their retirement savings. And they didn’t retire. They still have to work.

Telling your retirement plans to your manager means your manager starts to subtly change the work you get to do. “He will be gone in a year,” your manager thinks. “No more big projects because they might run longer than planned. Besides, he won’t give the effort since he’s just coasting to retirement.” Coasting, like anyone can coast nowadays, but that’s the attitude.

Now you don’t get the good stuff to work. Now you have a perceived attitude problem even when you don’t have an attitude problem. And when you don’t retire when you say you will, you aren’t following through on your “commitments.” Ouch.

Don’t tell your manager you’re looking for a different job outside the company

Dead man walking. By telling your manager you’re looking, you’re telling your manager you’ve lost the commitment to work there. You’re telling your manager not to give you good stuff to work because you are a temporary worker at best.

This is different then talking through getting a job in a different area of your current company. That makes sense if it is done in a way that shows career growth and some logic. But telling your manager you are looking outside the company? Nothing good will come from it, especially if you stay because you can’t find that job outside the company.

Manager – employee relationships are not equal

Your manager has way too much influence and control for you to look at the relationship anything close to equal. When push comes to shove, your manager has all the control tools and you have none.

What have you regretted telling your manager?

  • Dan Erwin says:

    That’s a fine list of street smarts. Lindsey Pollak suggests that many Gen-Yers lack street smarts. Don’t know whether that’s true, but your short list is one for all to imbibe.

  • Scot says:

    I’m sure there are others that have gotten people into difficulty on the job. Any others?

  • I would add… Don’t tell your manager “It’s not my job” when asked to do something. This is a phrase the signifies a poor attitude that will not bode well for you. There are tactful ways to do so, such as if you are being asked to do things that are beyond your job description or abilities, have a heart to heart with you boss and let them know that you are struggling with these things. You don’t need to give an ultimatum. If they are overall happy with you, they will make necessary changes to try to keep you. Good managers know that if you are not happy long enough, you won’t be sticking around long.

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