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Words to use with the boss

  • Your boss said something that left you speechless. As you stew about the incident, you think of a dozen eloquent retorts, but now it’s too late. Use these phrases when your boss says:
  • “You should have known better!” Perhaps your boss assumes you know things when you don’t. In that case, say “If I knew then what I know now, I would have acted differently. To make sure something like this never happens again, could you give me more information in advance?”
  • “That’s the way I’ve always done it.” Some bosses are stuck in the past—to their own detriment. In that case, say “It may have always been done that way, but circumstances change. Maybe we should take a fresh look at it.”
  • “Just make it happen.” In response to a demand like this, it’s your responsibility to educate the manager about the risks and alternatives. Say: “I’ll be happy to make it happen, but here are some things you need to be aware of before I do,” or “If you want me to proceed in spite of these potential risks, a better approach might be …”
  • “That’s not the way I wanted it done.” Sometimes, in the rush of a busy day, managers fail to give specifics about a project. That’s understandable. But when a boss keeps his vision of the end result locked in his head and expects you to read his mind, it can be very frustrating. Respond by saying “You told me you wanted X,Y and Z. It seems that you wanted A and B, and I’ll be happy to do it that way.”
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