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Lifescripts for Managers
- Part 1 -
Lifescripts for Your Boss
1. Meeting with a New Boss
Your first meeting with a new supervisor is vital, since it often sets the tonefor the entire relationship. Whether your new boss is coming in to clean up a troubledsituation or to step into the shoes of a successful manager who has moved on, andwhether he is coming from within or without the company, you can count on one thing:He will want to put his own stamp on operations. That's why your goal in this firstmeeting should be to get a hint about his plans. In order to do that, make your firstconversation seem spontaneous and casual--a simple welcome. Use whatever informationyou gain in this quick scouting mission to develop a full-fledged plan for a subsequent,in-depth, formal meeting.
- Attitude: Keep in mind this is only a scouting mission, but you still want to make a good first impression.
- Preparation: Learn as much as you can about your new boss's habits and history. Any specifics you learn can be used to make your subtle flattery more effective. Don't be concerned about actually using all your researc h.
- Timing: Timing is probably the key to pulling off this dialogue as planned. You must make sure to beat your new boss's secretary or assistant into the office, so you can casually just stick your head in the door and say hello. The secret is to make sure you're the first one in the office the day you've chosen for the meeting. This needs to be a speedy encounter.
- Behavior: Project warmth and good humor by smiling, making and maintaining eye contact, and offering a firm handshake. While this is supposed to be a casual conversation, don't forget to remain respectful and humble. If you can find a spot to offer some subtle flattery, feel free.
This script can be modified to:
- Introduce yourself to a newly elected official.
- Welcome a new neighbor.
- Introduce yourself to your child's new teacher.
- Conduct a reconnaissance before a major business meeting.
- Start by simply introducing yourself and offering a welcome.
- If you're brushed off or having trouble getting a hint, float a suggestion in order to get a response.
- If the new boss probes to see if there's more to your sudden appearance, honestly say you'd like to get a sense of his priorities.
- If he wants to talk right then, beg off, blaming it on a client or customer. You don't want to take the chance of making a mistake because of your lack of knowledge and preparation.
- If he mentions a problem, don't get defensive. Instead, handle it the same as if he simply offered a topic for future discussion.
2. Asking Your Boss for a Raise
While it has never been tougher to get a raise than today, it's still possible.The key is to realize there are only three acceptable reasons anymore: Your contributionsto the company's bottom line have increased dramatically; your responsibilities haveoutgrown your job description; or your income hasn't kept pace with the going ratefor individuals with your skills and experience. Using and documenting one of thesearguments, and forcing your supervisor to fall back on a poverty excuse, will atleast result in your obtaining further nonfinancial compensation or a deferred promise.And sometimes, that's the best you can hope for.
- Attitude: Remember that your salary has nothing to do with your value as a human being. It is solely a reflection of what your supervisor or company is willing to pay for your services. It's an entirely economic issue.
- Preparation: It's essential to have irrefutable documentation that backs up whichever of the three arguments you're using. When it comes to documenting industrywide salary ranges, draw on trade magazine surveys, headhunters, and professional associations. All your information should be included in a memo, with appropriate attachments, that outlines your argument.
- Timing: The best times to ask are shortly after a positive evaluation, upon successful completion of an important project, or after receiving some third-party recognition, such as an award. Avoid Mondays and Fridays entirel y. Ask for an appointment either before business hours or just after lunch. The former will offer fewer interruptions; the latter will find your boss more relaxed.
- Behavior: It's completely up to you to blow your own horn, so avoid humility and subservience. Don't project guilt--you're asking for what you deserve. This forthright attitude will come through if you maintain direct eye contact whenever listening or speaking. Only break eye contact when you're thinking. Avoid nodding reflexively. Your agreement is powerful, especially in this situation. Let your boss fill in gaps in the conversation. Chattiness will imply insecurity. Speak only when necessary, and you'll convey strength and confidence.
This script can be modified to:
- Obtain consideration for a promotion to another department or get a title changed.
- Get your employer to pay for continuing education.
- Begin by stressing that you love your job or company, but you have a problem you need help with.
- Your argument is that your compensation doesn't match your growth, contribution, or responsibilities.
- If your numbers are called into question, ask where you can get "correct" numbers. If none are offered, suggest some of your own and ask for a follow-up meeting.
- If your boss says insufficient time has passed from some other event, say time isn't relevant to your growth, contribution, or responsibilities.
- If fairness to others is cited, say that compensation based solely on seniority is also unfair.
- If your boss pleads poverty, ask for nonfinancial compensation and/or a future agreement.
- If you're stonewalled, force a future meeting and start looking for another job.
3. Asking Your Boss for a Promotion
- Asking for a promotion is even more difficult than asking for a raise. That's because you have to demonstrate not only that you have the skills to handle the new position, but also that leaving your current job won't hurt either your boss or the company. The secret is to prepare two plans of action: one for the new position and one for your current job. Don't fall back on seniority or hierarchy to make your case--they don't hold water in today's business world. Focus on your proven ability to do the job and emphasize that you're ready to move up. One other essential: Make sure to present your case as soon as possible, preferably before an outside search has begun.
- Attitude: Look on this not as something you're owed for past services, but as an opportunity you've shown you're ready for. There are no entitlements in today's workplace.
- Preparation: Draft two formal memos--one outlining what you'd do in the first ninety days in the new job and another explaining how you'd assist whoever takes over your current position. In addition, have in mind potential replacements for your position.
- Timing: It is absolutely essential to stake your claim to the job as soon as you hear it's available. Consider dropping hints and spreadin g the word informally, if you can do it without looking pushy. The more time that passes, the less your chances of landing the job.
- Behavior: Accept compliments and constructive criticism gracefully, but don't hesitate to argue around these points by directing the conversation to your strengths rather than to your weaknesses.
This script can be modified to:
- Request a transfer.
- Move ahead in a political or social organization.
- Broadcast your ambitions and willingness for more responsibility.
- Acknowledge you've heard there's an opening, state your qualifications, and ask directly to be considered for the job.
- Respond to arguments for going outside by demonstrating how you can bring a fresh approach--at a lower cost.
- Don't let your success be used against you. Offer to work with your replacement.
- Claims that you don't have sufficient seniority can be met by showing how your time, while short, has been intensive, and by showing exactly what is necessary to do the job.
- Be prepared to forgo a raise--at least until you've proven yourself.
- Have a memo ready outlining your plans.
4. Asking Your Boss for a Transfer
The most important aspect of this dialogue is knowing that your boss's primaryconcern is how your transfer will affect her. Although you're excited about the prospectof a new city and working with different people, your boss is calculating the impactof your departure. Keep your boss's point of view in mind, and you'll be able tosuccessfully navigate this conversation. First, be sure you're transferring to alocation where they need someone with your skills. You can't transfer somewhere whereyou're not needed. Be certain to give your boss sufficient time to consider yourtransfer request. The more advance notice you give, the more likely she is to approveyour request. Soothe your boss's worst fear by assuring her you'll work with yourreplacement. Emphasize you don't want to leave your department understaffed. If yourtimetable is flexible, offer to stay until your replacement is working at maximumefficiency. Your boss will appreciate your loyalty and take the offer as a gestureof good faith. Your boss may insist a transfer is impossible until several key projectsare completed. Be ready to compromise--but don't get bullied into an unreasonableagreement. Stress you're transferring for a career opportunity, improved lifestyle,or other pertinent reason, and not because of dissatisfaction with your job. If pressed,suggest promoting a younger employee to take your place. Promoting from within willsave the company time and money, not to mention to clear the way for your transfer.Manage your boss's fear and anticipate her objections, and you'll get your transfer.
- Attitude: Be flexible, but within reason. You're asking for something that could weaken your department, so be ready to compromise. Thank your boss for the opportunity of working with her. It may seem transparent flattery, but it will set a friendly tone for the dialogue.
- Timing: Request the transfer as soon as a position becomes av ailable at the new office. Your boss needs time to replace you and time for you to work with your replacement.
- Preparation: Check the company's policies regarding transfers. Research any transfers that took place during the past year. Find out if the company will pay your moving costs.
- Behavior: Emphasize that transferring is critical and your decision final. If you approach your boss with a half-baked idea, she'll deny your transfer. Whatever the reason, make it seem that there's nothing more important than your transferring.
This script can be modified to:
- Ask for a recommendation for another job.
- Be sure you're requesting a transfer to a place you're needed.
- Emphasize how important the transfer is to you and your family.
- Stress that you like your job, but need to transfer because of your family, your career, a lifestyle change, or some other important reason.
- Offer to work extra hours and on weekends, if that means being transferred within a reasonable amount of time.
- Suggest a younger employee for promotion. This will satisfy your boss and speed your transfer.
- If you don't get support, express your thanks and go over your boss's head.
5. Asking Your Boss for Flextime
One excellent solution to the child-care dilemma is for one or both parents toarrange flexible hours, or "flextime," with their employers. While theseare tough sells, especially to conservativ e employers, they can be accomplished.The secrets are to approach this as a rehire since, in effect, you're redefiningyour job status; to stress your commitment to the company, especially in light ofyour being a parent; and to "yes" your employer to death, showing yourwillingness to assume every cost or burden yourself. Of course, the more valuableyou are to the company, the more likely you are to get the schedule you want.
- Attitude: Realize that you're asking your employer to break company tradition as well as give up some control over you. That means it's essential to let him retain the feeling that he's still in charge.
- Preparation: First, ascertain your value to the company. Second, de-velop a plan that will let you accomplish as much, if not more, than before. Third, determine exactly which office or communications equipment you'll need to be able to do your job, and be ready to assume the cost. Fourth, think of every possible objection to your plan and have a solution ready--even if it means taking a temporary salary reduction. And fifth, draft a cogent, eloquent memo outlining your proposal.
- Timing: If you're already on parental leave, this meeting should take place before you actually return to work. If you haven't yet left on leave, postpone the meeting until you're ready to return. If you're not going on leave, have the meeting as soon as possible.
- Behavior: Express your gratitude to your supervisor and the company, but don't come off as a supplicant. Act as if you are on a job interview--confident and eager. Treat thi s as a business arrangement, not a favor. Sure, you're asking for something, but you're ready to make concessions in order to get it. If possible, let your supervisor have the last word--that will reaffirm his feeling of being in charge.
This script can be modified to:
- Obtain independent contractor status.
- Obtain part-time status.
- Stress that you love your job more than ever now that you've been away from it--that's why you're asking for the meeting.
- Your argument should be that you've figured out a way to balance your "obligations" to the job with your "responsibilities" to your child.
- If your supervisor reflexively says your plan isn't feasible, describe how your plan addresses every contingency.
- If your supervisor says he can't set a precedent, frame the arrangement as an exception, not a new rule.
- If your supervisor says he can't justify paying you the same as before, agree to a temporary salary concession, but ask for a year-end bonus if you maintain your productivity.
- If your supervisor objects to the cost, offer to assume it yourself.
- If your supervisor still refuses, ask for a short trial period.
- If your supervisor expresses fear of higher-ups, volunteer to present the proposal yourself.
6. Asking Your Boss for Maternity Leave
This dialogue isn't about what your boss is saying, but what she's not saying.While she will congratulate yo u, what she really wants to know is how long you'llbe gone and how your departure will affect the company. Your boss may be worriedyou'll never return from leave. Your goal is protecting your job while you're gone.Though in most cases your position will be protected--that's the law--lots of thingscan happen while you are on leave, particularly if you're in a competitive industryor company. You've worked hard and taking maternity leave should not diminish yourstatus in the company. Address your boss's fears and concerns and you'll be ableto protect your standing in the company.
- Attitude: Display concern. Your boss will be worried about the effect of your absence. If you share her concern, it will make the situation easier to negotiate.
- Timing: Set an appointment early in the week to speak with your boss in private. Make sure she hears about your pregnancy from you and not through the grapevine. Naturally, you cannot set an exact date for your leave, but the more advance notice the better.
- Preparation: Speak subtly with coworkers who have taken leave and check the company policies prior to your meeting. Review your current workload and create a strategy for sharing your responsibilities with other employees.
- Behavior: Although you're conveying good news, your boss may view it as bad. Don't smile and celebrate during the meeting; you should be serious and concerned about the company. Your boss will appreciate your unselfish approach to the situation.
The script can be modified to:
- Request leave to care for an elderly parent.
- Request leave to care for a sick child.
- Dismiss any notion that you won't return or need to be replaced.
- Show concern for the effect your leave will have on the company.
- Emphasize the importance of your job and your commitment to your career.
7. Asking Your Boss for Paternity Leave
The problem with requesting paternity leave is that history isn't on your side.While you've just as much legal right to parental leave as a mother, society in general,and employers in particular, don't view things that way. Women are expected to placetheir family first. Men are not. Your goal here is to get sufficient leave withoutweakening your position in the company. Customarily, companies offer shorter paternityleave than maternity leave, and that can actually work in your favor. Still, yourboss may accuse you of leaving at a crucial time, since there's never a good timeto take leave. To mitigate objections, suggest working part-time at home and callingthe office daily. Stress you don't see this as a vacation, and show your boss youwant to continue to contribute to the company. Offer to work with other coworkerswho will share your assignments during the leave, but be certain such arrangementsare temporary. Volunteer to come to the office one day over the weekend and do somework. Whatever you can do to meet your boss halfway will ultimately be appreciatedand smooth the effects of your paternity leave.
- Attitude: Be flexible, but not a pushover. You're entitled to this leave; just negotiate a mutuall y beneficial agreement and your boss will be satisfied.
- Timing: Request leave well before your wife's due date. The more advance warning, the less your boss can protest. Try to approach him after you have successfully completed a project or done something beneficial for the company.
- Preparation: Check around the office to see if any other fathers have taken leave. Find out how they were treated and check your employee handbook regarding terms of the leave. Have specific ideas about staying in touch with work.
- Behavior: Be ready to compromise on terms, but not on timing. You must be granted the leave, it's just a question of the effects it has on your career. Be firm, but open-minded.
This script can be modified to:
- Request leave to care for an ill family member.
- Request time off after elective surgery.
- Emphasize the importance of your career.
- Do not accept any delays. Tell your boss when you're taking the leave, not the other way around.
- Point out the positive effects of your plan. Convince your boss he would be setting a fine example by granting you part-time leave at home.
- No matter what the outcome, schedule a meeting to discuss your leave again in a month. If your boss disagrees with your plan, use this follow-up meeting to try again.
8. Asking Your Boss for Emergency Leave
Unless yours is a company with an established procedure for emergency leaves,you'll need to ask your supervisor directly for time off. Be forewarned that somesupervisors, despite their protestations, will be much more concerned with the effectyour absence will have on the bottom line than with your personal problem. The secretto this dialogue is to make it clear you have no choice but to take the time off,but that your workload can be adequately handled either by others or through yourremaining in constant touch with the office. Feel free to be a bit abrupt--it's aptto trigger a reflexive probe into what's wrong that immediately establishes a sympathetictone to the dialogue. While you may be able to fend off attempts to turn your emergencyleave into your vacation, when push comes to shove, you'll have to accept that unlessyour supervisor is both powerful and gracious. You also may have to forgo salarywhile you're away. Your goal here is to get the time off, and, if at all possible,to keep your vacation.
- Attitude: In your heart of hearts, you must feel this is a true emergency--otherwise you won't convey the necessary sense of urgency to carry the day. You must be able to say honestly you have no choice.
- Preparation: Before having this conversation, make sure that you have plans--including detailed memos--in place to handle any workplace problems that could arise, and that your current projects are all in good shape.
- Timing: To the extent possible, have this conversation as early in the day and as early in the workweek as you can. Try contacting your staff or whoever will be filling in for you before working hours so contingency plans are already in place when it comes t ime to meet the boss.
- Behavior: The more concerned and determined you are to take a leave of absence, and the more willing you are to do whatever needs to be done to get the time off, the smoother this dialogue will go.
This script can be modified to:
- Get an extended leave of absence to wind up family business.
- Get a medical leave for elective surgery.
- Present your request for time off prior to divulging the details of the emergency. This forces your boss to ask what's wrong, potentially setting up a humane tone for the meeting.
- Stress that all your work is under control and that you'll be available should any problems arise.
- Fend off any attempts to take away vacation time by suggesting that it would constitute unfair punishment for something that's beyond your control.
- If your boss claims she's powerless, offer to take your case to higher-ups, but ask for her support.
- If you're forced to go without pay, demonstrate the urgency of the matter by accepting the condition.
9. Asking Your Boss for a Deadline Extension
The secret to asking for a deadline extension is to make it clear that your onlyproblem is time; nothing else is wrong. Rather than coming in to your supervisorwith an apology and series of reasons why you're not going to be able to meet theestablished deadline, steer the discussion as quickly as possible to solutions. Theschedule established was clearly unworkable, and now you need help in comin g up withways to deal with the situation. Offer alternatives, but make it clear that deliveryas intended is impossible.
- Attitude: This is a time neither to fall on your own sword nor to assign blame to others. It's not important who or what is to blame. What's important is deciding the next step. The more you adopt this attitude, the more likely your supervisor will as well.
- Preparation: Don't waste time determining why you won't be able to deliver on time--invariably, it's because the schedule was overly optimistic. There's nothing you can do about it now. Instead, come up with as many alternative solutions as you can. There are usually three variations: getting more time, hiring outside help to deliver on time, or submitting a draft on the due date with the final product to follow later. Be prepared to advocate one alternative over the others in case your supervisor is unwilling to take responsibility.
- Timing: It's essential you have this conversation as soon as you realize you're not going to meet your deadline. Procrastination can only hurt you because you don't know if there are other issues involved. The sooner you realize the deadline is unworkable and convey that to your supervisor, the better. The longer you wait, the more this will look like a failing on your part.
- Behavior: Remain objective and rational. Don't let anger put you on the defensive or fear get the better of you. You, your supervisor, the project, and the company will all best be served by your continuing to steer the conversation around to solutions rat her than postmortems.
This script can be modified to:
- Mollify a client or customer.
- Ask a client or customer for more time.
- Present the failure to meet the deadline as a given and go directly to offering alternative solutions.
- If you're asked for a reason, just say the schedule was unworkable and launch into your suggestions.
- If your supervisor expresses anxiety, anger, or disappointment, say these feelings are understandable, but immediately shift the topic to solutions.
- Solutions generally involve either getting more time, bringing in outside help, or presenting an outline on time with the finished product to follow later.
- If your supervisor seems unwilling to select from your set of solutions, be prepared to advocate one approach.
10. Asking Your Boss for Help with Your Workload
This delicate dialogue must be handled with care. Ask your boss for assistanceand she may think you're an underachiever or a lazy employee. Even if you've takenon or accepted too much work, your boss may not recognize this. That's why you shouldonly use this dialogue as a last resort, after all else has failed. That being said,the secret to this conversation is guiding the dialogue toward a solution. Don'tlet your boss turn the meeting into a review of your employment history. Remind herthat you're doing good work, but there's just too much for one person. The fact thatyou recognize the work overload and are attempting to solve the problem is a signof strength. It's entirely possible your boss is not aware of the enormous workloadand may sympathize with your predicament. However, you should be ready to deflectanger or disappointment. This meeting should appear to be about your concern forthe company and quality of your work. If you're unable to keep pace with an unreasonableworkload, the company will ultimately suffer. Don't be passive and throw yourselfon the mercy of your boss. Explore options and have possible alternatives preparedto discuss with your boss during the meeting. Show her you're eager to solve theproblem early so the company isn't adversely affected.
- Attitude: Be concerned, but not intimidated. Be decisive. Act positively, deflect anger, and discuss solutions. You're seeking a solution, not an excuse.
- Timing: Speak with your boss the moment you realize there's too much work to handle. Procrastinating will make the situation worse. The moment your boss has any free time, you must pull her aside and alert her to your quandary.
- Preparation: Prepare a memo outlining your solution, and present the plan to your boss during the meeting so she can comment immediately.
- Behavior: Be direct and swift. Don't just throw up your hands and cry for help. Be active in the solution process. Remain calm, even if threatened, and present a positive solution that will benefit you and the company.
This script can be modified to:
- Ask a business partner to help you during a busy time.
- Remind your boss you're not an underachiever--there's just too much work for one person.
- Emphasize you're concerned about the quality of your work and the success of the company
- Don't tuck your tail between your legs and beg for help. Be proactive in the solution process.
- If your boss won't budge, suggest a specific alternative to lighten your workload.
11. Asking Your Boss for a Bigger or Better Workspace
With the increasing reliance of management on cubicle workspaces, getting a betterworkspace is entirely reliant on convincing your boss it will make you a more efficientworker. No superior is interested in vanity, ego, or a personal desire for a niceview, unless it affects his own vanity, ego, or desire. Consider that your boss cannotgive you something that doesn't exist, so start by checking around the office tomake sure there's a better space available. By having specific spaces in mind youcan force your boss to comment on them, rather than your request in general. Yourconversation must be about how a better space will maximize your work output. Explainthat being crammed into a tiny space doesn't allow enough room for your files anddocuments, or for you to meet privately with clients or peers, or even to work efficiently.Tell your boss how much time is wasted in trying to maneuver and work in the smalloffice, when the sensible answer would be to provide you with more space. Point outthat you're not seeking a raise or promotion, just enough room to do your job. Deflectaccusations that you're not utilizing your current space by assuring your boss you'vetried every alternative, but are limited by the lack of room. After discussing theproblems of a smaller space, explain how much more productive you'll be in a largerspace. Describe how an improved space will allow you to work effectively, how muchtime will be saved in a practical and efficient space, and how you'll be able tomeet with clients and coworkers. Your boss may suggest that giving you a better work-space will create jealousy among your peers. Steer him away from a dialogue abouteveryone else's feelings and back to a discussion about your specific situation.It's essential to illustrate how your workspace may soon negatively effect your jobperformance. Center the dialogue on the quality of your work, and your boss willunderstand the importance of moving you.
- Attitude: Be confident and concerned. Remind your boss this request is about your job performance, not your personal comfort. You're only concerned about the quality of your work.
- Timing: Approach the boss as soon as you discover a desirable space. Stake your claim immediately. Open offices are like vacuums; they demand to be filled. If you hesitate, one of your coworkers will be the one moving.
- Preparation: Search around the office and have specific spaces in mind prior to your meeting. Have examples of how your smaller space is negatively affecting your work and how a larger space will improve it.
- Behavior: Act worried. After all, if you don't get a larger space, your work will suffer. Your boss will recognize dedication and reward it.
This script can be modified to:
- Ask to share an office with a different person.
- Ask to move because of a problem coworker.
- Scout out available spaces within your company.
- Stress moving to a larger space is about work quality, not personal comfort or ego.
- Try to get an answer about moving soon--don't let your boss delay the situation.
- If he tells you he'll think about it and get back to you, prepare a memo so your points stay fresh in his mind.
- If he says no, don't panic. Tell him you'd like to be considered for the next open space.
12. Asking Your Boss for Additional Responsibilities
Approach this meeting like a job interview. Being eager is one thing, but beingprepared is another. Work extra hard the weeks before this meeting. Demonstrate youcan easily handle your current assignments. Recognize that asking for additionalresponsibilities will trigger a discussion of your employment history. Your bosswill refer to every failure, no matter how insignificant. Be ready to respond withinformation about all your successes too, and to answer questions about past assignments.Still, try not to dwell on small episodes. Instead, make your boss focus on the bigpicture. Overall, you've done a good job and deserve more responsibility. Explainthat you're happy with your job, but discouraged by a lack of challenges. Tell yourboss that expanding your role at the office will save the company time and money.Present specific ideas for expanding your responsibilities. Refer to ongoing projectsand display your knowledge of company policies and procedures. You have to proveyour familiarity with the company and be interested i n the work. If she denies yourrequest initially, don't panic. Calmly defend your work record and, if necessary,compromise. You can suggest working as an assistant on a new project. This will expandyour work portfolio and satisfy your boss as you ease into more responsibilities.Another tactic is offering to take work on a trial basis. Suggest a month of newresponsibilities, after which you and your boss can meet to discuss your performanceand progress. Identify your boss's particular concern and address it head on--you'llbe rewarded with more to do.
- Attitude: Be confident and enthusiastic. You're displaying a strong work ethic, something an employer loves to see. Make your boss understand your need for more responsibility.
- Timing: Schedule this meeting following some type of personal success. Your boss will have your most recent work in mind during the conversation, so it's important this meeting follow a job well done.
- Preparation: Try to learn everything and anything you can about the company. Show off your knowledge during the meeting. Your goal is to impress your boss with your interest in the company's projects.
- Behavior: Stay calm no matter what negatives from your past are dredged up. Steer your boss toward a discussion of job performance. When speaking, don't be afraid to show your passion for your job.
This script can be modified to:
- Request work with a new client or customer.
- Offer your services for an experimental or new project.
- If your work record is questioned, calmly defend your actions and quickly refocus the conversation on your entire employment history.
- Express a strong desire to expand your work horizons and help the company.
- Have in mind a specific assignment or project on which you'd like to work.
- If you meet resistance, suggest a compromise or alternative.
- If your boss refuses, schedule a follow-up meeting and try again.
13. Breaking Bad News to Your Boss
This is one of the most stressful and difficult dialogues you could have witha superior. Not only are you somewhat embarrassed by the failure--whether it wasyour fault or not--but you're also worried the setback could affect your standingin the organization. The key to fulfilling your obligations and minimizing any potentialdamage to you is to turn this meeting as quickly as possible into a discussion aboutwhat to do now, rather than a postmortem of what went wrong. The secrets of doingthat are to make sure the news comes from you so you can control the spin; demonstratethat the situation was beyond your control or accept the responsibility; and presenta plan of action that mitigates the damage.
- Attitude: Approach this as an opportunity to prove you're resourceful and can take charge in a crisis. Be willing to accept the responsibility for what has happened, but not necessarily the blame. Finally, realize that your supervisor's anger may not be at you, but with the situation.
- Preparation: Have an explanation for why the problem has occurred. If there we re any hints of trouble, be ready to explain what you did in response. Most importantly, have a detailed written proposal that suggests a course of action.
- Timing: While you shouldn't burst into a closed-door meeting and blurt out the news, you must bring this to your supervisor's attention as soon as you can. It's essential the news comes from you first.
- Behavior: Don't show contrition unless you are actually to blame. However, do show concern, not for yourself, but for the company. Use every possible chance to move beyond what happened to what to do now. Don't shy away from playing to your supervisor's ego, but try to be subtle. Sucking up won't take the place of accepting responsibility, but it can help deflect free-floating anger.
This script can be modified to:
- Break bad news to parents, friends, spouses, teachers, and others.
- Deliver negative financial news to an investor or partner.
- Be direct, but try to offer some hope as soon as possible.
- Demonstrate immediately you're blameless or acknowledge your responsibility.
- If your supervisor takes the news well, or still questions your account, restate your position and move right on to your plan of action.
- If your supervisor gets angry or threatens you, try to get on his side by saying you're angry too, and then move on to what you think should be done now.
- Whatever the initial response to your plan, reaffirm your belief that it will work, add some flattery, and offer whatever help you can in overcoming t he problem.
14. Dealing with a Performance Review by Your Boss
The key to getting the most from a positive performance review, or minimizingthe damage from a negative one, is to subtly take charge of the conversation by preemptingthe reviewer. If you expect a positive review, immediately launch into the new challengesyou'd like to take on. If you expect a negative review, immediately describe yourplan to improve. The idea is to get off the negative-issues discussion as quicklyas possible and turn this meeting into a positive and constructive outline of yourplan. If you don't succeed in taking control, push for a subsequent meeting and tryagain.
- Attitude: Look on this as a chance to take charge of your future, rather than as a postmortem on your past.
- Preparation: Conduct a thorough self-analysis to determine whether your review will be primarily positive or negative. Then, develop a plan to either take advantage of the positive review or correct past mistakes and shortcomings.
- Timing: While you'll have little control over when this meeting takes place, be ready to postpone it should anything problematic occur during the conversation. For example, if you're in your supervisor's office discussing your performance, and she gets a call that the company's largest customer has gone bankrupt, immediately suggest an adjournment.
- Behavior: When receiving constructive criticism or compliments, it's important to acknowledge them with more than just physical gestures. Rather than just nodding, say you understand. Take your supervisor's suggestions, put them in your own words, and repeat them. Offer sincere thanks for any input, positive or negative.
This script can be modified to:
- Counter a problem that may arise when you're discussing a proposed raise or promotion.
- Use as a segue into a discussion of a raise or promotion.
- Stress how much you love your job and that you've looked forward to this meeting--whether it's true or not.
- If you expect a positive review, immediately launch into what you'd like to do in the coming year in order to set up raise or promotion discussions.
- If you expect a negative review, admit your problems and immediately launch into your plan for self-improvement.
- If your supervisor doesn't let you take charge of the conversation, segue into your plan after absorbing his comments.
- If your supervisor doesn't accept your plan, ask for another meeting at which you can try to take charge once again.
15. Justifying a Questionable Expense Report
You need to tread very carefully if one of your expense reports is questionedby a supervisor. You can assume that if you're called into a face-to-face meeting,the problem isn't one of documentation--that could be handled with a telephone callor a visit from an administrative assistant or bookkeeper. Therefore, this meetingis calling into question either your judgment or your honesty. It's even possiblethere's a hidden agenda--perhaps your supervisor is building a case for terminationor for a negative review. Whatever the situation, your goal is to immediately admitto the error, but turn it into one of omission rather than commission. Your mistakewas not catching the error yourself or not preparing management for the unusual charge.
- Attitude: Take this as a very serious probe, even if it's for a small amount. You need to clearly demonstrate that this in no way reflects on your honesty or judgment.
- Preparation: Unless you're given advance notice of a problem with your report you'll have little or no time to prepare for this specific meeting. Instead, make it your business always to double- and triple-check your expense reports prior to submission and never to knowingly pad them.
- Timing: You'll also have no control over the timing of this meeting. The only element of timing you can control is to have an immediate answer ready for any questions: Either the questionable expense was a mistake or you forgot to provide advance warning.
- Behavior: Even though this may be a probe of your personal integrity, don't become defensive. And never, ever argue, no matter what the amount involved; the risk is too great. Anger is a defense mechanism. It could be seen as an admission of guilt and could turn the meeting into a confrontation rather than a conversation. Instead, be forthright, sincere, and if need be, apologetic.
This script can be modified to:
- Explain a financial surprise to a spouse or partner.
- Explain an error in an employment, l oan, or credit application.
- Even though you know it's not likely, ask if the problem is with your documentation. This shows you're feeling no guilt and were unaware of any potential problems.
- If you're accused of requesting reimbursement for personal expenses, immediately explain that the inclusion of the charges on your report was a mistake.
- If you're accused of spending too much, show how the cost was beyond your control and admit that it was a mistake not to provide forewarning of the unusually large charge.
- If your explanation is questioned, reaffirm your honesty as strongly as possible.
- Always express your thanks and stress the mistake won't happen again.
16. Asking Your Boss to Deal with a Problem Peer
Your boss is only interested in what affects work production. If your problemwith a peer is a personal dislike, difference of opinion, or other nonproduction-relatedmatter, she won't care, nor should she. In order to get her involved, you need todemonstrate that the problem is affecting your efficiency or that of your department.Make your approach only after trying all you can to resolve the situation on yourown. If your boss remains reluctant to get involved, even after you demonstrate thatthe problem is influencing work, stress that you've run out of other options. Ifyou can't get her to intervene, agree to make one final effort at solving the matteron your own, but only if she agrees to intervene if you're unsuccessful. Try to insurethe situation doesn't have a negative impact on your reputation. You don't want tobe perc eived as a whiner or a rat, you just want to be able to do your job. The moreyou show the boss your main concern is the company, not yourself, the better chanceshe'll help you resolve the problem.
- Attitude: Be remorseful, but not apologetic. It's a shame the situation has reached this point, but it's not your fault. Remember: Work is suffering because of the problem and you've tried everything you can on your own.
- Timing: Approach your boss only after you've truly made every possible effort to independently solve the problem. At the same time, don't wait until the problem significantly damages your production.
- Preparation: Develop a concise description of the problem, as well as a list of your varied failed attempts at solving it on your own.
- Behavior: Be worried about the quality of your work. You simply want to be able to work without unnecessary interference. Your boss will appreciate concern for the company.
- This script can be modified to:
- Ask a superior to speak with a problem client.
- Ask a supervisor to speak with a problem customer.
- The problem has to affect your work and the company for your boss to get involved.
- Emphasize that you've tried to solve the problem on your own many times, but have failed.
- Give examples of how the problem is hindering your work.
- If your boss insists you try again on your own, ask for an assurance she will intervene if you fail once more.
17. Tattling on a Peer to Your Boss
Deciding whether to complain about a peer's performance is a tough call. Evenif your gripes are entirely justified and your boss supports you, you can end upbeing viewed as a back stabber. So pick your fights carefully. If someone simplyrubs you the wrong way, that's your problem. The only time it's worth entering thesedangerous waters is when someone's sloppy work or procrastination is jeopardizingyour ability to get your job done, and you've already tried unsuccessfully to setthings right (see Lifescripts 40 and 41). Your goal in this script is to enlist yourboss's direct intervention without incurring criticism yourself. You want to minimizeany damage to your reputation and avoid being labeled the boss's spy. You can accomplishall this as long as you stress the connection to your own productivity and the company'sgoals. Make it clear that this is an unusual situation, not your common practice.
- Attitude: Your first loyalty must be to the company. It's by following this credo that you'll achieve your own success. You aren't putting someone down to boost yourself--you're helping the company achieve its goals.
- Preparation: Make sure you've established what you feel is the problem--quality or delay, for instance--and that you've tried on your own to resolve the situation.
- Timing: The timing here is tricky. You want to wait long enough so that action is vital, but not so long that it's a crisis beyond repair.
- Behavior: Show remorse at having to take this step, but offer no apologies. You have the company's goals at heart and there's no shame in that.
This script can be modified to:
- Speak to a customer or supplier about the behavior of one of his employees.
- Speak to a partner at a professional firm you associate with about the behavior of another partner.
- Speak to a store manager about a clerk's behavior.
- Speak to a principal about your child's teacher.
- Be clear about the problem and present it entirely in business terms.
- If your boss initially objects to getting involved, insist that you need him in order to get the job done.
- If your boss probes for more information on your colleague, stress that you have none to offer and that your concern is this project.
- If he insists on staying aloof, ask for a commitment that he'll get involved if you're once again unsuccessful.
- If he criticizes your coming to him with complaints about a peer, stress that you've only done it because the project was in jeopardy.
18. Asking Your Boss to Stop Harassing You
You've landed a good job and hopped on the career track, and all of a sudden yourimmediate superior threatens to derail your dreams. She's criticizing you constantly,usually in the presence of coworkers; she's using foul language; or she's just downrightrude. You need to find out why--and ask her to cease and desist. But this is a narrowtrack you must walk with caution. Be too passive and apologetic, and you risk notbeing taken seriously. Be too aggressive and accusatory, and you risk stepping onthe third rail and losing your job. The right mix of assurance and rationality shouldlet your boss see the error of her ways. If not, don't jump off the trestle; if needbe, you can go over your boss's head.
- Attitude: Be calm, nonconfrontational, and unapologetic. You want to set the example here. It's likely your boss will react angrily, so be prepared to absorb that and go on. Present your case rationally and coolly.
- Preparation: Have specific examples of the abuse in hand. Document her bad behavior outlining date, time, situation, what was said, and who was present. Be prepared to present this information.
- Timing: Again, set the example. Ask your boss for a good time to meet in her office, or if that's not possible, somewhere private. Make sure to have this meeting as soon as possible after an outburst.
- Behavior: You want to keep this job, so make sure your dedication is apparent. But don't downplay the seriousness of your predicament--your boss needs to know you feel you're being unfairly treated, and if need be, you will go over her head. Remember your focus is professional, not personal. Don't let this encounter deteriorate into a name-calling free-for-all; this isn't a talk show, it's your career. Keep it short and sweet.
This script can be modified to:
- Ask a family member or friend to stop harassing you.
- Calm rationality is key. Present your case honestly and unapologetically. Coming on too strong may hurt your chance to solve the problem.
- Don't be surprised at anger. An insecure boss might see this as a play for power. Relax, stay your course, and tell your boss you're willing to go higher for help.
- Should your assertions meet with apology and/or acceptance, let your boss know that you appreciate her honesty and willingness to help.
- In the event that anger and/or denial don't subside, stay firm. Reassert your position and state your intention to go over her head. Remember to document this meeting as well.
- Don't be pulled into an argument over smaller or personal issues.
19. Going Over Your Boss's Head
Taking a problem to your boss's boss is one of the biggest gambles in office politics.The payoff can be great, but you run the risk of becoming a pariah whose days inthe company are numbered. That's why you should take this step only if you believeyour future at the firm is at stake--because of a negative performance review, say,or because a vital project has been canceled. First, try to get permission for yourmaneuver. You may get the OK if you frame your request as a search for expert input.Even if your immediate boss objects, persevere. Asking to go over his head is asbad as actually doing it, so you've nothing more to lose. When you do get upstairs,continue to frame your efforts as a search for advice. Resist the temptation to bad-mouthyour boss. If you manage to win the top person over, you'll have gained a valuableally--one who will most likely be able to protect you from recriminations. If youdon't win Mr. Big t o your side, start looking for another job.
- Attitude: Realize there's nothing your immediate boss can do to stop you, but you'd still like his permission.
- Preparation: Have your facts and arguments down cold--your future in the company will depend on your winning your boss's boss over to your side.
- Timing: While this should be done soon after either a negative review or the cancellation of an important project, your decision must be thought out, not reflexive. Give yourself at least a day or two to think things over.
- Behavior: Be forthright and determined. You must convey that you're bucking the system because of your extremely principled position and concern for justice.
This script can be modified to:
- Appeal a loan rejection.
- Correct detrimental or incorrect information your boss has passed along to his boss.
- Frame your jumping the ladder as a search for expert advice.
- If your immediate boss objects, persist.
- Regardless of your immediate boss's conclusion, thank him.
- If your boss's boss wants to serve as mediator, explain that your immediate boss knows of this meeting.
- If your boss's boss fishes for controversy, stress that your concern is first and foremost for the company.
- If your boss's boss refuses to overrule a decision, stress you're looking for a potential compromise, not a reversal.
20. Giving Notice to Your Boss
Giving notice can be dangerous, even when you already have another job. It's conceivablean angry boss could fire you on the spot, forcing you to lose at least two weeks'pay. If you give too much notice, you could end up getting fired as soon as you'vewrapped up your work or your replacement is selected. The solution is to give thetwo weeks that have become customary, and to be prepared to deflect attempts to fireyou. The best way to do that is to practice a subtle form of workplace extortion.Your obligation to conclude short-term projects and prepare memos on your long-termprojects should be implicit with your being given two weeks to wrap things up. Bythe way, it makes sense to hold off actually preparing and presenting those memosas long as possible, because they're your only leverage to ensure that you get yourfinal paycheck.
- Attitude: Be direct, businesslike, and confident. The only thing she can do to you is fire you--and you're leaving for another job anyway.
- Preparation: In this script it's actually more a matter of not preparing. State what you'll do during your two weeks as a lame duck, but don't actually do it until you've gotten her agreement that you'll be employed for those two weeks.
- Timing: Do this as soon as possible after learning you've been hired and have cleaned up your files. Do it as early in the day and as early in the week as possible, so the company has a chance to react right away.
- Behavior: Remain calm, even in the face of anger or threats. Don't simply absorb abuse, however. Make it clear that your being fir ed will not only hurt the company and the staff, but will send a clear message to other staff members that they should simply quit rather than give notice.
This script can be modified to:
- Terminate a nonbusiness relationship.
- Be confident, direct, and determined. The die has been cast, so be forceful.
- If she gets angry and threatens to fire you, say that that will hurt the company and give the wrong message to employees.
- If she says two weeks isn't enough, tell her you'll do everything possible to help, but insist it's the best you can do.
- Unless she accepts the situation gracefully, give her the last word--it will help assuage her bruised ego.
21. Asking Your Boss for a Job Recommendation
Asking your current supervisor for a job recommendation can be extremely dangerous.Make sure that a job offer is assured from the company that seeks this recommendation,because the moment you tell him you're a candidate for another job, he mentally startsreplacing you. And at the same time, he may be able to sabotage your future position.The objective of this script is to minimize his anger at you and ensure he'll putin a good word--or at least won't put in a bad word--with your future employer.
- Attitude: Don't look on this as asking for a favor or help. That makes it seem a big deal and gives him more of an opportunity to withhold his recommendation. You're simply asking for a professional courtesy--that's very difficult to withhold. Also, if he seems remote, you want nothing but the truth. Be aware that employers must be very careful about what they say about you since you could sue them if you don't get the job because of something they say or don't say.
- Preparation: Before having this conversation, you need to be able to put your finger on an inarguable reason for taking the job--something the new job offers that your current job can never provide. You also need to be prepared to say how long you'll be able to stick around.
- Timing: Because of the danger involved in this script, you need to wait until you're sure the only remaining hurdle to your getting the new job is a positive reference from your current employer.
Of course, that means surprising your current supervisor, but you've really no choice.
- Behavior: The more you frame this as an unsolicited offer that you simply cannot refuse--and which no one who truly has your best interests at heart would advise you to refuse--the more likely you are to avoid a problem.
This script can be modified to:
- Use a manager as a personal reference for a club, co-op, or part-time job.
- Use a manager's contacts for networking.
- Ask a supervisor to help you gain a promotion within the company.
- Present it as wonderful news you want to share.
- If he gets annoyed, stress the suddenness and uniqueness of your opportunity, as well as your willingness to do all you can to help concerning your replacement.
- If h e says you're making a mistake, show him how the new job offers something this position cannot.
- If he explodes, counter his attacks and then show how the new job offers something your present position cannot.
- If he remains angry, reiterate the suddenness and uniqueness of your opportunity, frame his attitude as damaging to your future, and stress your willingness to do without his help.
22. Negotiating Severance with Your Former Boss
Severance packages are more negotiable than you may think. Treat them as preliminaryoffers, not done deals, and use whatever leverage you have. Even when standard packagesare offered to a large group, exceptions can be made for special cases like yours.Do not sign a release--or even a statement acknowledging that you've been terminated--atthe initial meeting when you receive the news. Insist on postponing all decisionsto a subsequent meeting with both your immediate supervisor and someone from personnel.Say you need the time to digest the news or even that you feel too emotional to continue.Most reasonable employers will agree. If yours doesn't, simply say you're not feelingwell, and you'll be back to finish the discussion first thing tomorrow, Then standup and leave. What can she do? She has already fired you. Use the time before yoursubsequent meeting to determine your needs in terms of money and other benefits.Draft a memo outlining your dream severance package, listing a reason for each request.If you're a member of a protected minority, contact an employment lawyer. Put asidehurt and anger at your second meeting and instead, treat it like a business negotia tion.Be firm in your demand for more, but flexible in what that constitutes. Know yourbottom line. Keep in mind that both you and she want this wrapped up as soon as possible.If she tries to stonewall you, ask for another adjournment to speak with an attorney.The threat may break her resolve. If not, come back with another proposal the nextday, either directly or through an attorney, if you have legal leverage.
- Attitude: Don't be fearful; you have nothing to lose. Be willing to use personal and legal leverage.
- Preparation: Analyze your needs and draft a memo outlining them. Speak with a lawyer, if you are a member of a protected minority.
- Timing: Do not sign anything until you've agreed on a package, and don't do that until a second meeting takes place.
- Behavior: Try to get beyond your anger and be as businesslike as possible. Roll up your sleeves and get down to serious horse trading--you want the deal done at this meeting.
- Put your anger aside and get down to business.
- If she cites policy, say you're an exception to the rule.
- If she cites the need for fairness, say yours is a special case.
- If she's open to negotiation, be ready to compromise.
- If she stonewalls, ask for another adjournment to speak with your lawyer or formulate another package.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Magic of Lifescripts.
PART I: LIFESCRIPTS FOR YOUR BOSS.
1. Meeting with a New Boss.
2. Asking Your Boss for a Raise.
3. Asking Your Boss for a Promotion.
4. Asking Your Boss for a Transfer.
5. Asking Your Boss for Flextime.
6. Asking Your Boss for Maternity Leave.
7. Asking Your Boss for Paternity Leave.
8. Asking Your Boss for Emergency Leave.
9. Asking Your Boss for a Deadline Extension.
10. Asking Your Boss for Help with Your Workload.
11. Asking Your Boss for a Better or Bigger Workspace.
12. Asking Your Boss for Additional Responsibilities.
13. Breaking Bad News to Your Boss.
14. Dealing with a Performance Review by Your Boss.
15. Justifying a Questionable Expense Report.
16. Asking Your Boss to Deal with a Problem Peer.
17. Tattling on a Peer to Your Boss.
18. Asking Your Boss to Stop Harassing You.
19. Going Over Your Boss's Head.
20. Giving Notice t o Your Boss.
21. Asking Your Boss for a Job Recommendation.
22. Negotiating Severance with Your Former Boss.
PART II: LIFESCRIPTS FOR YOUR PEERS.
23. Asking a Peer to Stop Back Stabbing.
24. Tactfully Suggesting Better Hygiene to a Peer.
25. Suggesting No Further Drinking to a Peer.
26. Asking a Peer to Come in Earlier and/or Stay Later.
27. Asking a Peer to Improve the Quality of His Work.
28. Asking a Peer to Stop Gossiping.
29. Correcting a Peer's Mistakes.
30. Refusing to Lie for a Peer.
31. Telling a Peer to Stop Harassing You.
32. Asking a Peer to Clean Up Her Work Area.
33. Confronting a Pilfering Peer.
34. Asking a Peer to Cover for You.
35. Asking a Peer to Switch Vacations with You.
36. Asking a Peer for a Date.
37. Deflecting a Peer's Romantic Overtures.
38. Telling a Peer Her Job May Be in Danger.
39. Helping a Peer Set More Realistic Goals.
40. Asking a Peer to Accelerate Her Work.
41. Asking a Peer to Redo His Work.