Dear J.T. & Dale: I called in sick on Monday after having a little too much fun at a wedding on Sunday. I figured a hangover counts as sick. However, someone on my team snitched. My boss has been making snarky comments ever since. He’s clearly mad. What should I do? — Caleb
J.T.: I would set a meeting with your boss and ask if he is upset with you. Point out to him that you normally don’t take sick time and that you assumed in a rare event like this, that’s what it was for. I would let him know his comments are making you feel bad and that you want to make sure he is OK with you. This open conversation should fix things.
DALE: Yes, this is the reason you must maintain a healthy relationship with your boss, so you can get through the inevitable annoyances that come between any two people who have regular dealings with each other. Indeed, this is actually a chance to improve your relationship: When you apologize in such a way as to show that you care about the other person’s opinion, that can end up a positive.
People are also reading…
J.T.: And while we’re on the subject of your boss’s opinion, this is a good time to work on becoming one of the company’s top employees. As part of your discussion, mention that you want to be one of the department’s best performers and that you’d welcome advice. There’s a good chance that your boss won’t have any useful advice, so you need to figure it out yourself by studying the most admired employees at your company.
DALE: Agreed. When I studied star employees, I found that they bring energy to the team with a mindset of “How can I help?” Here’s the formula: Average employees do their work; great employees define their work as helping and look for more. Plus, the best employees understand their job is to make the team, and especially the boss, look good. The ultimate mindset is that you’re working to get your boss promoted. (And who gets the new job opened by that promotion? That’s you, of course.)
Dear J.T. & Dale: I just got laid off from a start-up company. I have an idea for a new way to sell their services that could help them. I want to go to the founders and ask if I could do this freelance. But that would mean going around/above my old boss. Is that OK to do? — Julia
J.T.: I think so. You have nothing to lose. If you think your former boss could help you get their attention, you might want to ask him what he thinks of the idea. But, if you feel he might steal it or roadblock you, then I say go around him and pitch it yourself.
DALE: My initial thought was to start with your old boss, but J.T.’s comment changed my mind — there is one way for that discussion to go right and many ways for it to go wrong. So, I’d go to whichever one of the founders you feel is most open and ask if they would consider a new way to increase sales. The key word in that sentence is “ask,” because this is another case where questions are the answer. Then, assuming the response is positive, you need to do enough background research that you are bringing a plan, not merely an idea. After all, if it’s just an idea, why do they need you? I’d also present bringing you on freelance as an experiment — people hate to change but love to give something a try and see what happens. That’s an easy “yes.”