Seven things guaranteed to annoy any boss

How much do you annoy your boss? Eliza Rawlings lists a few things that no-one should be doing in the workplace of today.

Do you remember the ‘Back to Basics’ campaign? Not the most inspiring of political campaigns, and not launched by the most dynamic of Prime Ministers, but there was some truth to just how easy it is to forget the basics. 

This is accurate in organisations. We might have superb assessment centres when recruiting people, and invest a lot in training and development, but there will be some of the basics that can be overlooked or are missing entirely. It is these little things that will annoy any boss. 

‘How do I…?’

There’s nothing more frustrating than a manager being asked basic questions, when it’s easy for an employee to sort it out for themselves. The real problem is that this plays both ways. Managers often like to be seen as having all the answers. But, this is a sure fire way to create problems further down the line. 

A good manager will ask team members to research alternatives, find potential solutions, and try different things. If it is a decision that requires managerial sign-off, then invite them to present alternatives with recommendations for the right way forward. 

Today, there are few things that a quick Google can’t solve. Even in regards to highly technical questions. So when people are on the computer or phone, don’t jump to the assumption that they’re dodging work. They could be researching how to do something, without bothering their boss.

And as managers, we might just learn a few things along the way by bringing outside knowledge into our business to make us run things more efficiently and smoothly.

Using the wrong type of language

Not every person’s job involves formal communication, but this is about using language in the right way, at the right time and with the right of people. One time that this became clear was when we worked with service engineers who go into businesses to fix their machines. The language they use with their teammates is inappropriate for use with customers.

They had never been formally trained in how to interact and many of them didn’t understand the impact of their actions on the company’s reputation. So whether it’s talking to customers, interacting with managers, writing emails, sending text messages – every element of how we use language affects how people see us and the impression we form.

A good manager will ask team members to research alternatives, find potential solutions, and try different things.

There is also a reason why English is now a formal part of any apprenticeship. It’s because the basic skills are often just not there. 

Failing to make it all add up

The same goes for maths. And yes, you guessed it; this is a key skill in the new apprenticeship standards. So while we might not need to work out ratios, maths gives us all the ability to understand information, process facts and figures and make informed decisions.

Of course for many jobs there will be a maths element. This is definitely true when it comes to management and leadership positions. 

Ditch the attitude

Recruit for attitude. Train for skills. It’s an old adage but it’s right. Understanding the dynamic of the team and the personalities involved gives great guidance on how team members engage and interact together. 

Be careful though. There is also a tendency to recruit to type rather than for the skills and competencies required to do the job. So while a person’s behaviour or attitude might irritate (we can’t all get along all the time), using a personality assessment tool, such as DiSC©, gives insight into a person’s personality and can alleviate tension. 

Being insensitive

People can get themselves tied in knots. While employees can sort out issues between themselves, and this type of responsibility should be encouraged, at times it is necessary for a manager to step in. 

Self-awareness is the main cause in a lack of empathy. The individual might not realise that they come across as insulting or crass. They can be totally oblivious to the impact of their actions or behaviour on another person.

So while a manager will often dislike having to get involved, it is part of their role and they should have the skills themselves to handle challenging behaviour and difficult conversations. 

‘I’ve too much to do.’

This is another phrase that will provoke irritation in a boss. Everyone today has too much to do. It might not be pleasant. It might be unfair. But it is just the way it is. One of the most valuable attributes is someone who knows how to prioritise work. This is rarely an innate skill, it often comes from experience and knowledge but delegating and prioritisation go hand in hand. 

Separating out the urgent from the important and using a simple matrix can help employees identify what needs to be prioritised rather than work getting on top of them and letting their manager or colleagues down. It also gives them a method of communicating back to their boss what they are working on and what needs to be passed on. 

Backstabbing team mates

Claiming credit for the team’s work or pushing blame onto others’ might be seen as a quick way to get recognition and reward, but it will backfire. Sometime and somewhere down the line, this type of behaviour will no longer be tolerated. 

In today’s open cultures and flatter structures, pushing others down for you to step up, is no longer acceptable. There is a caveat. If this type of behaviour is exhibited and rewarded by leaders, then it’s trickier. There will be two choices. Leave and find a culture that fits with your values or try to change the culture of the company. 

All these rely on knowledge, skills and behaviour, all of which managers can address, if they have the right training and support. So while managers might get frustrated initially, seeing their employees progress and develop new skills is also highly rewarding. 


About the author

Eliza Rawlings is managing director, Festo Training & Consulting​


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