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One Question You Should Never Ask Your Boss

  • Shenzhen, China
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career Managementmanagement

There are good and bad soldiers in any team. The job of a manager is to understand which is which. Then to promote the good ones and discharge the bad ones. There is one simple indicator I use to make this segregation. It’s a simple question I either hear from my people or don’t. Those who ask it are the bad soldiers. Their attitude and their behavior require immediate corrective actions. Some of them are curable, while others are not. This question tells me everything, if it’s being asked. I immediately understand that I am dealing with a loser if I hear it.

Broadchurch (2013) by Chris Chibnall
Broadchurch (2013) by Chris Chibnall

The question is: “What should I do next?”

What’s wrong with that, you may wonder. Let me explain by a counter example. A good soldier behaves differently. A good one wants to do interesting things, wants to work with the most challenging problems, wants to resolve complex issues, and wants to do what he/she wants to do! A good soldier cares and doesn’t want to do what’s not important or not interesting. A good one asks “What is our ultimate goal?” and then, after getting my answer and thinking for a while, comes back to me with a plan for achieving this goal. A good one tells me what is next, instead of asking. All I need to do is to approve or reject the plan proposed.

Good soldiers don’t sit and passively wait until I come to them and say what exactly needs to be done. Good soldiers pro-actively build their own plans by themselves and do everything to convince me that they make sense.

Bad soldiers, on the other hand, ask me “What’s next?” and it gets very annoying. It’s absolutely no fun to work with these people and I either try to explain to them why such a question is a terrible mistake, or I simply get rid of them.

Moreover, if the boss starts telling you what to do, you must realize that this is the moment where the credit is lost. You’ve already been classified as a bad soldier, a loser, an underachiever. Your chances of recovery are very low. You must not allow this to happen. Act proactively; don’t wait until it’s too late and the boss starts assigning tasks to you.

P.S. By the way, I googled “questions you never ask your boss” and found a lot of articles which prohibit many different questions. I wasn’t surprised to find that none of them mention the question I’m talking about.

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