drunk business people

5 Things Never to Tell (or Do With) Your Boss

Creating boundaries with our employers can be a tricky business, especially when working in an environment where the line between colleagues and friends is hard to find. That can make us feel overly comfortable with colleagues, and even a boss when it comes to discussing personal issues that don’t relate to our work. Can revealing too much about your personal life backfire on you professionally? Absolutely. How can you navigate the mine field of what not to tell (or do with) your boss? Here are five tips to keep you on track and help you define a healthy professional boundary with your employer:

1. Don’t consume excessive amounts of alcohol with or around your boss.

We all have a healthy limit for behaving professionally in public while drinking alcohol. Maybe you can handle one drink, maybe two, but when it comes to places where you’re around your boss, like a company happy hour or holiday party, resist the urge to have a drunken bonding moment with your boss. Maybe it worked for one guy one time, but upon sober reflection, your boss may get the impression that you’re one they have to “keep an eye on.” Set a limit for a safe “business drunk” and stick to it. Your self-control will be seen as a sign of maturity and professionalism.

2. Don’t tell your boss your plans to leave the company … after telling everyone else.

Nothing will burn your bridges faster than letting your boss find out from the grapevine that you’re leaving. On the other hand, telling your boss that you’re interviewing or talking to other employers can give the impression that you have no interest in getting promoted or growing professionally within your current job. You have to balance the need to keep your boss in the loop, while also keeping open your professional options. When in doubt, err on the side of discretion, and don’t be too liberal with discussing your plans to leave the company with colleagues before you’ve discussed with your boss — and given him or her the chance to persuade you to stay.

3. Never tell your boss “No, I can’t do that.

Obviously if your boss is asking you to do something illegal, immoral or otherwise, that’s a different case. But when it comes to professional tasks and responsibilities, bosses like to see a can-do attitude. Instead of reacting to a difficult, challenging assignment with a sigh and immediate reasons why it can’t be done, instead consider what resources you’d need to actually get the job done. Maybe you need an assistant, a bigger budget, more time, access to a special person or resource. Think of it as an opportunity to expand your responsibilities in a way that can lead to a raise or promotion at the end of the day.

4. Don’t start a romantic relationship with your boss.

I don’t think this needs any elaboration. It still shocks me that it happens all the time.

5. Never lie to your boss.

When it comes to making a mistake, always own it — never blame a subordinate, colleague or your dog. However, it’s better to have a solution in place or at least options to fix the mistake in mind when it comes time to fess up. If the mistake is minor, you may be able to fix it and not tell your boss, but never lie about it if asked! While not lying seems obvious, as the advice above indicates, there are plenty of situations when being selective about what you tell your boss is very different than lying.

Do you have any regrets about telling you boss too much? Please let me know if I’ve missed any nuggets of good advice when it comes to developing a healthy employee-employer relationship!

29 comments

  1. Good rules to live by. I also think you shouldnt get too personal with your boss. He doesnt need to know every little thing about your marriage, boyfriends, kids, activities, what you did the night before. Its nice to leave a bit of mystery to divide the line of work and life. Thanks for the article !

  2. “Don’t consume excessive amounts of alcohol with or around your boss”

    That’s so true but yet so easily overlooked – especially after those initial drinks. Maybe there should be an obligatory sign at the x-mas parties and summer parties with warnings? LOL

    On every party I am with my company I see people get drunk and make a fool out of them selves – even the boss does this. Bad manners.

  3. Frankly its difficult to adhere to any one of the above whether its a guy or a girl.

    Rather increasingly women are found using their feminism to score points to get ahead of their competition in their work place. Call it the weaker sex HAHAHA but seriously professional life is getting mixed up with personal life.

    rather people have started living 2 lives independent of each other in office and 2nd at home.

    But thanks to recession a lot of adultry has stopped due to heavy cuts in travel spending’s across the globe.

  4. Great article. Although every topic seems very obvious, often you see that people are forgetting them at the first occasion. Just look how many drunk people you see at a business party …

  5. Interesting article. Telling your boss about your plans to leave “seems” like a good idea, but I can assure you that it is not. Do you think the company would tell you about their plans to fire you?

  6. You have posted absolutely the right points that we all need to ponder in a corporate environment. I never drink with my boss and neither do my colleagues, and obviously I have never told my previous bosses that I am going to quit even though I did tell one or two colleagues.

  7. Iugrad31

    These are all great tips. I think most of these impact your tenure at a company. The most important to me is not lying. Lying brings about ethical issues. Even small lies can have a huge impact. Notably, don’t lie about your employee schedule. If there is a reason why you can’t comply with the schedule, honesty is the best policy. Most scheduling issues can be worked out diplomatically.

  8. Xxeshirley

    When you are accused of being sexualy involvedl with a fellow employee, and you are NOT guilty (and in fact he is guilty), first tactfully tell him you are not guilty. If he acts like you are the devil himself, cuss him out and leave. I did. Now I’m making more money at another place, and the boss is a dream to work with, and he is honest. (My old boss got caught later and fired on the spot.) Carma?

  9. learned-the-hard-way

    Beware of any boss who is too curious about your personal life and asks nosy questions. At the least he/she might be a gossip, at the worst a sadist who will figure out how to use what you say against you. Deflect personal questions by asking a work related question, comment, suggestion. If he/she persists, look them in the eye and amile and nicely say, that’s rather personal and I’d not going to discuss it now. (The time to discuss never has to come, just keep repeating it). If it continues, make notes of it (time, date, place, potential witnesses) and if if need be, file a complaint with HR.

  10. BK

    Remember your boss is NEVER your friend. They only have your back to a point and once they point is reached they will cut you loose just like anyone else. Be friendly but do not trust you boss.

  11. benny

    Ne dice niente a nesunno. Don’t say anything to anybody. Just do your job better than anyone else and button your lip.

    • Anonymous

      This kind of reminds me of the Steve Martin rule of success: Be so good they can’t ignore you.” It’s true. Concentrate on doing your job well — be very careful about treading beyond that!

  12. Jr.

    Being a good employee should come natural. Be there 10 minutes early ready to work at your start time, come back from lunch or breaks a couple of minutes early, show interest in your job and make every effort to make your company a better place to work for all. Your employer is there to make money, and your employment there is not a given. You were hired as an investment to help make that money that pays your wages.

  13. lydy

    i advocate for leaving your personal life out of work as this creates acquaintance and comfort that at some point you may 4get hes your boss ending up in creating a penalty for yourself. watch out to getting so comfortable with your colleagues too you never know their relationship with the boss hence they may sell you out. so concentrate on your job and job alone. make true friend outside your work environment

  14. Pingback: Five Career Setbacks (And How To Recover) | Lifehacker Australia

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