There have been several kerfluffles around my office recently, all revolving around the same issue: What do you tell your boss and when? This would seem to be a simple question, but it’s not. First, it depends on the boss. Some guys (and in that category I, as always, include women guys) want to know nothing until it rears up and bites them in the butt, and then you should have told them. Others want to know what color tie or scarf you’re planning to wear next Thursday. And the target moves. On Monday, Chet may want to know everything. On Tuesday, you can’t rouse him from his slumber.
So what’s a poor employee to do? Take this quiz and see how sensitive you are. How you score may determine whether or not you have a future.
1. You have a big party coming up and you’re trying to decide what canapes to serve. Do you tell the boss?
a. No, that’s ridiculous.
b. Of course! She likes to know every little detail!
c. Not really, except I make sure to have those little empanadas she likes so much.
2. You’re going on vacation next month. Do you tell the boss?
a. No. My life is my own!
b. Of course. He likes to know every detail.
c. I’m going to check the dates to make sure it coincides with his vacation as much as possible, but in the end I’m going to do what I have to do, making sure that he and his assistant know what my plans are.
3. You’re going to have a meeting with a bunch of people about something that may or may not happen sometime in the future. Do you tell the boss?
a. No! I’ll tell him about it when he needs to know.
b. Of course. I don’t floss without telling him everything.
c. Yeah, I’ll shoot him an e-mail, just an FYI. Some people are attending who may mention it to him and then he’ll feel like he’s out of the loop. He hates that.
4. Your division is about to make a big deal with another company. It’s going to be announced next Tuesday. Do you tell the boss?
a. I’ll tell her Tuesday morning. You know, give her a “heads-up.”
b. I’ll tell her about the whole thing right now, before we even talk to Law and Public Relations. She’s going to want to go over this thing from top to bottom!
c. I’ll get all the moving pieces started, and then dial her in, probably on Friday. That will give her the weekend to go over the paper and think about what we might have missed.
5. You’re getting a divorce. Your life is a shambles. Do you tell the boss?
a. Definitely! He’ll feel really sorry for me!
b. I’ll mope around until he asks me what’s wrong. Then I’ll tell him everything. For a LONG time.
c. I’ll mention it. Since it’s not about him, he’ll have limited interest in it, but he ought to know in case I flake out a little bit in the coming months.
SCORING: Score yourself 1 point for every a. answer, which is a low score because you’re a really stinky communicator and a bad employee. Score yourself 2 points for every b. answer, because while you’re a suckup, you’re erring on the right side by reaching out and trying to make your boss aware of things. You’re likely to be a pretty big pain in the a**, though. Keep that in mind. Score yourself 3 points for every c. answer, because you’re clearly trying to address the issue with subtlety and modulation. You may not get it right every time, but you’re trying to play it a situation at a time and neither tell too much or too little. So good for you.
As always, the higher you score, the higher your score. Give yourself a point for trying. Trying counts.