Tag Archives: boss

Supporting Your Boss Effectively

(For ease of reading in this article, I have used the masculine gender pronoun to refer to the boss. This in no way implies that bosses are predominantly men.)

Working With a Boss Who Withholds Information

A friend recently lamented to me that her boss seems unwilling to share information with her.

She would be the last to know about projects and updates. It was also humiliating to hear the latest news about her own department from colleagues in other departments.

Of course, your boss is not obliged to tell you everything that is going on. However, if by not telling you, it negatively affects the way you perform the job, you must deal with it.

Here are some ways to manage this:

  • Gather evidence. Don’t just complain vaguely to your boss. Have some concrete evidence of actual pieces of information that you did not receive from him (when you should have).
  • Explain clearly why the withholding of information bothered or affected you. Just being dissatisfied, for example, is not going to convince your boss that it is important. Tell him how it affected your morale, made you waste more time, or affected your productivity.
  • Emphasise the positives. Instead of just stating the negatives, tell him some positive consequences of sharing the information with you.
  • Show your enthusiasm about projects by asking to be given information.
Working With a Boss Who Doesn’t Seem to Like You

Another friend had some concerns that her boss did not seem to like her. She felt that he would avoid talking to her, and if he had to, he would be curt and cold.

Your boss does not have to like you, but he must respect you and the work that you do.

However, work will be a lot more pleasant if your boss likes you. Try to find out what he doesn’t like about you (but the answer could be hard to take).

It is awkward to ask outright why the boss doesn’t like you. It may be easier to ask if there is anything you are doing (or not doing) that he would prefer to be different.

The best time to ask this would be at your annual appraisal. However, if that is a long time away, then you may need to ask to speak with the boss privately.

And sometimes, you may just have to accept that you and the boss have a personality clash, and he is never going to like you. But he must respect you and the work you do.

Why Figure Out How to Support Your Boss?

Your working relationship with your boss could be the most important one at the workplace. If this relationship is weak or negative, it could lead to dissatisfaction, frustration, stress, and below-expectation performance.

Sometimes, speaking to your boss about your feelings and concerns could be the best way to deal with issues with your boss.

At other times, it may be worth your while to analyse and understand your boss’ work preferences and leadership style, and try to work with this understanding.

Is Your Thinking Causing You Stress?

You cannot totally avoid stress at the workplace.

Some amount of stress is necessary to motivate you; however, being overwhelmingly stressed can have negative effects on your mental and physical health.

If you constantly feel stressed, examine your own thinking. Do you need to change your own paradigm?

Here are some thinking errors that can lead to stress:

(1) You have an “all-or-nothing” mindset.

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Re-evaluate the importance of tasks or their components. Strategise and focus on the most crucial ones.

Be realistic about what you can and cannot do in a finite amount of time with a finite amount of resources.

(2) You tend to magnify the consequences of situations.

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In the process, you make yourself worried and panicky.

Stop torturing yourself! Use logical thinking to analyse the situation. If you are really worried, talk to the people involved to find out more.

(3) You tend to focus on the negative.

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If negative thoughts are keeping you up at night, you have to make a conscious effort to think positively.

(4) You believe that you can read other people’s minds.

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No you can’t.

You don’t know why your boss did not assign that job to you – without asking. You don’t know why your colleague did not return your greeting this morning – without asking.

Ask. There may be a simple reason.

“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.”

– Hans Selye (Hungarian researcher of stress and its effects on the human body)

Things You Must Know as a Secretary or Admin Support Professional (Part 1 of 3)

If you provide administrative support to your boss and your team, be proud of your job. You play an important part in the admin support system of your organisation.

In this 3-part series, we examine the things you MUST know in order to stand out as a valuable resource to your organisation.

Here are the things you must know:

The Role You Are Playing

Your primary role is to support your boss and team.

To play this role well, you must understand the objectives of your boss and team in the organisation. Is it to ensure customer satisfaction? Is it to generate revenue? Is it to work within a certain budget?

Knowing this is not enough. Use this knowledge. Make sure that in your daily tasks, the outcome contribute towards these objectives.

As a quick example, if you have to decide between outsourcing a service or doing it in-house, do not mindlessly consider the costs or the quality. Your consideration should be based on what your boss or the team is trying to achieve – cost-efficiency or superior quality?

Apart from providing great support to your boss, be a team player. Ensure that office procedures are streamlined, and that communication among team members (including your boss) is smooth and effective.

What is Acceptable Workplace Behaviour

Are you savvy about workplace behaviour? Do you unwittingly commit unintentional acts or make remarks that cause embarrassment or affect your professional image?

Here are some quick rules of thumb regarding how you should behave at the workplace:

  • Show respect to everybody. (Avoid name-calling or making derogatory remarks about people or situations.)
  • Don’t share offensive jokes. (eg: jokes related to gender, religion, personal appearance, etc.)
  • Don’t flirt at the workplace. (This can seriously undermine your credibility.)
  • Manage your anger appropriately. (Withdrawing and keeping silent when you are angry may be seen as being passive-aggressive, so whenever appropriate, talk things through with the other party.)

Be friendly, respectful and dignified – this will earn you the respect and confidence of your boss and co-workers.

In the next part, we will discuss how you should manage the various types of communication at the workplace.

Love Your Job as a Secretary or an Administrative Professional

This is a fictional account of a workday of Kathy, an administrative professional who works in the Sales Department in an organisation.

It is 8.20am, and Kathy arrives at the office. As usual, she goes to the office pantry to make herself a cup of coffee. Two colleagues, Sue and Lay Yin from R&D, are at the coffee machine, so Kathy joins them for a friendly chat.

Sue and Lay Yin are talking about how a male colleague is frequently seen leaving the office with a married female colleague. They are speculating on the nature of their relationship. Kathy gleefully joins in and voices her own speculations. They have a laugh and return to their own desks.

Kathy’s boss comes in at 9am, and asks her to send an email to Mr Henry Tan, a new client, to inform him about a meeting that has been confirmed. Kathy sends out this quick email:

________________________________________________________________________

Hi Mr Tan,

The meeting with our Mrktg Dept has been confirmed on 25 Feb at 2.30pm.  Venue details to follow.

Have a fantastic day ahead!

Best regards,

Kathy

________________________________________________________________________

Just before lunch, Kathy’s boss calls her into his office to discuss the training plans for the department. Her boss wants all the 12 staff members in Sales Department to go through a customer service training programme.

He wants Kathy to think about whether it is better to send the 12 persons to external training programmes, or to have a training provider run an in-company training programme for them. Kathy is to propose the better option for further discussion in their departmental meeting later in the week.

After her lunch break, Kathy does some quick checks and gets this information:

– Cost per person for a 2-day customer service programme with ABC Training Pte Ltd – $700
– Cost per person for a 1-day customer service programme  with Excellence Pte Ltd – $450
– Cost of running a 2-day in-company customer service training workshop (max 15 participants) – $8000 (about $660 per person)

Kathy does a comparison and feels that running the programme in-company is the most cost-effective, so she decides to propose that to her boss in their departmental meeting two days later. It’s an easy decision to make.

At 3.20pm, Kathy walks into the photo-copying room and sees John at the machine. It is too late to beat a retreat, as John has already seen her. With his usual flamboyance, he says, “Hi there, sweetheart. What a sexy pair of shoes!”

Kathy doesn’t like it, but she gives John a tight smile, pretends to sort some papers, and leaves the photo-copying room in a bit of a huff. If only she had the courage to tell John to stop being so annoying!

At 5.25pm, Kathy is getting ready to leave the office. Her boss has already left for the day.

Ms Shelly Teo, the Finance Manager, comes up to her desk and asks her for some sales figures from two years ago. Shelly says it is very urgent, and Kathy reluctantly (and unhappily) agrees to stay late to retrieve the data for Shelly. She works till 6.45pm.

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If you were Kathy, what would you have done differently in the various situations? See if your observations match ours.

Some things that Kathy could have done differently:

(1)  Refrain from participating in office gossip.

Kathy should not have joined Sue and Lay Yin in their gossip about two colleagues going out, even if she had opinions about this. Gossip, especially when it involves speculations about personal conduct, can be hurtful. Gossip also undermines trust in an organisation.

(2)  Use the correct style and formality level in business email. 

Kathy’s email to the new client (Mr Henry Tan) is too informal and does not show enough respect and decorum. As an administrative professional, Kathy must know the style required for different types of business messages.

(3)  Use a logical decision-making process.   

Although Kathy did well to do some research and gather price information from two training providers, she should have used a logical decision-making process.

Cost-savings may not be the only objective her boss is trying to achieve. Other critical factors like quality of training and instructor, the location of the training, etc., may also need to be considered. On top of that, Kathy should also be able to show her boss that she has analysed the various risks involved.

(4)  Know what acceptable workplace behaviour is and speak up for herself.  

Kathy obviously disliked John calling her sweetheart and commenting on her shoes, but she couldn’t find the courage to tell John that. She should handle such situations firmly and assertively, to avoid feeling harassed and stressed.

If she allows this to continue, John may get the wrong message that it is acceptable, or worse, that Kathy actually enjoys the flirting.

(5)  Be more assertive.   

When the Finance Manager approached Kathy at 5.25pm for help, it was up to Kathy to decide if she wanted to help.

Kathy was not willing to do it, but she was not assertive enough to turn down the request. This resulted in her working late and becoming resentful.

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This may be a fictional account, but the individual encounters are happening daily to secretaries and administrative professionals in many workplaces.

As a secretary or administrative professional, you are expected to streamline office procedures, strengthen working relationships and support the boss and other colleagues. And you must maintain the right attitude and poise while facing these challenges.

To go on loving your job and keep away negative stress, know the common expectations and qualities of a high-performance administrative professional, and acquire the relevant skills to become competent and confident.

What Makes You Angry at the Workplace

I met a former colleague, Alan, for coffee recently. He was apparently having some difficulties with a colleague, Pauline.

Accordingly to Alan, Pauline frequently interrupts him at meetings when he is putting across his ideas. She also disagrees with his suggestions and makes him look bad.

Matters had come to a head the day before. Alan was scheduled to meet his boss to get his approval on a project. This was the most important project Alan was handling in his job, and it could very well have implications on his advancement in the company.

Before his meeting with the boss at 10.30am, Pauline was seen asking to see the boss. She and the boss then had a 15-minute closed door meeting.

Subsequently, during Alan’s meeting with the boss, Alan’s proposal on the project was met with a lukewarm response, and the discussion ended with the boss saying that he needed some time to review the whole project.

Before the meeting ended, the boss also mentioned that he had just received some interesting ideas from Pauline, and that he would like to review them.

The more Alan spoke about this, the angrier he became.

What is Causing Alan’s Anger?

Anger can be explained as an emotion of self-preservation. It can be defined as your need to preserve your: 

(1)  Personal Worth

When we feel that our personal worth is being attacked, we can be made to feel stressed and vulnerable.

The fact that Pauline frequently interrupts Alan at meetings could be perceived by Alan to be a lack of respect, and this can make him feel angry.

(2)  Essential Needs

People define their essential needs differently, and we all hope that these needs can be met.

In this situation, Alan was hoping that his project would meet with the boss’ approval and ultimately be a success, because his advancement prospects would then be improved.

When he learned that the boss wanted to review the project after the conversation with Pauline, this essential need was perceived as being threatened, and this would have contributed to Alan’s anger.

(3) Basic Convictions

Alan believed that people should play fair at the workplace.

He was upset that Pauline did not play fair, and he perceived that she “hijacked” his project by speaking to the boss about it privately just before his presentation.

Should Alan Suppress His Anger?

Alan can choose to suppress his anger, or he can choose to deal with it.

If he chooses to suppress his anger, he must understand that the aggravating factors are not likely to just disappear.

Pauline will not be given a chance to explain her side of the story. She will also not be able to know how her actions are affecting Alan.

If the situation gets from bad to worse, the stress may ultimately affect Alan’s health and well being.

How Can Alan Deal With the Anger?

With the understanding that we feel angry when our personal worth, essential needs or basic convictions are threatened, we can analyse logically and objectively if this is our reality.

Remember, perceptions and reality can sometimes be very different.

(1) Personal Worth

When Pauline is disrespectful and interrupts Alan at meetings, it can make Alan feel small, but only if he allows it to.

Alan could look at it from another angle. Could it be that Pauline, by interrupting, is simply ill-mannered? Or maybe she is not even aware that she is causing distress by interrupting.

If that is the case, why should it make Alan feel small? Maybe Alan should tell Pauline that he would like to finish speaking, instead of allowing his personal worth to be affected.

(2)  Essential Needs

A lot of our stress and anger can be caused by our own pessimism.

Before he has had a chance to hear the boss’ final decision, Alan should not be too quick to predict that the boss is not going to accept his proposal, and that his career is going to be affected as a result.

Yes, that could very well be true, but here are more practical way that Alan could deal with this:

  • Ask the boss respectfully if there are aspects of his proposal that can be improved.
  • Ask to hear other views when the boss is ready, and see how these could be incorporated into his proposal to make it even better.
  • Volunteer to work with whatever new ideas are being explored.

Any of these ways would make Alan’s boss see him in a better light than if Alan were to just show his disappointment or anger.

(3) Basic Convictions

As mature adults, we need to have a firm foundation of beliefs to guide our lives. However, it is important to remain composed when others do not share the same beliefs.

On the other hand, if we are convinced that another person’s actions have flouted the rules of common decency, we should have the courage to deal with the conflict.

In Alan’s case, he should have a talk with Pauline. Tell her that he respects her right to speak with the boss, but that he feels she could have discussed this with him beforehand as this is his project.

Whether Pauline agrees or not is not the point; the point is to let her know how he feels.

Handle Anger Professionally at the Workplace

At the workplace, when you are really angry, the best thing you could do might be to remove yourself (physically or mentally).

Give yourself time to cool down and analyse the situation rationally before deciding on how you choose to respond.

Remember, how you manage your anger at the workplace directly affects your professional image.

Suppressing Anger at the Workplace

A friend was recently telling me about his unreasonable boss and some unsupportive colleagues.

According to him, his boss is very demanding. If he should fall short of an expectation or make a mistake, the boss will reprimand him harshly, sometimes in front of other colleagues or even visitors to the office. It can be nerve-wrecking and humiliating.

On top of that, he also has some colleagues that he feels are not as cooperative as they should be. They hold back on information, and they do not offer any help when he approaches them.

I asked my friend how he feels about all this. Not surprisingly, he feels a lot of anger.

I asked him how he expresses this anger. He replied that he doesn’t. He just suppresses his anger at the workplace.

The definition of suppressing anger is this: To maintain an image of being above problems associated with anger.

Why Do People Suppress Anger?
  • They could be concerned about how being angry will affect their image.
  • They could have a reserved personality.
  • They may doubt themselves, and wonder if they even have a right to be angry.
  • They may fear confrontation.

If you tend to suppress your anger at the workplace, you may want to ask yourself why you do that. Examine your own answer and analyse if you have a valid concern there.

Suppressing Anger – Should You or Should You Not?

It is sometimes better to suppress your anger, especially if you know that the situation calls for extra understanding and sensitivity.

Also, for one-off situations that are not important, you may want to just move on quickly.

However, for situations that recur frequently, suppressing your anger may not be healthy for you. It creates extra stress for your body to deal with, and this can affect your health negatively.

Anger is not always bad. In fact, if you manage your anger constructively, it allows you to challenge injustices, and this can feel empowering.

Are Your Overworked and Stressed by It?

According to a recent Channel News Asia (CNA) report, two-thirds of Singapore workers said their workload has increased when compared with six months ago. (Singaporeans Overworked, More stressed: Survey – CNA (14 September 2014))

In this report, Ms Michelle Lim, Chief Operating Officer of JobsCentral Group, briefly discussed the challenges in the Singapore workplace environment, including issues like rising manpower costs, longer work hours, worker stress, as well as technology and its impact on our working styles.

Ms Lim also said this, “Both employees and employers should learn to respect after-work hours and reasonable allocation of work in order to avoid burning out in the long-term.”

How Much is Too Much?

Dealing with too much work can be stressful and demotivating, but first you have to determine this – how much is too much?

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Do you work overtime at least 3 days out of 5?
  • Do you have to take work home regularly?
  • Do you usually feel pressured and stressed?
  • Do you skip lunch often just to get more work done?

Poor time management can also lead to a backlog of work, and you need to differentiate between that and actually being asked to do too much.

Yes, You are Overworked. What Can You Do?

If you are sure that you are being overworked, know your rights and take appropriate action.

Arrange a meeting with your boss. Present a time-sheet with tasks undertaken and time spent for the past month. This should clearly show that you have too much work to handle.

Be reasonable; tell your boss that you are willing to take on extra work occasionally.

However, let the boss know the consequences of continued work overload (eg: mistakes, high stress, poor health, etc.).

I’ve Told the Boss. Now What?

Just pointing out problems without suggesting any solutions will not be helpful to you or your boss. Suggest solutions that your boss can consider.

For example, could some of the work be delegated? Could someone else be trained to take over a certain task? Might it be more cost-effective to outsource this task? Or perhaps a redesign of the process flow might be in order?

You boss may or may not acknowledge your problem; he may or may not accept your suggestion.

However, having a conversation with your boss on this issue will send the message that you are confident and assertive enough to manage your time and work load.

Planning and conducting this conversation carefully will show that you are a logical and strategic thinker. This can only bring you respect, even if nothing else happens.

Remember this – nothing changes until you take action.

Working With Your Boss

(For ease of reading in this article, I have used the masculine gender pronoun to refer to the boss. This in no way implies that bosses are predominantly men.)

Working With a Boss Who Withholds Information

A friend recently lamented to me that her boss seems unwilling to share information with her.

She would be the last to know about projects and updates. It was also humiliating to hear the latest news about her own department from colleagues in other departments.

Of course, your boss is not obliged to tell you everything that is going on. However, if by not telling you, it negatively affects the way you perform the job, you must deal with it.

Here are some ways to manage this:

  • Gather evidence. Don’t just complain vaguely to your boss. Have some concrete evidence of actual pieces of information that you did not receive from him (when you should have).
  • Explain clearly why the withholding of information bothered or affected you. Just being dissatisfied, for example, is not going to convince your boss that it is important. Tell him how it affected your morale, made you waste more time, or affected your productivity.
  • Emphasise the positives. Instead of just stating the negatives, tell him some positive consequences of sharing the information with you.
  • Show your enthusiasm about projects by asking to be given information.
Working With a Boss Who Doesn’t Seem to Like You

Another friend had some concerns that her boss did not seem to like her. She felt that he would avoid talking to her, and if he had to, he would be curt and cold.

Your boss does not have to like you, but he must respect you and the work that you do.

However, work will be a lot more pleasant if your boss likes you. Try to find out what he doesn’t like about you (but the answer could be hard to take).

It is awkward to ask outright why the boss doesn’t like you. It may be easier to ask if there is anything you are doing (or not doing) that he would prefer to be different.

The best time to ask this would be at your annual appraisal. However, if that is a long time away, then you may need to ask to speak with the boss privately.

And sometimes, you may just have to accept that you and the boss have a personality clash, and he is never going to like you. But he must respect you and the work you do.

Why Manage Your Boss?

Your working relationship with your boss could be the most important one at the workplace. If this relationship is weak or negative, it could lead to dissatisfaction, frustration, stress, and below-expectation performance.

Sometimes, speaking to your boss about your feelings and concerns could be the best way to deal with issues with your boss.

At other times, it may be worth your while to analyse and understand your boss’ work preferences and leadership style, and try to work with this understanding.