What Your Boss Is Really Thinking
Do you work for someone buttoned-up or more laid-back? Between these two very different head honchos — Marjorie Kaplan, president of Animal Planet Media and Michelle Visser, CEO of Burt's Bees Baby — you'll get the answers you need on three common work dilemmas
1. You're talking to your boss when you start to feel tears coming on: Let 'em fly, or run for the ladies' room?
VISSER: "It's absolutely okay to cry in front of your boss, but it shouldn't become a habit. A few years ago, someone came into my office sobbing because she was overwhelmed. Coincidentally, a promotion was in the works for her, and a few days later I gave her the good news. Maybe she thought her tears had helped her, because from then on, she kept coming into my office to cry. You want employees to feel free to express themselves, but work isn't the place for therapy."
KAPLAN: "Do your best to get away - but calmly. Excuse yourself by saying, 'May I have a moment?' More often than not, crying is viewed as a sign of weakness and immaturity, and the inability to keep your feelings in check will undermine people's perception of you. If you can't get away, ask for a tissue and be honest about why you're upset. Crying doesn't have to make you seem soft if you own it, explain it, and quickly pull yourself back together."
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2. You and a fellow single coworker seem to have a thing for each other. Is it okay to date?
VISSER: "Sure! Work is no longer something we do from 9 to 5, and it's getting harder to separate our personal lives from our professional ones. My sister actually met her husband through work, so if the single people in my company go on a few dates, I'm 100 per cent fine with that. And of course, if it doesn't work out, that's okay too. That's life, and most people can be professional in those situations without letting emotions flare at the office."
KAPLAN: "Whether your company has a policy against it or not, dating someone you directly work for or who works directly for you is never a good idea. If you're the boss, others may feel you're playing favourites. If you're the underling, the promotions you've earned can be misconstrued as a result of your relationship and ruin your credibility with the rest of your team. And whatever your position, returning to a purely professional relationship after the personal one ends is nearly impossible."
3. Your boss is taking you to task in a meeting in front of everyone. Should you defend yourself, or stand down?
VISSER: "As long as you're polite, you can disagree with your boss publicly. Sadly, I've seen many managers launch into screaming, finger-pointing tirades in front of a whole conference room of people, but here's the thing: It only makes them look worse. You may feel embarrassed in the moment, but take comfort in knowing that your boss is digging her own grave. What you should do is take the criticism with dignity. And if you're going to speak up, be darn sure you're right."
KAPLAN: "This situation really depends on the culture of your workplace. If healthy debate is a part of the team dynamic, there's nothing wrong with being clear to your boss about your point of view in a respectful manner. Meetings should be about the work, so don't make it personal. But if your boss doesn't support that kind of debate and expects you to sit there and take it, save your points for a one-on-one discussion after the meeting."
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