By the time I turned 17 I had worked three jobs and dated a few boys. I learned in both situations that when either one said ‘trust me’ it normally meant they wanted you to do something that would be of great benefit to them, but not you.
Over the next few years, or decades, not much has changed.
There will probably come a time in your career that you hear those words with the intent of having you take on additional work that is most likely not in your best interest. How do you handle it?
Quit? No, not always an option. Besides, this is a good lesson to learn even if you do leave to prevent the same patter at a new location.
Instead of “handling” it, it is better to re-manage your manager. Change the dynamics to shift the outcome. One of the best pieces of advice my best friend once said to me, “Change the response, change the behavior.”
You cannot force someone to change their behavior; however, following these six steps allows you to change your responses and actions to positively modify their behavior.
Listening is done throughout the process. First, listen to how the request is presented. Does your manager use any of the following phrases:
– It will be good opportunity for you
– It is a great learning experience for you
– This will be good for your career
But wait, these things could be true, so how do you know that the follow up phrases are not just said to butter you up? Are they given as the beginning of a conversation or as the end of the conversation?
If these statements are given as conversation ending all-the-proof-you-need statements, odds are you are being snookered.
It is a double whammy if there is no additional recognition, movement or monetary value for you.
Listen next after you complete the next important action:
Once you have been presented with this wonderful opportunity, respond with a very simple, non-threatening response:
“Great – how so?”
If these tasks are truly a good opportunity, your manager should be able to explain how the responsibilities are an asset to you.
This may take a bit of volleying to pull back the curtain. Keep asking, in a non-threatening, positive way, using a modified Five Whys approach.
The Five Whys approach is a simple and powerful tool to uncover the root of a problem by asking why no fewer than five times. In this instance, ask probative questions rather than why to discover the root of the request.
The manager may say it will be a good opportunity to learn a new system. The first question you could ask is how much deeper will you get in the system. This will help you determine if you will actually learn more or simply be doing data entry.
If you know the system, you could ask how this opportunity will help you gain more exposure, assist your role, advance your career in your department or company.
Taking this approach will most likely make your manager uncomfortable. What they want more than anything is for you to blindly trust them and just agree with a smile. Asking probing questions was not what they were looking for and they will very well try to dodge them.
This may also be uncomfortable for you, in the beginning; however, this is a very effective tool as long as it is done in a positive, non-threatening way. Getting comfortable utilizing this system will assist you in many, many situations throughout your career.
My best friend, wise woman that she is, took control of her career and role when she stopped believing the ‘trust me’ by coming to the pivotal realization, “Just because you give me poor leadership doesn’t mean I have to accept poor leadership.”
That is when she became the master of the Five Why theory and practice.
Your goal is to determine what is in it for you. What are the benefits for you in doing these additional tasks or responsibilities? This is not selfish or not being a team player. This is managing your job and career without being a doormat.
Truly look at what is being asked of you in an impartial manner. Is it an opportunity that you could leverage or are you going to be doing all the grunt work and hand it off to someone else to take the credit?
Opportunities that expose you to leaders, mentors, new experiences, departments, technologies, methodologies, approaches and skills are a great benefit to you as an individual and a contributor.
Examine all aspects to see if there is a possibility that, although probably not the intent, you can turn this around to your benefit.
While evaluating the opportunity, keep in mind your manager’s previous behavior. Which has spoken louder in the past – their words or their actions? Have they passed the trust but verify test? If they have asked you to trust them and demonstrated that you can do so by honoring their words and intent, they pass.
If they did not pass the trust and verify test and knowing you cannot change their behavior, recognize there is one thing you can change: your response. Responding to the request in a new manner, one which demonstrates you recognize the business aspect, your value and look for solutions instead of simply, grudgingly saying yes, will begin to change your manager’s approach when asking you to take on additional tasks.
Instead of saying no, provide a counter. Remember, this is about business and therefore the most effective approach is providing an alternate business plan. This allows you to give your manager an option without being a disgruntled employee who refused to be a team player.
Your manager may tell you that they want you to take this on because they know you will get it done. They trust only you to get it done, said in a most sincere way. This line is almost as old as the ‘trust me’ line.
You can respond, in a polite manner, with, “Yes, I do get everything done that I am supposed; however just because I can doesn’t mean that I am the best person for this task. In this case I think it would be better suited in another area.” Then give your case.
Do not drone on about how it would be unfair to you, you already have so much on your plate or similar. This is now not about you, rather about the best way to get done the task at hand. Keep direct on what you recommend and why in short, impactful points or thoughts.
Sometimes you are just going to have to take it, period. Even after all the above points your manager may look at you and say, “Nice try, you’re going to have to take it on anyway.”
All is not lost.
Accept responsibility with grace, but do not leave it at that. Now is the time to clarify. Define expectations by asking who is taking ownership of what and how. If you are expected to own this, ask to what extent. Are there other people involved, how will you interact with them, will you need cooperation that the manager must establish?
Now is the time to set those expectations then get it in writing.
Follow up with your manager in an email. Maintain a polite, professional demeanor. A short email explaining that you wanted to clarify your discussion and briefly outline the points as were discussed.
If you will be interacting with others who will need your bosses nudging to cooperate, request your manager send an email to that group explaining the project, your role and what is needed.
If you need a little push to get that email, tie the success of the task back to your manager. Tell them if you are going to put your name on this and their name as your leader, you want to succeed and in order to do so, you need their assistance.
Managers are not the only ones who can butter people up.
If you have no other option but to take on the tasks, return to the evaluate step. Look and find a way that you can utilize this as a positive.
You may not be able to avoid taking on these types of tasks or projects; however, you will have established a new foundation:
1. You are not simply going to accept them blindly.
2. You are not combative or outright saying no.
3. You think about the business and offer alternatives.
4. You hold your manager, yourself and other partners accountable.
You cannot change other people’s behavior; however, you can change your response. When you modify your approach and response, behaviors and situations begin to change.
As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc, a national career coaching and practice firm, I am a Brand Strategist, Professional Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, sales teams, leadership and companies to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
In other words: I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.
Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about Career Polish and what we can do to help you.
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