Being a boss has its discomforts.
Though it can be something of an ego trip, it's also a challenge to the sometimes fragile egos of those put in charge.
So if you want to rise, rise quickly and rise often, here are five things that you should always, always avoid saying to your boss's face. Or even by email, text, or very silly Apple Watch diagram.
1. "Were you drunk last night?"
I was at a management dinner. Everyone there was important, or at least, thought they were. My immediate boss had an affection for sauvignon blanc -- or anything that looked like it might be sauvignon blanc. He had one, he had two, and he had more. Half-way through the evening, he was carried out by two other members of management. The next day, I espied a boss who looked like he'd been the stage upon which a competitive cheerleading squad had practiced. I tried to act innocent (I was young, it was easy). "Were you drunk last night?" I said. The boss looked at me as if I was, well, high. For the next year, he did everything he could to make my life sadder than that of a Carmelite nun ordered to host a talk show. Bosses don't like to lose face, just like they don't like to lose their equilibrium at a management dinner.
2. "Are you sure about that?"
I know we're in the midst of a California-led revolution, where we're all loving doves, sharing and caring. But there are appropriate ways to question authority, and they're not usually the direct ones. Yes, you can ask if you've understood your boss correctly. By all means, walk your boss through the implications of their decisions in a gentle, objective way. But to question their certainty? Oh, no. Bosses are deciders. Or have you forgotten how missions are accomplished?
3. "Your husband/wife is really cute."
Did I mention that bosses are paranoid? I know you thought you were offering a compliment, one that would make the boss feel even more successful than he feels already. But you might be younger than your boss. You might be more fetching and dress a little more stylishly. His or her spouse might be unhappy with the time the boss is spending at the office. Bosses are conditioned to think in terms of threats. Compliment them on their spouses and they might see you as a rival. Yes, it's insane. But from insanity it is but a small step to disaster.
4. "You Republicans/Democrats are all the same."
Your boss might have annoyed you. But trying to poke at bosses through their political affiliations is not going to work. First, you don't necessarily know what their real political affiliations are. They might say they're a Democrat because that's what they think people at the office want to hear. Remember, being a boss is a political job. It therefore involves not telling the truth quite a lot. Instead of stepping into political doo-doo, don't-don't.
5. "I could easily do your job."
Yes, you probably could. The whole point of corporations is that everyone is ultimately dispensable. The boss's job, however, is to act indispensable. That is part of his inner being. It is part of his belief system. What am I saying? It is his belief system. It's never worth questioning anyone's core belief -- the thing about themselves they take most seriously. In your boss's case, the thing they take most seriously is themselves. The thing they take most seriously is that no one can do the job quite like them. Never interfere with their inner glow, even if you know it's radioactive.