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Jan 9, 2010

45 Things You do That Drive Your Boss Crazy (book review)

Recently, we referenced columnist Anita Bruzzese and her book 45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy (and How to Avoid Them).  As you consider the change(s) you are prepared to embrace in 2010, you may be ready to take a look within.  This is a practical place to start.

Bruzzese lists the most glaring employee errors, categorizing them according to 4 simple statements:
1) Bosses don't promote employees who make them feel uncomfortable
2) Bosses get rid of employees with too many bad habits
3) Bosses don't give great projects to those who can't play nice and get along with others
4) Bosses don't give leadership roles to those who lack maturity and common sense

The language is pretty blunt, the stories jarring, but as Bruzzese writes,
"[employers] do not want to spend more dollars and time educating you about issues that they believe you should already know...They don't have time to write a book of rules..because they think you should already know that stuff.... But I do have time to write down the rules.  At the same time, I want you to know why the rules are important and why they matter to the boss."

We talk a lot in this space about toxic workplaces that are out to get you, that are trying to crush the beautiful independent soul you knew yourself to be.  But sometimes... it is you.

This is real Finishing School stuff -- the finer points of professionalism (or unprofessionalism, as the case may be) that will separate you from the others, that will get you noticed, for good or for bad.  It has value for all types of readers: new professionals, returning Moms, new Bosses, middle managers, and new hires. 

How to use this book
First, read it.  Go ahead and read it all the way through.  Each behavior is covered in 5 or 6 pages with a simple "might be obvious to you, but not to the guilty employee" explanation of how this behavior works against you (and it isn't just because it is annoying).  For example, "If you're not getting enough sleep, you will be cranky, forgetful, less productive, more likely to call in sick and can run the risk of having a wreck on the way to or from work."  I'll add, and likely to produce poor quality incomplete work with long lasting (even potentially dangerous) repercussions.

Second, quiz yourself, highlighter in hand.  How many of these do you do?  Don't make a lot of excuses, just make a mark if you have ever been guilty of the behavior described.  We are all guilty of some, some time or another.

Now, using Bruzzese's 4 postulates, identify where most of your behaviors lie.  Use this discovery to drive your priorities. This can be as simple as counting your behaviors in each section and writing the number at the top of the section introduction.   Are you most concerned with being promoted, retained, given an opportunity, or given leadership?  Start there.

Ask your confidantes for their input.  This takes some guts, so choose wisely.  Asking former co-workers may be less risky than asking within your current team.  Their examples will be less fresh, but you may feel less defensive about them.  Discuss which behaviors you should start with -- which are the most damaging, which can be changed most quickly?  Be prepared to listen (this is Thing #16, by the way.  Fighting Change is #45)

Take an action.  Bruzzese offers steps for each behavior that are practical, measurable goals.  For the Sleepy Employee, she recommends simple behavior changes that can help.  Don't feel pressured to try them all at once.  As with any life-changing goal, a small simple start is more likely to succeed and encourage you to continue.  I had a co-worker who literally took a nap on his lunch hour.  He knew he needed it every day, and his performance never showed that he did.

As a management tool
Managers, it is likely you know exactly what it is about Pouty McDrama that drives you bats (#4).  On the other hand, if you are unable to connect with some of your team, the list might help you articulate what is bothering you.  Bruzzese's bullet points can become talking points in your next 1:1.

As a performance review component
Whether you are writing your employee's goals, or your own, look for performance goals that can get you to the "Be a Better Employee" end you are both looking for without setting it as a vague goal itself.

Example:  Barbara has developed a reputation as an "undesirable."  Cross functional teams groan when she is chosen to represent her group, co-workers trade tips on how to work with her, upper managers wonder aloud whether she should be higher on the potential layoff list.  Asking Barbara to change her personality is not a fair performance goal.  Instead, identify what drives this ostracism and work to correct those specific behaviors.  Remember to choose those with the greatest/most frequent impact on business success and include Barbara in seeing the connection between what she does and the impact it has.

Best of luck, and Happy New Year!

45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy (and How to Avoid Them)
(c) 2007 Anita Bruzzese
Also available in Kindle version

Read Anita Bruzzese's  On the Job, in our blogroll at right.

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