Archive for the ‘Dealing With Your Boss’ category

6.5 Common Phrases That Will Make Your Boss Hate You (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

March 9, 2011

No matter what you think about your boss, he/she has a significant impact on the future of your career.  As a result, it is wise to stay on your boss’ good side.  There are certain phrases that drive all bosses crazy.  Make sure you NEVER say any of the following 6.5 phrases to your boss, no matter how tempting it might be.

  1. “Sorry, I’ve been busy.”  One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone uses the “busy” excuse as a reason for not doing something, especially if the task was something that could have been done in a matter of minutes.  Guess what?  Everyone is busy!  We all have 24 hours in a day.  No more and no less.  Being “busy” is never an acceptable excuse at work.
  2. “I’ll try my best.”  What the heck does that mean?!  Your boss doesn’t want you to “try your best.”  Your boss wants you to get it done! 
  3. “That’s not part of my job.”  When I worked for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, one of my colleagues actually raised his hand during a staff meeting and said this to our Vice President in regard to a new policy.  I thought our boss’ head was going to explode.  However, he responded professionally by saying that part of the employee’s job description included “other duties as assigned.”  Note: Saying “That’s not part of my job” to your boss, in front of the entire staff, is not a good way to advance your career…
  4.  “Why do I have to do this?”  Do you want to know why?  Because your boss said so, that’s why!
  5. “Sorry, I forgot.”  I hate to break it to you, but you are not allowed to “forget” to do things at work, unless you want the company to “forget” to keep paying you.  Use your Outlook Calendar or some other system to remind yourself of what needs to be done.
  6. “I didn’t know that’s what you wanted.”  Get clarity on any project or task BEFORE you start.  Your boss does not expect you to be able to read his mind, but he expects you to ask what he wants if you are not sure. 

6.5   “You are an idiot.”  This is not good to say to your boss either…even if it is true! 

What else should you never say to your boss?  Please comment below, and I may reference you and your idea in my job search and career advice book due out in spring 2012 through The American Management Association.  Just keep it respectable. 🙂

P.S. To learn more about my speaking availability for The 2011 or 2012 Dream Job College Tour, please visit or send an email to

-Pete Leibman

-President of Idealize Enterprises

-Creator of The Dream Job College Tour

Creator of The Washington Wizards’ Sports Careers Day


Twitter: @peteleibman


7 Secrets for Dealing With Difficult People and Overcoming Interpersonal Conflicts At Work (Written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

February 7, 2011

There’s no way around it.  Whether it’s an annoying customer, a critical colleague, or an awful boss, we all have to deal with difficult people at work sometimes.  Here are 7 secrets for dealing with difficult people and overcoming interpersonal conflicts at work:

  1. Don’t take it personally.  No one is born with a rotten attitude; people lash out when they don’t know how to deal with stress and adversity in a healthy way.  Last year, I was involved in a networking group, and one of the women in the group was incredibly abrasive and critical.  I later learned that her young daughter had just been diagnosed with cancer.  That tragedy did not give her the right to disrespect us, but it made it easier for me to understand why she did.  At work, you usually won’t know what’s going on in someone’s personal life.  If someone is difficult, it probably has absolutely nothing to do with you, so don’t take it personally.    
  2. Consider your role.  Having said that, you might have had something to do with the other person’s poor attitude!   As hard as it might be, when someone is critical, you have to listen to what is being said, and ignore how it is being said.  Did you do something that brought on the reaction?  For example, one of my roommates recently lashed out at me when I mistakenly threw out some of his kitchen tools during an overenthusiastic New Year’s Day cleaning session.  While I did not like how he discussed this with me, what he was saying was totally accurate.  I was 100% wrong for throwing out several of his items without asking if he still wanted them.  Ultimately, I was the cause of his reaction, and I took accountability by agreeing to replace the items.
  3. Fight fire with water.  If someone lashes out at you, it’s very tempting to fire back.  However, that will only make the situation worse.  Always keep your cool and stay calm, no matter how hard that might be.  If necessary, excuse yourself for a few minutes and get some fresh air outside.  Let the other person vent, and choose your words very carefully when you respond.  You will be amazed at how people calm down when you hear them out and consider their perspective.
  4. Kill them with kindness.   You should never let people walk all over you just for the sake of keeping the peace.  However, many difficult people have low self-esteem and are actually just crying out for some genuine appreciation.  Especially if the person is a subordinate or colleague, consider being a source of encouragement.
  5. Talk it out in-person.  Never go behind someone’s back because that will only make the other person even angrier if it gets back to him/her.  I made that mistake once at the start of my career after college.  You should also not rely on email or texting to discuss disputes.  Talk face-to-face (ideal) or via phone, if an in-person meeting is not possible.  Discussing a conflict over lunch can also serve to clear the air and help you repair or improve a strained relationship. 
  6. Involve other people carefully.  If you have failed to settle a dispute with another person, then (and only then) consider bringing in other people to help with a resolution.  Just be certain that the difficult person knows you will be bringing in someone else for help.
  7. If all else fails, minimize interactions.  Sometimes, no matter what you do, you will not be able to improve your relationship with a colleague, boss, or customer.  In that case, either eliminate all interaction with the person (that’s probably not possible if the difficult person is your boss!) or minimize the time spent with him/her as much as possible.  Your #1 responsibility is to keep yourself happy.

Like this post or got something to add on how to deal with difficult people at work?  Please comment below!

-Pete Leibman

-President of Idealize Enterprises

-Creator of The Dream Job College Tour

Creator of The Washington Wizards’ Sports Careers Day


Twitter: @peteleibman

P.S. To learn more about my 1-on-1 career coaching programs or my speaking availability for The 2011 Dream Job College Tour, please send an email to

Don’t Be Too Casual on Casual Fridays (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

July 6, 2010

It is amazing what some people wear to work on casual Fridays.  I have seen colleagues wearing open-toed sandals, graphic t-shirts, basketball jerseys, and cut-off jean shorts.  I also once saw a woman wear a cut-off shirt and low-cut jeans, a combination that made her thong quite visible.

Just because you might be going to a club later that night does not mean you should dress for the club during the work-day.  Unless you work in the fashion industry, work is not the place to be making fashion statements.  You shouldn’t be wearing a 3-piece suit on casual Fridays, but remember that you are still at work!  Err on the side of being slightly overdressed at all times.

Casual Fridays are also not excuses to come in with sloppy stubble or smelling like you were out bar-hopping until 4am the night before.

Your colleagues (especially senior management) will notice how you present yourself at all times.  I once had my boss call me in to his office to tell me that one of my 22 year-old employees needed to start dressing more professionally on casual days.

Remember that you are being watched and evaluated at all times!  You can “let yourself go” on the weekends if you want, but always keep it professional during the week!  Sloppy people are much less likely to get raises and promotions.

Thanks for reading!

-Pete Leibman

-College Speaker and President of Idealize Enterprises

How to Handle a Conflict with a Colleague (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

June 28, 2010

Conflicts at work are inevitable.  Make sure you handle them the right way!

When I worked in sales for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, we had a computer database shared by the department’s 20-30 sales reps.  We had to enter full contact information for each of our customers and prospects, and we also had to track our discussions with our accounts.  These policies were in place so that management could check our progress at any time and so that we did not have multiple people calling on the same customer.  Nonetheless, the system was far from perfect.

During my first season with the team, I was trying to establish a program with a youth leadership organization.  One day, I looked up my account in our database, and I noticed that one of my colleagues had set up a separate account for the same exact organization.  Her account also indicated that she had recently spoken with one of the group’s leaders. 

Annoyed at what I assumed was a blatant attempt to “steal” my customer, I chose not to approach her professionally and ask what was going on.  Instead, I went directly to my manager for his opinion.

In a questionable management move (note: your boss will make mistakes also!), my manager approached my colleague’s manager about the situation, and her manager then told her about my concerns.  Later that afternoon, she stormed over to my cubicle and started yelling at me, asking why I was telling people that she had “stolen” my account.

After things cooled down, I met with her and the 2 managers, and we amicably resolved the situation.  She had not seen my account when she created hers, and she recognized that she should have not contacted the group.

Do you want to avoid unnecessary arguments at work AND get your colleagues to respect you?  Then, speak with them in-person about any conflicts (rather than going to your manager initially)!  While this will not always be comfortable, it is much more effective than trying to go around someone.  You will also save your boss from dealing with another headache.  Having said that, there will be times when you will need management to intervene.  Just try to resolve the issue with your colleague first!

Thanks for reading!

-Pete Leibman

-President of Idealize Enterprises

– Career Expert and College Speaker

1 Word Your Boss NEVER Wants to Hear (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

May 27, 2010

As a new employee, you want to give the impression that you have everything under control.  It is certainly okay to ask for help occasionally, but you should always try to solve problems on your own first, and if/when you ask for help, stay calm! 

Several years ago when I worked for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, I was in a private meeting with one of the team’s Senior Vice Presidents at 3:15 pm on a Thursday afternoon.  The door to his office was closed, and we were discussing a new business development project. 

As someone knocked on the door to the office, the SVP rolled his eyes, and said, “Come in.” 

One of the sales department’s newer employees entered, and he was visibly flustered.  He said, “Rick, I have a disaster, and I really need your help.  My client is in the lobby.  He wants to pick up 2 tickets for tonight’s 7pm game, and they have not been printed yet.  I’m flipping out.  What should I do?!” 

Rick looked at him calmly and said, “Jeremy, have you gone to the customer service department and asked them to print the tickets for you?” 

Jeremy responded, “No, I guess I hadn’t thought of that.  Thanks for your help.” 

When my colleague left the office, the Senior Vice President looked at me and said, “I have no idea why he called that a ‘disaster’ and why he needed my help to figure out what to do.  That guy needs to get his act together.” 

Lesson #1: If your boss’ office door is closed, you better have a really good reason for interrupting him. 

Lesson #2: Choose your words carefully.  Your boss NEVER wants to hear that you have a “disaster,” especially if you just have a minor problem that you should have been able to fix on your own. 

Thanks for reading!  

-Pete Leibman  

College Speaker and President of Idealize Enterprises

Who are you hanging out with at work? (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

May 17, 2010

Stop hanging out with the wrong people at work!


It was August 2003, and I was 2 months into my tenure working in the sales department for the NBA’s Washington Wizards.  An afternoon staff meeting had been called by Team President, Susan O’Malley; the plan was for Susan to meet with the sales staff to discuss several new policies and for us to brainstorm new strategies for the upcoming season. 

I happened to walk to the meeting that day with one of my colleagues named Mike (not his real name), and I sat next to him once the meeting began.  In total, there were 30 people seated around a large table in a conference room. 

At the meeting, Susan told the staff about a new commission policy that was unfortunately going to reduce each person’s earning potential for the following season. 

Mike raised his hand and said the following: 

“Susan, I do not understand the philosophy of this organization.  Why does the company always look for ways to nickel-and-dime us every chance they get?” 

There was complete silence in the room, as 29 heads turned to Susan to see her response.  However, being the pro that she was, she remained calm, as she politely thanked Mike for his comment and explained the policy 1 more time.  Then, we moved on to another topic. 

I remember sitting in the meeting being blown away that my colleague had the nerve to question the President of the company in front of the entire staff.  However, I learned a bigger lesson that afternoon when one of the older sales reps came over to me and asked if he could talk to me for a moment.  

We walked to a quiet spot in the office, and he asked me what I thought of Mike’s comment.  I responded by saying that I could not believe what he had said. 

My colleague then gently reminded me that I had walked into the meeting with Mike, sat next to Mike, and left with Mike as well.  He pointed out that Susan did not know me, given that I was a new employee, and he added that it would be wise for me to keep my distance from Mike in the future.  He said that it was just a matter of time before Mike either left the company or got fired, and that I could potentially be lumped in with Mike if senior management saw me hanging out with him often. 

In summary, be VERY careful who you are seen with at work!  Fair or unfair, we all make judgments about other people based on who we see them with.  Especially when you are a new employee, make sure to surround yourself with people who are respected at work.  You cannot avoid certain people altogether, but when going to meetings, office parties, networking events, and so on, you can always control who you go with and who you hang out with.  Make sure you aren’t hanging out with anyone who has an attitude like Mike did! 

Thanks for reading! 

-Pete Leibman 

President of Idealize Enterprises 

College Speaker and Career Expert for Gen Y

The Easiest Way to Impress Your Boss (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

May 10, 2010

Do you know how long you should be in the office every day?

In 2008, I worked for the best boss of my professional career.  Tom was smart, successful, and professional, and he invested a significant amount of time and energy into developing his employees.  He also gave us a lot of freedom to do our jobs independently.  In other words, he was there when we needed him, but he was not a micro-manager.

The company I worked for with Tom had a standard “9-5” schedule, so employees were allowed to leave at 5pm each weekday. 

One afternoon, I was in Tom’s office for a 4:30pm conference call that ran late. 

When the clock hit 5pm, Tom and I watched 4 people immediately get up and start making their ways to the door. (If you have ever worked in a corporate environment, you know that when people are “allowed” to leave for the day, it’s basically a mad sprint to see who can get out the door the fastest.)

When our call concluded, Tom looked at me and said, “Pete, you know that I give people their space at work and that I’m a very laid-back boss, but nothing annoys me more than people who can’t get out of here fast enough when the clock hits 5 pm.  If they are looking at their watch all day counting down until they can go home, why don’t they do me a favor and do themselves a favor by finding another job.  I want people who actually want to work here.”

Given that this was the angriest I saw Tom in the 12 months I worked for him, this moment really stood out to me.  It also made me wonder how much the typical, micro-manager boss hates it when people leave at 5 pm on the dot every day.

When I speak to students and young professionals, I end this story by asking them what time they think I left work that day, and I ALWAYS get the same answers.  Students raise their hands and guess that I left at 6 pm, or 7 pm, or even as late as 9-10pm.

However, while I certainly had my days when I stayed until 6pm or 7pm to get a project done for Tom, the truth is that I left that day (and most other days as well) around 5:15 pm.

You don’t need to work a 15-hour day to impress your boss!  Just get to work 10-15 minutes early, leave 10-15 minutes late, and use a little less than your full time allotted for lunch, and you will be putting in more time in the office than 95% of your company.  You’ll also give your boss the impression that you want to work there, even if you really don’t.  A little extra effort goes a long way in gaining the respect of your boss!

Thanks for reading!

-Pete Leibman

President of Idealize Enterprises

College Speaker and Career Expert for Gen Y