Maybe it’s Hollywood, or stories from friends, mentors and parents, but it seems that a majority of us get nervous (or at least a little edgy) when we are “called into the boss’ office?”
It’s not a new thing either, but one that has probably gone back for generations when subjects were called in front of the king. Post like this are typical on career forums:
In this case, the person posting didn’t know of doing anything wrong, but was still concerned.
I think the genesis of this inherent fear comes from the fact that most bosses don’t reach out to their people or “want to talk” unless (A) You did something wrong, or (B) they want something from you. Either case is not all that pleasant for you, the employee.
Recently, I even noticed the feeling in myself. Upon hearing I needed to have a “quick one-on-one” with my boss that he didn’t seem to set up with my other peers, I immediately thought about any reason that he would want to talk with me. Since there didn’t appear to be anything particularly good I feared the worst. Maybe I was in for a big job change or something bad was on the horizon for me.
What made me even more concerned with the feeling I had was that I NEVER felt this way. I noted how my friends and peers would always express fear when being called into the boss’ office, but that I always was hopeful that there was good news coming.
It ended up that just like “Paul” in the post above, my boss had some great news for me. A big career development opportunity. And the reason that no one else was having the “quick one-on-one” was because I was the only one given this great opportunity.
As I left my boss’ office, with a pleasantly surprised smirk on my face, I thought about how I could make sure not to let this fear strike my heart any time in the future I was called in by my boss.
Focus on the Good– Most people’s immediate response to being called into the boss’ office being bad, we overlook great opportunity. Realize that when your boss has really good news or needs your help with something that will help your career (or show that he/she really trusts you), they like to do it privately and often in-person.
Ask for clarity– If ever I am concerned, I look for ways to set my mind at ease. One way of doing this is to ask your boss for clarification on what will be discussed during the meeting. Saying something like, “do I need to have anything prepared for the meeting” will give you more of an indication of the meeting’s focus. If your boss shrugs off your request, it may be an indication that the topic of discussion is no big deal.
Don’t get your boss a reason to call you in for something bad– I know this one is a bit obvious, but when you are always putting out 100% effort and that you make your boss aware of any mistake you make (or a heads up when an issue may be in the making) then you will have little reason to fear being called into your boss’ office.
If what you get called in for ends up being bad, focus on the solution. Don’t immediately assume that it’s the end of the world or that your boss hates you. Instead, brainstorm solutions with your boss and solicit his/her help to correct any mistakes or avoid making them in the future. While your boss has a number of responsibilities and things on their mind, most are mindful of your well-being and want to see you succeed.
For you bosses out there, remember how being called into the boss’ office feels and don’t put your employees through the same agony you know you would have felt. Mix in some good with the bad. As Ken Blanchard says, “catch people doing things right” and let them know you are aware of it.
So next time you get called into your boss’ office, don’t immediately expect the worst. Think about the good things that can come out of it. This type of mentality will help you stay disciplined and motivated to produce the highest quality of work. And when the result of the meeting is bad, don’t leave your boss’ office without at least some idea of how to move forward and do better next time.
Aaron McDaniel, is a corporate manager, entrepreneur, author, public speaker and community leader. Aaron has held numerous management roles at a Fortune 500 company, being one of the youngest ever appointed appointed Regional Vice President at the age of 27, and is the founder of multiple entrepreneurial ventures. Aaron instructed a highly rated student-led course on leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas Undergraduate School of Business and has a book, The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World: Savvy Strategies to Get In, Get Ahead, and Rise to the Top, due to be out later this year. Aaron offers advice that helps young professionals build the foundation for a successful career. Visit his blog to learn more.