IT Employment

Making a stand against the boss


That's it. You've had it with all the work crap and you're not going to take it anymore. Well, guess what? That's the absolute worst time to pay a visit to your boss. If you have a legitimate beef with your work life, you'd do well to plan your resolution strategy in a calmer mind set.There are tactics to avoid if you really want to make any headway in a difficult conversation with your boss.

1. Don't barge into his/her office once you're hit your breaking point. In fact, try not to let things get to a head before you make a move. Keep a record of all instances that enforce your beef and then calmly present them. 2. Send e-mail asking if the two of you can schedule a time to talk. Say it's about a work issue, but don't be specific unless you're asked. That way, you're not swooping in with all the delicacy of a kamikaze pilot, which tends to decrease a boss's receptiveness. 3. Choose your words wisely and try to keep the defensiveness out of your voice. It sounds like a bunch of psychobabble, but if you can use passive voice when you're speaking, you can ease the way a little more. Basically, passive voice puts the onus on no one but yourself. (Mind you, it's a no-no in professional writing. For example, you never want to say in formal writing "Actions were taken that affected the outcome;" You would instead say, "What John did caused problems with the project.")

But if you're talking to your boss, use the passive voice. If he's giving you too many assignments, say, "I'm feeling a little overwhelmed lately and I wondered if we could talk about ways to adjust my workload." Don't say, "You're giving me too much work and I can't keep up." The difference is in the first sentence, you're actually telling him the effect the workload has on you without directly pointing him out as the culprit behind it. He may be the biggest slave driver in the world, but it doesn't serve your ultimate purpose-lowering your workload--to go in accusing him. Hell hath no fury like a manager cornered.

4. Be proactive. It's much easier to reach a remedy to a problem with a work situation if you come in with some ways to solve it yourself. Lay out a couple of plans that sound reasonable. The boss just may sign off on one of them. And you're not just a problem presenter in his or her mind. You're also a problem solver. Also, it's kind of logical when you think about it. Sometimes those who delegate to staff too much are lazy bosses. So what better strategy to use on the lazy boss but hand him a ready-made fix? 5. Last (weird, underground) tip: Try to smile. I don't always follow this advice myself, but I've been in situations where I've been completely shut down by a smile from the person I'm presenting a case to. For those of you who have seen the movie Office Space, it's the Bill Lumbergh "I'll need you to come in on Saturday" smile. It's a manager's way of saying, "Aw, that's cute, you spouting all of this logical stuff; but, no, we're going to do it my way." So be defensive and pull out your smile first.

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Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

42 comments
RaymondH3201
RaymondH3201

Three choices. 1. Keep quiet and let it keep happening. 2.Find another Job. 3. If you must stand up to the boss remember this; Men ought either to be indulged or utterly destroyed, for if you merely offend them they take vengeance, but if you injure them greatly they are unable to retaliate, so that the injury done to a man ought to be such that vengeance cannot be feared. -Niccolo Machiavelli Rarely do these things work out well so you should be working on number 2 before it comes too this. If your lucky your boss will understand but more often than not this is not the case

Absolutely
Absolutely

The others all advise how to deal with the situation that has already gotten out of hand. Frankly, by the time those pearls of wisdom are applicable, the only advice I would want is about temporary extension of health insurance, and who's hiring elsewhere. #4, on the other hand, can be used in a situation that has not yet reached such absurdity that it brings to mind scenes or characters from [i]Office Space[/i]. Amusing article.

student_2000_9
student_2000_9

i think that devices are right and i'd like to add that : be comfortable when you talk to your boss because this might be shown on your face and it's disadvantege to be nervouis while you talk to him.

royhayward
royhayward

'cause they may not know. Really. I spent a bit of time working in a professional recruiting office, and one of the things I gleaned from this experience was that some people let there boss know they are unhappy for the first time when they are turning in their resignation. This seemed odd to me, but after I had spent some time out in the work force I understand why. Most people have a fear of being fired. They then feed this fear the concept that if they let the boss know they are unhappy, he/she will let them go and hire a happy person. In my experience as the boss, I know that fixing a problem to make employees happier is easier most times, than finding a replacement. While at the recruiting office we used to ask the unhappy candidate if their boss knew that they were unhappy. Most of the time the answer was, "No." And we would instruct them on ways to let them know. Because there is this danger in having the first conversation at the point of resignation. It is called the counter-offer. We would have these unhappy candidates twice. First, Mr. Unhappy would go on interviews and get a new job offer. He would accept and go see the boss. Mr. Boss would say, "I had no idea you were unsatisfied with X Y and Z. Here is a 20% increase and we will get you some help." Mr. Unhappy would not be able to turn this down, and pull out of the new job. Then he would spend a couple of months planning to spend all this new money, and training his replacement. Yes that is right, that help that Mr. Boss arranged is going to soon be the only one doing that job. Mr. Boss doesn't have the budget to give Mr. Unhappy a 20% raise for a year, but he can for 3 to 4 months. So three months later, Mr. Unhappy was not only back, but back and unemployed at the same time. The best prospect didn't want him as he had pulled out of their offer and had burned that bridge. Some one will probably reply with a nice story about how they got a counter-offer or how they use job offers to extort raises from their boss. But please believe me that these are the rare cases. Now about talking to the boss. One of my favorite ways it to offer to buy him lunch. There are many times when a boss of mine will want to talk off site about up coming organization changes. I use the same format to air issues and grievances. Also, a free meal is a good way to say, "Hey, I still like you but we need to talk." If you are having trouble getting this meeting you may have to do it in the office, then I recommend a conference room at least. Try not to have this discussion in their office where people will knock on the door and call on the phone and interrupt. Getting into as neutral of a setting as possible is important a a psychological reasons as well. Your boss may have trouble relating to your problems sitting behind a mahogany desk surrounded by awards and achievements. And be sure to have written down some or all of what you want to say. Even if you don't bring it or read any of it. Writing it down can help prepare you to sound more concise and coherent. Wow, this seems like a bit of a rant. sorry for the lengthy post.

amit.hunterd
amit.hunterd

Speaking from first hand there is nothing good in feeling like your are working for someone that you cannot stand... sll I can say is been there done that, so what life goes on... best time was when I handed in my notice without another position to go to, work was not on my mind but you do what you need to; to get by. All you need to do is look at things now and where you wanna go and start looking at areas that interest you, places you want to go and how to encorporate all of this into what many call life.

butesch
butesch

the cost of replacing a good employee is estimated at 50% to 100% of their annual salary. I would welcome a chance to try to make it a win/win relationship if they are not happy.

chas_2
chas_2

I am glad that your article correctly pointed out that a lot of people don't approach their bosses to discuss problems out of the fear of being fired. I happen to be one of them. The scenario you paint of a boss offering to let a worker have a large increase for 3 or 4 months, only to screw them later by hiring their replacement permanently, is yet another example of why people don't like talking to, or trusting, their bosses. What you say about "extorting" money is another thing - for workers that truly are underpaid, starting a dialogue with a boss and company from a position of strength are critical. Think of the huge run-ups in gas prices these last three summers. For the first time in my 20+ year career in I-T, I formally asked for a raise. Naturally, I presented a well thought-out note highlighting my accomplishments and value to the company. I was initially turned down, but eventually I got it some months later. When 20% of your income disappears and your wages don't keep up, seeking replacement funds, particularly if you're a good employee, is far from what I would consider "extortion". I think it really depends on what kind of boss you have and whether you trust that person enough to talk to him/her. I certainly think there's wisdom in having another job or two lined up before starting a discussion about salary, because there ARE some bosses that are quick on the trigger finger these days. If you have a boss that's considerate, polite, a good listener, and you trust him/her, then the sort of "games" where you have to circle the wagons and get your parachute ready won't be necessary. But for most businesses, in this world of tight budgets, corporate malfeasance, lies, and "every man for himself", I personally would advocate for having an offer in the pocket, or at least having a good plan for what you're going to do if your boss says "no" to your request for a higher salary or any other working condition you despise. Be cordial, be polite, but also be direct, and don't be afraid to take a walk if the company says no, especially if your request is reasonable (e.g., safer working conditions, enough time to take care of children or an aging parent). Life is too short to put up with bad bosses. It can end any time. Just think of the victims of the recent Minnesota bridge collapse. Your boss may have options, but so do you. Always.

Mitch121
Mitch121

Over the years I have learnt that when it comes to letting your boss know if you have a problem, deep down they really dont care because they know they can find someone else, it just means a few months of disruption for them and if you raise it to HR then you will find that the company will be out to get you unless you have a union memeber or lawer there. I have seen it one to many times with number of employees raising issues or problems the only time you get help is if it affects the company or thr dept. In the corporate world we live in your just a number on the payroll system. My advice is if your going to leave, keep it short and simple and sweet. I had a girl who complained when she left and you can work it out she wasnt ever welcomed back

Wayne M.
Wayne M.

royhayward is absolutely correct. Your boss is managing many people and may be completely unaware of individual problems. One item mentioned in the original article, however, gives me pause - having difficulty meeting with your boss. If you are not already having regular formal and informal contact with your boss, then that is a sign of problems to come. Ideally, the boss should take the initiative to talk with his staff daily, but if not, you can take the issue into your own hands. Make a pattern of saying hello to your boss, meeting him for coffee or lunch, or just chatting on a daily basis. It is much easier to raise a difficult issue if you have an ongoing relationship than if you just show up when there is a problem. Yes, if you are facing a difficult issue, raise it with your boss and do it early on rather than when it becomes critical. Also, however, establish a relationship with your boss while everything is fine so that you have a groundwork to use to raise issues.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

For the specific reason you just mentioned. If you're going to quit, then do it and don't look back. Yes, they current employer may throw in a carrot on a stick to entice you to stick around, but like you said, this carrot is short lived and the ride will be over in a blink of an eye. The reason why many employees don't address their problems with the boss stems from the fact that they can get fired on the spot without reason or cause, as such in states with at will employment, such as NY. This fear is what leads to disgruntled employees and the urge to jump ship and make the resignation as surprising and shocking as possible. Yes, we all get a sense of satisfaction from seeing the boss sweat and freak out because they've just lost an employee that they now have to scramble to quickly replace, but that's how it works in corporate politics and such lessons should serve as a reminder of how not to treat employees. If this doesn't hint to the boss that he/she needs to treat employees better, then perhaps they'll never retain anyone in the position long enough and it will turn into a revolving door.

royhayward
royhayward

is alway a good thing, especial your boss. But I have noticed that in the IT area, there are many people that have trouble with this, bosses included. With the example that I used where I took my boss to lunch, he would talk to us, but rarely did it in a one on one setting. He wasn't comfortable there, and so he only had team meetings except for the once a year performance review. And there he looked more uncomfortable than I did. :) The coffee or smoking area work great if you drink coffee or smoke. If those are not an option, I like to find another pretext instead of walking in to their office and just unloading. Many of the bosses that I have had in IT were not promoted to that position because they were great with people. I don't think I have any great talents there either. So, I try to meet them half way to get the communication going. After you have the communication lines open, you may find out that your boss really is a human being after all.

sabiodun
sabiodun

I have been struggling to make a decision about quitting my job as head of IT of an SMB because of my boss. He is not only a slsve driver but also a shy lock but he is very good with project management and i believe i still have one or two things to learn from him. I really enjoy what i am doing and the latitude i have in decision making but the pay is terrible but i don't have any other offer for now. should i resign. thanks.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Former coworker of mine let his boss know, boss took it to higher ups who ignored it. FCW got tired of waiting for the axe (outsourcing was running rampant) and got an offer from another company, 1 month before the end of the project. Project was VERY high visibilty, and upper mgmt went nuts and offered him a very generous package to stay. His reply: "Six months ago, you would have said 'goodbye, don't let the door hit you in the ass' six months from now, I'll be too expensive and you'll find a reason to outsource my job. The only reason you're saying BOO to me right now is because you need me at this moment. I don't trust you" He burned some major bridges, but is disgusted with the field in general and leaving IT alltogether.

royhayward
royhayward

did you mean to advocate not talking about issues and encouraging people to quit without expressing their dissatisfaction? As an employee you may look around and think that your boss knows how you and others are feeling. But that may not be true. I know that as someone who has had direct reports, and probably will have again. I really valued the times when my guys would tell me they didn't like a policy or program we were implementing. Instead of encouraging people to try and get even with their boss, are there good and effective ways of providing feedback that are safe? Do we need to bring back the suggestion box?

royhayward
royhayward

"If you see my door open, please close it. I don't want people thinking they can come and talk to me." What you describe happens. And it is a sad limitation that your boss displayed. I can't think of a good way to get around this as what you are describing is a boss who is unwilling to engage issues or people. So there are really only two, (ok three) ways to play this. Other than doing nothing, you can either work to undermine you boss, or work to leave the team/company. Working to undermine him is seeking to play the game better than he does and replace him. Leaving, as discussed here, should be done after you have a new job. Good luck with whichever option you select.

kjgiffy
kjgiffy

Well, that is a great way to be! You are one of the good ones! Do you have any job openings? :)

JamesRL
JamesRL

You get rewarded for effort as well as results. The reason being is that sometimes results have external factors. A case in point would be a project that you worked on that was cancelled or put on hold due to external factors. You should not be dinged on your evaluation for things out of your control. I also take into account the number of datapoints. If there was one incident, basing an evaluation on one incident may not be appropriate. I generally give people the benefit of the doubt on these things. And it pays off in performance. James

kjgiffy
kjgiffy

Sorry for the Long Post! I was reading this post and just had to reply. I was in IT for 20ish years in well known large corporations and am all too familiar with corporate politics and game playing. It is just that - a Game. In my humble opinion the world should be a place where normal conversations can take place and issues be discussed openly and honestly without fear of retaliation. It should be a place where people work together to resolve issues and make their environment more efficient and a better place to work. Unfortunately this is not the case; everyone looks out for number 1. Corporate Politics foster secretiveness and mistrust. I've had very few bosses that actually go to bat for a good cause or an employee who has valid concerns or innovative ideas to change the workplace for the better. Most bosses I've had do not want to be bothered. Case in point: The last place I worked before deciding to start my own business and finish some schooling changed the format (topics covered) of their performance appraisals each time an issue was brought up. My first appraisal had X number of topics that I was evaluated on. Using these topics as my performance goals I, like all other employees, worked toward achieving success in each of these areas. During the course of the next year I went to my boss with certain issues that were affecting our efficiency as an IT department. One of the issues was a common sense issue involving creating a simple change management procedure. There was an extreme lack of communication in this small department which made it difficult to manage our corporate servers and network operations. Outages, problems, fixes etc...were addressed in 'secret' and never documented. When I approached my 'team' with the suggestion that we keep track of changes, fixes and outages on our servers they were in direct opposition to the suggestion. As time went on, more technical issues arose, more inefficiency became apparent, and I presented my concerns to my boss in a very professional manner with possible solutions and an air of openness and flexibility to hear other's suggestions. My goal was to better our department. Each staff meeting brought up the same problems, but no one ever did anything to work towards fixing those problems. I was told to work together with 'Jim' to come up with solutions. After several attempts, 'Jim' blatantly refused to document any changes to the company servers. I went back to my boss, again very professionally. He was always polite and agreed that this was a valid concern; that we needed to make this a departmental policy. On my next performance appraisal there was a brand new section titled "Resolves Issues with little management involvement" and I was rated low! When I was hired, my job description stated "...to use her experience to assist the department in creating new policies, implementing standards and procedures to help with the efficiency of the IT department, offer suggestions towards improvement..." etc...

royhayward
royhayward

I know that it is one, but my job is called work no play. If I can't keep it together professionally in an unpleasant situation without killing someone, (myself or others), then I need to take a hard look in the mirror. But you suggestions reminded me of something that I did before my last job change. I was at the final end of my negotiations with my current employer. My former job normally required 60 hrs in the office and on call periodically. (this was one of the reasons I was looking) So a couple of weeks before I resigned I started to go home after 8 hours in the office. And I would make a point to walk around a bit to say good night to my co-workers and boss. Well she called me in her office after a few days of this and said she had noticed my behavior and wanted me to think about the repercussions of becoming a trouble maker or exhibiting a bad attitude would have on my future with the company. I did my best to keep a straight face, as I had wanted her to notice. I told her 'again' that I was burned out with our schedule. I asked her if 'she' thought that I was a trouble maker or had a bad attitude, to which she replied that she did not but had 'heard others talking about my actions and what they meant.' Two weeks later I turned in my notice and reminded her or this conversation. I told her that I had done everything in my power short of inviting her to attend my job interviews to let her know that I was leaving. And to warn her that I had also been telegraphing this to all of my co-workers so that they would be prepared for this. And that she was the only one that didn't get the message. But this was not a surprise, our inability to communicate well was another reason that I left. Oh well, what can you do.

chas_2
chas_2

Ideally, one should have an offer in hand with another employer before jumping ship. But if going to this place of business is eating up your very soul - causing you depression, headaches, sleepless nights, then resignation may actually be a relief for you. Yes, you'll have to look at your whole financial picture - how much money do you have saved? Can you live off that for a while? Can you cut your expenses? Can you do away with some luxuries or creature comforts in the short term? Would you be willing to accept a position that pays less in the short term just to get out now? Do you have any valuables you can sell? It may take some creativity to step out without a net underneath. Most people are going to tell you to cling to that position until something else comes along, and I have to believe most of that comes from fear - fear of having no money, fear of losing the car, fear of losing the house, etc. But if clinging to your position makes you (and this is an exaggeration but you get the point) suicidal ... or homicidal ... it's time to get out. Bite the bullet and jump. Envision yourself telling your boss that enough is enough, you quit. How do you think you'll feel? You might talk to your local unemployment office and see what the conditions are for receiving payment, and whether "unbearable working conditions" are covered. I am not an attorney nor expert on this, hence my advice to consult an office. If you can find a way to cope, somehow, that would be the best way. If some folks are in jobs that they don't think are treating them right, some folks turn to passive-aggressive coping strategies. Shave a few minutes off the end of the work day. Take a less eager attitude. Get your work done, but not as quickly. Some folks would castigate others for this strategy, but I think a lot of folks do this anyway whether they're conscious of it or not.

royhayward
royhayward

and good luck with your job search.

sabiodun
sabiodun

Thank you so much royhaward, the point you have made is noted. i do not hate my boss i am not just very comfortable with some of his "tactics" but has you have advised i will stick around until; a) i get a better job b) or conditions at my present place improves whichever comes first. regards abiodun

royhayward
royhayward

My last job change and relocation where to move to a new area and begin taking care of a parent. And I did it without having a period of unemployment. It is harder. But it is not impossible. It seems you are saying that if you have a parent to care for, just quit. I am sure that is not what you mean. Many times these days, (at least in the US) I see people that talk their employers into flexible work hours to accommodate family needs. And moving across the country is possible even if you have a lease to work with or a house to sell. I think you have more options that you think you have.

IT cowgirl
IT cowgirl

I have had to quit my job to care for a parent. No other job offer in site. But it is my duty to care for my parent. Another reason to leave may be to change locations. Seldom can you find a position in a new location and tell them you must wait a month to give your landlord notice. If I can find two additional reasons for leaving without another offer, I am sure others can find more. One should realize there is a broader view for everything.

royhayward
royhayward

that I can think of for resigning without a job offer in hand. 1st is if the company is conducting criminal behavior. In that case, run for the door. But be sure you have the facts 2nd is if you don't plan on getting a new job, and instead are starting your own biz. (and really in that case you have given your self an offer) If you just hate your (job/boss/town/co-worker/chair) suck it up and start looking. You will be glad when a pay cycle passes and you are still looking that you waited. And Vijayant is right, it is easier to get a job while you still have one. the negotiation is easier as you are employed, and you are not having to explain a laps in employment. As for the question, "Why are you looking?" In your case you can honestly say that you have learned about all you can where you are and are (looking for a place to put that knowledge to work / it is time to move on where you can be challenged). Please avoid saying you hate your job or boss to a perspective employer.

Vijayant Vashistha
Vijayant Vashistha

This is not right time for you dude!!! Until unless you have an offer in your hand do not resign... Try to learn as much as you can (as you said still something to learn form your Manager).. Keep in mind if you are in Job and Recruiter/ company asking "Why you want to change" Then you have some Answer..but if you are not in Job then Recruiters / Company will ask so many why's like Why did you leave? Why didn't you talked to your Directors or blab..blab?In that case no matter how skilled you are but any company will thing 100 times before recruit you..so best way is to wait and watch ? Keep your efforts up for hunting job. Best of luck !! Vijay

royhayward
royhayward

Very good point I had forgotten. I have advised people before that if you do what is right for(the customer/company/yourself/others) and you lose out by doing it, you still get to feel good about yourself. Where if you are trying to screw the (customer/company/etc) and you lose out, you lose and don't get to feel good about it. At the end of the day, I have to be able to sleep. Especially if I have an interview in the morning. :) (And when they ask why I am looking. I get to smile when I explain it.)

meryllogue
meryllogue

What about just being a good person? That is incentive, no? It is OK to "take the high road" out the door. Do as the original poster said and talk to your boss about what makes you unhappy. If nothing can/will change, simply state that this makes for an uncomfortable environment and quietly begin your job search. BUT... at the time of departure, attempt to negotiate your departure date between the new and the old companies. Save a bridge with the old, show the new that you have some integrity, and be free. I try to live by that rule that says to treat others as you would be treated. Sometimes I get burned by it, but I would rather be able to walk away knowing I did everything I could to be an honorable, nice person. I can't control what the other side does, only what I do. Break the chain; be nice. I can't change the world, but I CAN change my part of it (how I am in it). SECOND POST EDITED FOR CLARITY. FIRST POST IS BECAUSE THE SITE TOLD ME IT WAS UNAVAILABLE, AND GAVE ME A BLANK PAGE. (SO NO "DOUBLE-POST" FLAMES, PLEASE! :-) )

meryllogue
meryllogue

What about just being a good person? I have proven to myself (biased? maybe...) that it is OK to "take the high road" out the door. Do as the original poster said and talk to your boss about what makes you unhappy. If nothing can/will change, simply state that this makes for an uncomfortable environment and quietly begin your job search. BUT... at the time of departure, attempt to negotiate your departure date between the new and the old companies. Save a bridge with the old, show the new that you have some integrity, and be free. I try to live by that rule that says to treat others as you would be treated. Sometimes I get burned by it, but I would rather be able to walk away knowing I did everything I could to be an honorable, nice person. I can't control what the other side does, only what I do. Break the chain; be nice. I can't change the world, but I CAN change my part of it (how I am in it).

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

If you can rise above it, it gives you a bit of credibility with other expatriots.

bdmore
bdmore

The bridge is a 2 way street. If they burned their side first, it doesn't make any difference if you burn yours.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

You guessed it, it's one of the Financial companies. Here's a hint: The index named after them dropped over 500 pts last week.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

Sounds like a law firm or large financial firm. They are notorious for not giving references because too many people leave them with a pissed off attitude.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

as is their reputation for chewing people up and spitting them out. Merely having them on your resume = known for being battle-hardened. employers don't even tend to check with them, they KNOW their policies and what they do to people.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

I wouldn't want a reference from they anyway.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

so it didn't matter if you were good, bad or indifferent. no disincentive to burning the bridges or pilliaging on the way out the door. You weren't getting a reference anyway.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

because I wouldn't expect them to say anything nice anyway, and if they did, I'd become a very rich man in a serious defamation lawsuit that would be ruled in my favor. I've left on bad terms earlier on in my career, and I could care less about getting references from the scumbags that abused me. If I needed references, I got them from coworkers and other nice people in positions above me, but even they took a very big risk in providing references when the corporate policy stated that they don't provide references to employees who leave on bad terms.

chas_2
chas_2

I totally agree. Your point is especially true of whistleblowers. Get them before they get you.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

The boss has to play by the same rules as his subordinates and I doubt he/she can do little if a subordinate has an issue with a corporate policy implemented from high up in the food chain. From my own experiences, the last guy who voiced his opinions and dislikes of corporate policies was shown the door immediately...so much for diplomacy or talking it out with the employee. Even though an employee may already be unhappy and actively interviewing, he/she would rather quit on their own terms instead of being let go with nowhere to turn. I've played this corporate game all too long now and I know better than to be a whistleblower if I dislike a policy. It's better to bite one's lip and silenty look fort another job and then drop the bomb on them instead of them dropping the bomb on you.