Your boss’s job is to help you eliminate obstacles, ensure you have the resources you need to be successful, and to be a coach. A manager’s job is also to evaluate you.
Managers only have so many points of reference to evaluate their employees’ performance. If you tend to vent with your boss how your internal customers are difficult to work with, your boss doesn’t know that you don’t do this with everyone. It’s a point of reference that makes an impression. How do I know this? I learned it the hard way.
My last boss, before I started Candid Culture, was the best boss I ever had. He always had my back. He was knowledgeable about the business and happy to share his knowledge. He trusted me and gave me a lot of latitude. And I confused that positive relationship with that of a confidante.
I felt comfortable with my boss, so I complained about my internal customers to him. I thought he was a safe person to do that with. I was wrong. He eventually told me he had no way to determine that I didn’t vent with everyone. My naïve decision to vent to my boss was a point of reference about my professionalism and not a good one.
It would have been fine to tell my boss I was struggling to work with an internal customer and to ask for suggestions for how to work better with the person. It would have been fine to say that I was frustrated or discouraged and was in need of support. It’s ok to share problems and breakdowns and leverage your boss to find solutions and to get help. Asking your boss to help you solve a problem you haven’t been able to solve yourself is expected. Using your boss as a therapist is not.
I don’t want you to be paranoid, to feel that you have to watch every word that comes out of your mouth, and that you always have to be on your guard. Just know the role people in organizations play. Leaders and managers have to determine who is successful in their current role and who is a good fit for future roles. So be mindful of how you show up and to whom.
We all know impressions are formed quickly and are hard to change. If someone sees you once a week, one a month, once a quarter, what are they seeing? People only know what we show them and what others tell them.
I know this post is political. I’m almost hesitant to write it. But I don’t want you labeled as someone with poor judgment or someone who can’t manage their emotions. Remember, let your boss see the poised professional you are. Let your friends and family see the rest.