Book Giveaway! Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-stealing Bosses and the Rest of Your Life at Work:

We spend more time with the people we work with than almost anyone else, but nothing in school or family really prepares you to handle those business relationships. As a result, we can often feel clueless about how to act or compelled to do things we really don’t want to do (like share a bed with a co-worker on a business trip!). Enter, management guru and Inc. colleague, Alison Green.

Green’s latest book, Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-stealing Bosses and the Rest of Your Life at Work comes out today, and I got the chance to read it early. If you have a manager, are a manager, or someday hope to have a job, you should read it. Unless you’re a management guru yourself (not self-proclaimed, mind you), the information is valuable in navigating sticky situations that we all run into.

Unlike other management books that focus on principles, Green teaches the principle and then gives sample dialogues for just about every situation imaginable. Here are a few of her main points.

Now, you can continue to read my review (which you should) by clicking here: Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-stealing Bosses and the Rest of Your Life at Work

If you’d like a chance to win a free copy of Alison’s book, then leave a comment about the best or worst job/career advice you’ve ever heard.  I’ll take all the comments and pick one at random and that person will receive a free copy!


UPDATE: Sharon is the winner! I have sent you an email, Sharon, so please respond!

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78 thoughts on “Book Giveaway! Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-stealing Bosses and the Rest of Your Life at Work:

  1. The worst career advice I have ever gotten was to be passive aggressive towards co-workers. Horrible advice, not to mention super unprofessional!

  2. The squeaky wheel gets the grease – if you really want the job: call, call, call! Call every day, then they’ll know who you are.

    And now, since I hire, I know that they’ll know who you are so they DON’T hire you. Worst advice.

  3. “Go along to get along.” If employers really wanted robots working for them, they would use robots. Sometimes, the best interests of both the company and the individual employee requires the employee to speak up, to suggest an improvement to a pre-existing process, or even to outright oppose something.

    1. grannybunny – I must disagree with you. There are cases where you can and should speak up. However, there are some cultures where one just needs to lay-low, be quiet, and just do your job. There are cultures where initiative, trying to help, going the extra mile, and speaking up, are not only not rewarded but sometimes punished.

      It really depends upon your culture.

  4. Be a Team Player. Which, as a woman, often means rolling over and going with what the loudest voice says and doing whatever it takes to avoid conflict. I know better now, that if something’s wrong or you think an idea won’t work, speak up!! Contrary views ARE part of teamwork.

    1. Jill- As I mentioned above, it really depends upon the culture of your work environment. This also applies to men and not just women. For the record, I am male.

      There are cases where you can and should speak up. However, there are some cultures where one just needs to lay-low, be quiet, and just do your job. There are cultures where initiative, trying to help, going the extra mile, and speaking up, are not only not rewarded but sometimes punished.

  5. “Keep your head down.” Don’t question people with authority, and don’t make waves. I have no interest in being a drone, so I refused to follow that piece of “advice.” It is possible to question authority without challenging authority, and if you want to get anywhere, you have to make those waves.

  6. Worse career advice I’ve received was being told to “just go get a job at McDonalds” when the economy tanked. It’s not that easy to get a retail or food service job when you’ve an unrelated degree and no experience in either industry. I don’t know how many of those types of places I applied to and every single one told me I was “over qualified” and passed on even interviewing me.

  7. My mom told me to take the barrettes out of my hair before an interview when I was 16. She was right, though. They made me look overly juvenile.

  8. The worst piece of career advice I heard was going into a store to ask for jobs – to show “gumption”.

    The best piece from Alison herself was to look for a new job.

  9. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Which in most cases, adverse to change. Experienced first hand in a job where I was hired for change and every (baby-step) recommendation was met with reasons why it wouldn’t work.

  10. Always say something at a meeting even if you have nothing to contribute.
    I have worked with people who believe this and being in meetings with them is awkward. They will loudly interrupt with meaningless information or an off topic comment. “Does everyone know that Director went to Tulsa last week?” Um, yeah, we just had an hour meeting discussing what Director learned in Tulsa. Thanks for speaking up.

  11. Best advice was just be direct with people. Stop avoiding awkward conversations with coworkers and just talk to them directly about issues.

  12. Pushy marketing advice for how to act at a book signing. I cannot bring myself to use marketing tactics that would make me shrivel in discomfort if someone used them on me.

  13. Was told I needed self-discipline by a manager who was overweight and chain-smoked.

  14. It is what it is. I know there are times where you need to accept that policy is policy and deal or move on, but the workplace where this was said constantly was so toxic. No one was willing to try to make any positive changes and everyone was convinced there was nothing that would make the company a better place to work.

  15. Offer to work for free to demonstrate gumption; come in week before your official start date to “get the lay of the land.”

  16. The best career advice I’ve ever received was from my mentor who told me to reinvent myself every 5 years. He said share your knowledge, teach a class, host a lunch and learn program at work, do positive fun things with employees. Don’t forget the”human” in Human Resources.

  17. Worst advice I ever got was that it’s normal to be completely miserable at work. That if you’re struggling it’s your fault and a lack of training, unreasonable bosses, toxic environments or just plain bad fits don’t exist and you should just try harder.

    Best advice I ever got was that work doesn’t need to define you and it’s ok for a job to just be a job.

  18. Best career advice, pertaining to the job hunt: apply and forget about it. Sure, save a copy of the description and such so you have it in case you get called for an interview, but once you’ve hit submit on the application, everything is out of your control.

    Also, consider the audience. What ever the message, consider who you are trying to reach and who you know the message will reach. How will they understand the message. Under this is also the reminder that since I work at a public university, everything I write for work can be subject to an open information request.

  19. Worst advice: make the coffee or bring some baked goods to show you’re a team player.

    Really bad advice for a young woman in a professional job!

  20. Worst Boss Ever – Constantly belittled everyone who worked for her, lied to Senior Management to make herself look good, and made up things to have reasons to fire people she didn’t like, or who were more capable than she.

  21. Best career advice: remember your audience when presenting information. We tend to know our data so well, we forget the person we are presenting to does not.

    1. I definitely agree on the not calling so often that I actually encourage solid applicants to check back with me quarterly via email. Several of those have resulted in hires.

  22. Best advice: Become comfortable being uncomfortable… meaning put yourself out there even if it’s a little scary. Take calculated risks and believe that you can do it. When we needed someone to present a LinkedIn workshop for employees who were being laid off, I offhandedly said I’d do it if we couldn’t get in touch with our rep. Long story short, I ended up putting it together the day before. We had to move the event to a larger space because demand was so high for it, and I ended up speaking on a stage rather than in a conference room in front of over 150 people! Ended up a much larger scale than I ever thought it would be but so glad I took that leap! Totally works.

  23. The worst career advice I ever got was regarding an upcoming job interview. This person told me to “think like the interviewer and tell them what you’d want to hear”. Not if I want to find a job that is actually a good fit and that I will be happy in longterm… Terrible advice. Needless to say, I did NOT ask this person for advice ever again.

  24. Best Advice: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This was especially true when I was starting out. Asking questions is how you learn.

  25. Best Advice: Find what it is you love to do and someone, somewhere will pay you to do it.

  26. Best advice: You don’t have to have all the answers right away. It’s okay to tell someone that you’ll have to get back to them so that when you do, you are giving a solid answer.

  27. The best piece of career advice I ever got was from my first boss at my first job out of college: Half of the art of conversation is knowing when to shut the hell up. 🙂

  28. Worst advice- just take the job, any job. You can learn the job and learn to like the people/ culture after.

    Best advice- be yourself and be confident in your skills and abilities. Don’t lie, if you don’t know something, tell them, but that you’re certainly willing to learn!

  29. Best advice (from Mom!): You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it. A holdover from school when she gave me permission to hate math–you don’t have to like it, you just have to learn it. Funnily enough, I’m pretty good at math and science to this day.

    Honestly, there is always some task at any job that is annoying/onerous/busy work but I just think of it as the cost of getting to do the fun parts of my job!

  30. Among the worst advice I’ve received is not to take notes during an internal meeting/conversation and only listen. (The person meant well, but I’m not an aural learner, so this advice is terrible for me. Plus, I often refer to my notes, and others were taking notes, so it was certainly socially acceptable.)

  31. Worst Advice:
    Just take any job you can get, and figure it out after the fact. Ended up in a job that I didn’t know how to do after being promised training (that never happened).

  32. The best advice I ever got was to work at a branch library, and not process serials, since I’d go insane. 16 years in the same place, and I’m still happy to be there.

  33. Best advice I got was take the initiative and ask for forgiveness later.

  34. Good Advice: Try not to always strive to complete projects or solve problems quickly, accurately, and inexpensively. Instead, aim for two out of three.

  35. Best Advice: Don’t put anything into writing (even a private email) that you wouldn’t want published on the front page of the New York Times. I wish my boss had given me that advice before I put something in writing that I shouldn’t have.

  36. Best: final semester of nursing school everyone is talking about their job offers and which specialty they want to pursue. In leadership class, our professor told us not to worry so much about getting in to our preferred specialty right away, but to find a great nurse manager, especially one who knows how to support and nurture new grads. It does you no good to find your “dream” job if you’ll be set up for failure or burnt out within a few years. There’s always time and opportunity to switch and advance in the future. I found a job in an area adjacent to the specialty I wanted with a wonderful nurse manager. I had so many opportunities for growth and amazing mentors. I stayed in that job for 5 years, whereas classmates who didn’t heed the progessor’s advice ended up leaving the profession entirely. When there was a major leadership shakeup at that hospital, I saw the signs early (another thing we learned in leadership class) and got out before things got really bad. Because I had such a strong resume, I got tons of job offers and ended up with a job that is a perfect fit for me.

  37. I’ve had so many worst job experiences it’s hard to pick one. But a young woman I know has one that tops all mine. She worked at a business which was in a mixed use building. Her boss lived in the building as well as had her business there and the two were connected by a door. One morning, the young woman came in for work and found the owner’s bra & panties flung over the copier. The owner eventually emerged from her apartment, collected her undergarments, and returned to her living space, only to re-emerge later as though nothing odd happened.
    All in a day’s work!

  38. “Maybe you two would like to plan a little lunch date?”

    Told to me by our Director of Administration when having to meet about not getting a long with a deranged coworker.

    Uhm no thanks buddy:-)

  39. Worst advice: Make your direct reports drink from the fire hose, the good ones will thrive.

  40. The best career advice that I ever received was to apply for a job that I was very interested in, EVEN THOUGH I didn’t meet all the requirements/qualifications. I got that job! The valuable lesson I learned was that employers cannot always find the “perfect” person to fill the job. They advertise for the “perfect” candidate, in hopes that someone will come close to meeting their expectations.

  41. You don’t need a good paying job if you have a husband as a woman needs to take care of the home as main job in life.

  42. I will buy my own copy, so don’t enter me in the drawing. I’m just here to put in a plug for Alison – her site and advice are wonderful!

  43. The best advice I ever received was at one of my first jobs, when the manager told me “It’s easier to stay out of trouble than it is to get out of trouble.” I remember that whenever I get into a sticky situation and have shared that advice with many new employees.

  44. Best advice: follow up on clients’ requests in writing. Too many times I had let a client take advantage of me by pretending we agreed to something, so my manager took me aside and told me how to properly CYA.

  45. Best career advice I got was from my father. The phrasing is a little outdated (he told me this in 1980something) but the content still holds:

    “Whenever you’re faced with a tough decision, imagine that you have to explain your actions to ten men from Missouri.”

    The idea is that if a group of good ol’ boys (or girls) would think a course of action is sketchy, then it probably is. Really, really helpful when you’re wondering about the right choice in an ethical gray area.

  46. You can only control yourself, you can’t control how people react but you can control how you react to their reactions.

  47. Always do the right thing. It isn’t always easy, but you can look yourself in the mirror.

  48. The best career advice I ever got was during my first white collar job. I was a naive congressional staffer and was preparing to welcome a delegation to our office. I had a number of elaborate plans for the delegation, including a tour of the Capitol dome and lunch. My boss looked at me and said, “Underpromise and overdeliver.” I never forgot that. I apply that maxim today to both my personal and professional work lives. It’s never let me down!

  49. The worst advice I received was from someone who learned that my husband planned to be a stay-at-home parent after we had children, while I returned to work. This person was convinced that I’d be resentful and the marriage would break up. Nope! I adore my daughter, but I am so glad that I get to go hang out with adults all day at a job I love.

  50. Well I’m not really sure if this is the best work advice or the worst work advice but it was actually given to me by you previously when I emailed you a situation I was having at my job it was a local family-owned and operated company and the owner and his wife were playing favorites and I explained the situation to you and your advice was to learn how to live with it or move on because it was more than likely never going to change. Well you were right it never did change and I kept the dog for 2 and 1/2 years before I could not take anymore of it and I did move on so I don’t know if it was the best of the worst but it ended up giving me the courage to be able to move on

  51. Best Advice: Hire smart people from the start.

    Worst Advice: We need you to hire this person who is coming off another contract into your organization.

  52. Worst career advice:

    I had just started working at our city. I with our volunteer and information offices. I came in excited to increase our volunteer services and our work with youth. After being there for about 2 weeks my co-worker came in, shut the door, and told me that she had been selected to talk with me from the staff. They told me I was making them look bad because I was working too hard and I needed to cut it out! I needed to slow down and take longer to get things done. Needless to say I did not stay there long!

  53. The first day I became a manager my old boss said ” Be sure you always have a box of tissues on your desk.” I thought she was kidding. Not more than an hour later I had a team member in my doorway asking to speak with me….she had tears in her eyes. I had to dodge out to my old bosses office and grab her box of tissues! Have had them on my desk ever since.

  54. I was told to stay in a job I hated because the company will look out for you in the long run. I decided to leave and found a great job I loved. Six months later my entire division at the old job was laid off.

  55. Best advice: “Put all the legal stuff out of the way, what is the right thing to do”?
    Loved this because early in my career I was so focused on following the law exactly instead of focusing on how, if we are able to, do right by our Team Member and our business.
    Focus on how we can achieve the same goals vs. competing against each other.
    Worst Advice (different company): “I don’t care if it’s illegal I suggest you do it if you want a job here”
    That being said when asked to something very illegal it was my wake-up call to find a new job.

  56. Although it’s also applicable to life, the best advice I’ve gotten:

    You’re never going to change anyone else. You can only change yourself.

    This has been helpful when I get exasperated with others at work when they don’t see things “my” way.

  57. Best: Always tell the truth. There is less to remember .

    Worse: The laws don’t apply to us.

  58. “Bad news is best delivered early.” As soon as something’s off the rails, escalate it, even if it’s to communicate what you’re about to do about it.

  59. The best advice I ever got was early in my career. A boss told me that, even when you hate it, you have to be good at your current job if you want to move. And while I don’t think this advice holds true for every situation, it has served me well. When you get a good reputation, moving around becomes a lot easier.

  60. The best advice I ever received- If you don’t know something, never make it up; always say “I’m not sure but I will find out and let you know by ____.”
    You get credit for admitting you don’t know and you learn something knew when you find out.

  61. Worst advice: I was doing a taught Masters degree and considering whether I should stop my education afterwards or apply for PhD positions. A career adviser told me “that’s enough degrees for a woman”.

  62. Great managers adjust to their people not the other way around. Managers shouldn’t assume that their employees will adjust to them.

  63. Worst career advice – Lie. One person told me to cover up an employment gap by making up a job. Another person told me that she covered up being fired from jobs by putting her friend’s name and contact info instead of her actual boss’s contact info so that the friend could lie on her behalf. Both people said that HR, recruiters, and managers “expect” people to lie, so it’s not a big deal.

  64. The worst piece of advice was from an HR Director and I was an entry level HR Associate. She told me to come to work early and play solitaire on my computer so that when the boss comes in they think you’re dedicated. She also said the same goes for staying late.
    So regardless of how busy you actually are or efficient you were, or family obligations or social life, or gym workout or anything you should ya know just pretend and waste your life at a screen.
    I did not follow that advice and am better for it.

  65. Worst advice I ever received: I had started a new position as of head of a department. They had been without a Department head for a while, and the Board of Trustees had given me a list of things they wanted accomplished when I started. I started to change things and implement new procedures. The department aid didn’t like change, and especially my changes. She went to the Director and complained and threatened to quit. The Director came to me and said, “Your working at 110% capacity, perhaps you can tone it down a bit, and only work at 70% capacity.” That was over 10 years ago.

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