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JobScripts: Learn What to Say In Tricky Office Dilemmas

Eliot Kaplan  |  March 2, 2019

It would be nice to think our modern workplace is loaded with reasonable people and simple solutions, but we know otherwise.

Obtuse bosses, entitled underlings, tricky colleagues. “Let’s table that till the metrics quantify,” says the boss. “Why can’t I take off for my sheepdog’s grooming appointment,” says the assistant. “You don’t mind the smell of this  paprika chicken I bought at the street cart do you?” says the colleague.

Most workplace columns I see prescribe “communication” as the answer. Ah, yes, communication. The buzzword of a thousand failed marriage therapists.  JobScripts tells you in detailed, measured fashion exactly what to say in every office situation and how to respond no matter how the conversation turns.

I spent 20 years interviewing over 5,000 people as head of talent acquisition for a major media company. And after I hired them (or helped them get hired), I dealt with exactly these sorts of back-and-forth interactions on a daily basis. Which makes me uniquely qualified to bring you: WorkScripts.

JobScripts tells you in detailed, measured fashion exactly what to say in every office situation and how to respond no matter how the conversation turns. It takes you all the way through the interaction, feeling confident YOU are going to be steering the conversation. And confidence is at least half the battle.

Q: I have had some mental health issues in the past. I’m feeling good now and I’m interviewing for a job. When do I tell them I have a weekly shrink appointment I can’t miss? Do I raise it during the interviews, tell them when/if I get the job?

A: First, glad things are working out for you. Remember if you’ve got no baggage, it means you’ve never traveled. Or more eloquently: We all got our shit!

There’s no need to raise it this early. Go in feeling strong and get the job. A week or two in—once things are going along well—pay a visit to your boss. You don’t need to go into all the details. It’s a private matter. Here’s your script.

You say: “I’m really enjoying my first few weeks here. But I want to tell you, I have a standing doctor’s appointment at 6 p.m. every Wednesday that I need to go to. I’m happy to come in early that day or skip lunch or stay later the next day. The work will definitely get done.”

*The response you’re hoping to hear: “We’re the kind of place that’s all about results. We don’t micromanage how you get your work done. You may just have to remind me you’re leaving the first couple of times.”

You say: “I really appreciate your flexibility and I won’t take advantage of it.”

*The response you’re dreading: “We can’t have people coming and going.  We never know exactly how the workflow will go. If I make the exception for you everyone will be asking for special favors. I just can’t guarantee that every Wednesday at 6 you’ll be able to get out.”

You say: “I understand your concerns. This is very important to me. I don’t plan to be coming and going willy nilly. As I said, I’m willing to put in extra time before or after work to make sure the work gets completed. I would never let you or the team down. If it’s truly a work emergency, I will give up the appointment—although I don’t want to make that a regular thing.”

*The response you didn’t see coming: “Now you have me worried about someone who has to go see a doctor, which I assume is a shrink, every Wednesday. “

You say: “As I’m sure you’re aware as someone with many years of experience in management, it’s inappropriate to discuss private medical issues. Just as I would respect your privacy, I would expect you to respect mine.”

Q: My coworker, whose job is basically the same as mine, let slip in a conversation what her salary is. It’s 20% more than mine! How do I get what I deserve?

A: Transparency, the new way to fight salary inequity. And to ruin a million friendships. I know everything is supposed to be an open book these days but in talking salary with your peers, one of you is gonna leave that conversation unhappy. It’s rare that two people in exactly the same job will be making exactly the same salary. The differences should not be as major as in your case but salaries are based on experience, demand and LEVERAGE (a conversation for another time).

In your case, you have a bit of dilemma. If you reveal your source, you’re throwing your coworker under the bus. You may not care. And unless you are a protected class of employee (by race, gender, national origin) a company can basically pay its employees what it wants. Here’s a script to use in this situation.

You say: “As you know I have done outstanding work in my three years here. It’s come to my attention that people in similar positions to mine are being paid a lot more. What can I do to rectify that?”

*The response you’re hoping to hear: “We do try to pay people fairly. Sometimes there are circumstances that have one person making more based on when they started or their experience level. Let me check into it. We do value your work here. I can’t promise you a particular number, but I’ll get back to you.”

You say: “Thank you. I don’t want to feel I’m backing you into a corner. But I do feel it’s appropriate to pay people the same—or close to the same—for the same work. When will you get back to me?”

*The response you’re dreading: “It’s none of your business what we pay other people. Just worry about yourself and doing a good job and stop worrying about everybody else.”

You say: “As you know, I’ve always been a team player, but it’s also important that I look out for myself and feel I’m being treated fairly by the company to which I’ve given so much hard and good work. I’d like you to look into this and if I’m wrong, I’m wrong. But I don’t think I’m wrong.  And if I’m right, that’s not the way I think you want to be treating a good employee.”

*The response you didn’t see coming: “It was Rebecca, wasn’t it, who told you that? I know you guys are friendly.”

You say: “I’ve talked to a number of people confidentially both inside the company and at similar jobs at other companies. And there are various salary comparison websites that I also consulted. So, the question isn’t where I got my information from, but if my information is correct—as I believe it is—how do we discuss rectifying that?”

Steel yourself, practice in the mirror and walk in like you’re Jennifer Lawrence in “Hunger Games” with a full quiver of arrows and unlimited support drones.

There’s a JobScript for every office dilemma. Send your problems to JobScripts@hermoney.com for Eliot Kaplan’s expertise.

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*Editor’s note: Eliot Kaplan is a former magazine editor and was Vice President, Talent Acquisition at Hearst Magazines for 18 years. He now does career coaching at coacheliotkaplan.com.

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