Please, No Surprises at Work

In Her Words Please, No Surprises at Work Make your boss happy by keeping her updated – and always have a backup plan -Jodi Hutchison SURPRISE! In most social settings, surprises can be fun. I recently celebrated a milestone birthday, and my friends surprised me with a weekend away at an undisclosed location. THAT was [...]

In Her Words

Please, No Surprises at Work

Make your boss happy by keeping her updated –
and always have a backup plan

-Jodi Hutchison

SURPRISE! In most social settings, surprises can be fun. I recently celebrated a milestone birthday, and my friends surprised me with a weekend away at an undisclosed location. THAT was a fun surprise. Flowers for no reason – a good surprise. An unexpected pat on the back – bring it on.

The project is running over budget – bad surprise. I won’t meet the deadline – not a good surprise. The integration isn’t yielding the cost savings expected – there’s going to be trouble.

At work, surprises are neither fun nor productive. Too many surprises and you’ll be facing certain elimination or definite career stagnation. Building trust is key to effective work relationships (and personal ones, too, let’s be honest). Make it a point to outline the full project with delivery dates and deliverables. THEN – help yourself and back up the timeline, and check that the time frame is realistic – ask, “Can I get this done in the time I’ve allotted?”

My rule with my team and with my supervisor is the “no surprise” rule. I won’t surprise you, and I expect that you will keep me informed and avoid the dreaded surprise. Boring? Conservative? Manage by CMA (an acronym for covering my, ahem, butt)? I don’t think so. Rather, I find it to be efficient, smart and strategic.

Leave surprises for parties, birthdays, friends and family. Check surprises at the door when you enter your building. Keep your project leader, supervisor or team lead up to speed with each phase of completion of a project. I ask my supervisor to do the same. For example, I don’t want to have a conversation at year-end discussing my performance and SURPRISE! Something I did in first quarter was deemed inadequate. I can’t do anything about it 11 months later. Don’t wait – say.

Now, if you have to drop a bomb, be sure to have a backup plan that you can clearly articulate. It’s a double whammy to say SURPRISE! without having a contingency plan with alternatives already well thought out. But let’s be realistic: Situations occur that leave you little recourse, such as when the package wasn’t delivered, the front line didn’t make their quotas for the quarter or your company underwent a major reorganization. Be ferociously pragmatic. Consider the many what-ifs and build plans around each of them so you are ready to execute on Plan B.


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