How to tell your boss to fuck off

Photograph by Michela Ravasio

bY Jackie Koerner

Remember a job you just hated? We’ve all been there. I sure have, and luckily only once. Let me tell you about it. It was my first promotion after my first real job after college. I was delighted. The pay was okay, but the work was meaningful and my coworkers were great. All of them were, except my supervisor. She, you see, was a micromanager, and I was her only subordinate. It was so bad, she would even outsource her micromanaging to my peers. They’d report back on me as if I were some repeat offender requiring constant supervision.

I had so much supervision, my time off felt like it had supervision. I’d say I had to take a sick day, she’d need a doctor’s note. I’d need to leave early to pick up my daughter, she’d ask if my parents could get her instead. I’d just want to take a vacation day, and I’d have to write her an email proposal in advance. One day, after five years of this, I decided I was going to start giving myself permission. I called her and told her I was taking a vacation day. She asked why and I told her because I’m taking a vacation day. She was speechless.

So, go on. Give yourself permission.

Women are the work horses of the human race. Constantly carrying a heavier load than our comrades, and for longer. Studies have shown women have to work twice as hard to get half the recognition as men. I cannot argue with that. Men are hired on potential while women are hired on proven skill. Work is just what we have to do. Well, I’m telling you to quit doing that. Give yourself permission to be unapologetically authentic.
 

This year, give yourself permission to:

  1. Take time off. You’ll come back refreshed, even if it is just leaving a couple of hours early. Time off gives our brain time to think more creatively. Maybe you’ll easily solve that problem you’ve been frustrated with all week!
     
  2. Admit you work hard. If someone compliments your outfit, the polite response is something like, “Oh! This old thing?” Do not do that with work. Exterminate responses like, “my pleasure,” “no problem,” and “anytime” from your vocabulary when responding to recognition. You are an asset, act like it.
     
  3. Not have it all figured out. No one likes a know-it-all. Give yourself time to think. Studies show a little procrastination does creativity and planning good! Give yourself a break to think, and give yourself a break from the pressure others put upon you to have it all figured out. Your goals are for you to figure out!
     
  4. Be imperfect. The most innovative ideas come from failure. Why? The more you try, the more you fail, but something really cool also happens - you find out what that thing really should be!
     
  5. Say no. Just because we are the people to make society “go” does not mean we have to take it all on our shoulders. Saying no can open you up to more opportunities, but how do you say it and not feel like it’s a personal failure? Boston College and the University of Houston published the secret a few years ago: “using the word ‘don’t’ serves as a self-affirmation of one’s personal willpower and control in the relevant self-regulatory goal pursuit, leading to a favorable influence on feelings of empowerment, as well as on actual behavior. On the other hand, saying ‘I can’t do X’ connotes an external focus on impediments.” Let’s hear that ‘no,’ ladies!
     
  6. Take it personally. I hate the phrase, “Don’t take this personally...” Some people feel more comfortable saying things to women that they shouldn’t say at all. That phrase is somehow used to make saying it acceptable. What we do is so connected with who we are, it’s hard not to take it personally. You are a passionate person about what’s important to you. It is personal.
     
  7. Stand up for yourself. Similar to the above, but when someone gets it wrong, or mansplains in a meeting (ಠ_ಠ), practice some techniques to shut that stuff down. Practice in the mirror at home. You are a smart, talented woman! Do not let anyone topple your thrown for you, and be ready when someone tries.
     
  8. Quit. Yes, quit. If something isn’t working, or it isn’t fulfilling you, quit. It’s not a failure. It does not mean your time spent on this was a waste. Look at is as knowing now what you want, and what you don’t!
     

In Short:

If you start giving yourself permission, you’re not only helping yourself, you’re helping your creativity, your productivity, and your sanity! You’re also helping those of the women around you. If it’s not enough motivation for you to put yourself first, make sure you think about smoothing the path for the women who come after you. Every rejection of the system that has so long required us to gain permission, will push the permission closer to where it belongs: in the hands of the person.


Jackie Koerner is a researcher and visiting scholar living in the Midwest. After graduating with her PhD in 2016, she chose to focus on disability studies and equity in education. Find her @JackieK.