Phil, an administrative assistant, recently lamented that his efforts to improve his boss’s communication were going unheeded.
“When I try to make grammatical, punctuation or spelling corrections to his, he invariably resists my efforts and argues every point,” says Phil. “How do I make him see that I’m right, without sounding like a ‘difficult employee’?”
Accuracy, on every front, is one of an administrative assistant’s most valuable attributes. For Phil, in particular, it’s difficult not to notice the grammatical errors. And because he notices them, he feels compelled to point them out.
But perhaps it’s not what Phil’s boss wants from Phil. When someone hands you his work to look over, first determine what he wants in return.
√ Ask, “What would you like for me to look out for?” Give examples. “Would you like for me to correct any misspellings or grammatical errors? Would you like for me to check the tone or meaning?”
√ Repeat back what you heard. Example: “So, you’d like for me to edit any grammatical or spelling errors I spot. Is that right?”
√ Consider how to deliver feedback. Is your boss a busy person who prefers to communicate by email? Is what you’re saying likely to spur a discussion, which doesn’t lend itself to email?
If your boss doesn’t value the fact that you can catch even the smallest grammatical slip, then try to keep perfectionism at bay.
Some bosses appreciate perfectionism, such as Susan Credle, chief creative officer of Leo Burnett USA. But even Credle recognizes that perfectionism can work against an employee.
She tells The New York Times, “I love perfectionists. I’ll say to them: ‘Come sit with me and let’s talk about what you’re pushing up against. And is this the right thing to focus on? And let’s be sincere about it, because you are not going to survive in this industry if you can’t let some of these things go.'”