Over the next few weeks and months, I’m going to take you on an in-depth journey through corporate (slave) land and point out things you need to watch out for, games you need to be aware of, and ultimately the game your company is playing on you – yourself. So without further ado, let’s jump straight into verbal assignments.
Verbal assignments – what in the hell could possibly be wrong with my boss giving me a verbal assignment? Hmmm, oh I dunno, what could be wrong with buying a car, house, or any other item via verbal contract? Well Joe Blow just went and bought a car and shook hands on it with the guy who sold it to him. Guy who sold it to him told Joe, he would sell it to him for $5,000. Joe paid $5,000. Now guy who sold him the car is saying Joe owes another $5,000 in addition to what he already paid.
Do you see what happened here? The guy who sold Joe the car changed the original deal. The original deal was he would sell the car to Joe Blow for $5,000. Afterwards, he advised Joe that he owed him $5,000 more.
Verbal assignments are FLUID BY NATURE. There is nothing written down describing terms, due dates, details, etc. The assignment can be changed at a moment’s notice by your boss to include more details, more work, an earlier timeframe, or really anything at all that will mess you up. Ultimately a verbal assignments comes down to “He said, she said” type logic. And who do you think will win that battle? The employee or the boss?
Let’s take this a step further – when do you think your boss will give you a verbal assignment? To be clear, it’s not a matter of if, but when. The longer you’re a corporate employee the greater your chances of receiving a verbal assignment. Or to put it another way – the higher up the ladder you go, the more “political” things get. The more political things get the more your job entails not the work itself but playing passive aggressive, manipulative games. One of the games will be the verbal assignment.
When you receive a verbal assignment you have two options: (1) follow the verbal assignment, or (2) ask your boss to put it in writing. When my boss tried this on me, I asked for an email to be sent to me detailing the assignment (it was long, complex, convoluted, and didn’t make any sense…just like my boss). My boss balked and refrained from sending me any details whatsoever regarding the assignment, simply stating that I should follow the verbal assignment period. This is a huge red-flag!!! It can’t get any redder or more serious than this. If your boss refrains from sending you any details about the verbal assignment, one thing is clear: your boss has something altogether different planned for you.
Two short days after my boss gave me the verbal assignment (one which would easily take 3 weeks to finish) the boss called me out in a big meeting in front of about thirty people asking me if I was done with the assignment. I couldn’t even find the words I was so angry. This is the exact moment when I became aware of the games being played. And it was then and there that I decided I was going to quit and leave the bullshit corporate rat race behind.
Understand: verbal assignments are not your friend, they are the enemy. Be extra cautious if you receive a verbal assignment. Be alert as to your boss’s motives. Ask your boss to put the assignment in writing. If your boss refuses, you can be certain that your boss is attempting to destroy you and your credibility within the company. You’ve been warned.