How to Talk Golf with Your Boss

And other common office dilemmas.

How to Talk Golf with Your Boss

It’d be great if work was a breeze. But if work was easy, it wouldn’t be called work. On any given day, all manner of problems—from minor roadblocks to seemingly insurmountable hurdles—can pop up. Whether you’re trying to curry backchannel favor with the boss, sever ties with an unsatisfactory yet exalted employee, or handle the dreaded and oft-discussed work-life-balance question, we’ve got the answer to your most burning questions. And for more sage workplace advice, learn the 25 Genius Ways to Conquer Office Burnout.

Golf, counter intel

The Dilemma: Golf

My boss loves golf, surrounds himself with golfers, and promotes people who play. I couldn’t care less about the sport. Is there a way to overcome this handicap?

Yes. Learn to talk intelligently about golf and appear interested, and you’ll derive 90 percent of the career benefit without ever swinging a club. If you’re any type of businessperson, you already possess the skills to do this: You’re adept at spinning your wheels on a topic you know very little about, and you can feign interest in matters in which you have none. So begin by doing a little homework.

Catch some golf on TV to pick up a bit of the terminology and learn the players, and read A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour, by John Feinstein. The book is funny and a great read, and we guarantee that you’ll know and care more about the game after you’ve finished it. You might even tell the boss you read it and thought it was good. He’ll either agree with you or go look it up. Golf books are irresistible to the big-swinging drivers out there. And in the unlikely event that he invites you to join his golf group, just remember the phrase “rotator-cuff injury,” and then bone up on these 5 Clever Tricks That Will Boost Your Golf Game.

old man hands in office at laptop

The Dilemma: An Aged-Out Employee

I have an older employee who used to be a hero of mine, but now he’s an almost total waste. He comes in late, drinks at lunch, and leaves early. If he were younger, I’d can him. What should I do?

This one is easy. The guy has to go. He’s likely a morale drain on your entire department. Your first stop is human resources. Find out what the company owes him if he voluntarily retires; it could be a juicy package. You might be surprised at how quickly he snaps up the opportunity. It can’t feel good to be on the sidelines now that the parade is headed elsewhere. No matter what the package is, however, act decisively to eliminate the job. This is an interesting tactic that sweeps away, in one bold move, many of the problems you could face from a wrongful-firing beef. You’re moving on. Your needs have changed. The position he once filled so admirably is no longer needed. Too bad. Bye-bye. Who said business was supposed to be fun? And for more ways to be an effective leader, learn What Every First-Time Boss Needs to Know to Thrive.

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The Dilemma: Work-Life Balance

Our president invited me to a corporate retreat that falls on my son’s 10th birthday. Is my kid mature enough to understand why I won’t be with him that weekend?

Both should understand if you handle the dilemma straight up and right now. You’re going to have to split the difference here. Tell the president that it’s your son’s or daughter’s birthday and you want to spend at least one day that weekend with your kid. Jerks may get upset about that, but this is a line in the sand that you needs to draw. Higher-ups who have trouble understanding the importance of family are a fair measure of the kind of place that isn’t worthy of your long-term investment.

At home, your kid may be disappointed at first, but if you turn the event into a slightly elastic one, nobody’s feelings will be hurt for long. If your child’s birthday is on Saturday, a big family thing on Friday with presents up the wazoo and a Saturday kiss before you leave for the retreat should show them they’re a priority. Hey, the reality is that Daddy and Mommy work for a living. It’s important for any little kid to learn that value early on.

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