TIME Business

10 Signs You Might Have a Bad Boss

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Failing to delegate and demonstrate trust

Answer by Jason Ewing on Quora.

It’s so easy to be a bad boss… and the list of things that make a “Bad boss” is really, really long. Here are my top ten “Bad Boss” characteristics. The list is by no means comprehensive. Be warned, this is an exceptionally long answer.

  1. Be the person who thinks being a good “doer” automatically makes you a good leader. I see this in organizations way too often. You need a sales manager so you promote your best sales agent. Need an IT manager? Promote one of the best engineers. The truth is that being good at doing the job is not the same as being good at leading the people doing the job.Sometimes, you get both skills in the same person, but this is not always the case. Good doers can become bad bosses because they are good doers.Tasks seem very easy to them, and they may have difficulty relating to direct reports who are less competent. When you have someone who should clearly be doing the job stuck behind a desk failing to lead peoplethen you have a recipe for a Bad Boss.
  2. Mistake “leading by example” for “doing the tasks that your team does.”I’ve seen this one a lot from new managers. Employees say all the time that they respect a boss who rolls up their sleeves and gets in the trenches with them. There is a time and a place for that. What I see too often from new managers is that they spend too much time in the trenches. They get buried in the work of their team and they set themselves up for a host of failures. They don’t have the time to dedicate to actual tasks of leadership. Worse, they have difficulty stepping back from the work their team does to take the position of a leader. You set yourself up to be compared to your team, and they measure your aptitude based on your proficiency doing the same tasks they do. That’s not an accurate way to measure a leader, but it’s all your team is left to do. The team thinks your a “Bad Boss” because you aren’t as good of a worker, but your job isn’t to be a worker, it’s to be a leader.
  3. Set a bar that’s too high. Bad bosses do this in all manner of ways. You point to your star player and expect the whole team to be like that person. You only provide positive feedback for things that go above and beyond. You have an exceptionally low tolerance for mistakes. Standards are important and it’s vital to hold your people accountable. At the same time, people aren’t machines, and leaders need to be aware of that. Expectations should be clearly communicated, should be achievable, and the employee needs to have buy in to the expectation. If your employees feel that your standards are too high to achieve, they will stop trying.
  4. Burning the midnight oil at all times. I chase managers out of the office for staying late every night. Managers that are there every day before the staff shows up and are at the same time the last ones to leave every day have problems. There’s a time to dig deep, but it shouldn’t be every day. If you’re digging that deep every day, all the time, you’ve got problems. Either you’re not managing your time well, you’re not delegating well, you’re not managing your workload well (see #2, too much time in the trenches means not enough time for your own tasks) or something else is going wrong. What bad bosses don’t realize is that your team sees this. If you’re always there early and working late, it becomes a barrier to your team approaching you. They don’t want to trouble you with things because you’re obviously too busy. They may also feel guilty for not going above and beyond when clearly you do every day. Further, it can send a message that you don’t trust your team… clearly, you aren’t willing to let them work without you present. If you are in a position where you absolutely have to do this all the time then take your work home. Make a point of visibly leaving on time, take the laptop home and get to work there… your team won’t ever thank you, but they will appreciate it.
  5. Failing to admit responsibility or mistakes. Being a boss is hard. We’re human and we make mistakes too. When we make mistakes, it impacts our teams. There is nothing wrong with apologizing to your direct reports. If you cannot admit your mistakes to them (when confidentiality allows) then how are they ever going to feel comfortable admitting their mistakes to you?
  6. Mistake being liked for being respected. You know what’s easy as a manager? Being liked. You can win popular manager of the month every single month without ever being effective. Take the employee’s side every time. Accept every excuse. Grant every policy over ride. Be your employee’s champion! There are lots of things you can do to be liked but that isn’t the same as being respected. Good managers know when they need to be the bad guy. They know when they need to enforce discipline. When you hold your team accountable, they will respect you. That’s harder to manage than being liked. Liked is easy. Settling for being liked will leave your team in a horrible middle ground of performance where failures are tolerated and no one strives for excellence because of it.
  7. Mistake enforcing discipline for creating genuine accountability. It’s easy to become the tyrant. Write people up, threaten their jobs, and crack the whip! That’s easy. That isn’t accountability. This kind of leadership through fear inspires people to work hard enough to not get fired and to hope their mistakes aren’t caught. They disengage, and they don’t share their struggles for fear that exposing their mistakes will cost them their jobs. Again, if your people can’t approach you and say “I screwed up” without significant fear of reprisal, then their mistakes will surprise you when they are discovered and they will cost you more.
  8. Failing to delegate and demonstrate trust. I alluded to this in #4 but it’s deserving of a point in its own right. If you can’t delegate, hand off tasks, or otherwise demonstrate faith in your team, they begin to feel marginalized and replaceable. People need more than a paycheck to feel engaged at work, they need to feel like their work has meaning. More importantly, they need to feel that they have a way to contribute personally that has value. Bad managers may ‘hold back’ tasks because they feel that their employees already have ‘enough work to do’ but the truth is that giving them an additional responsibility sends a message that you have faith in their ability to execute on that responsibility. It gives them a reason to step up, and that’s important.
  9. Failing to engage with your direct reports on a human level. Managers need to interact with their team as human beings. While everyone tries to leave outside of work stresses at home, that isn’t always possible. If you haven’t connected to your team as human beings, you won’t understand the pressures outside of work that affect their performance at work. Saying “I don’t care what’s going on at home, just do your job” is a sure way to manage an employee out the door, to lose the respect of your team and to be a Bad Boss.
  10. Thinking you have all the answers, and that you have to have all the answers. It’s okay to say “I don’t know.” It’s okay to say “I can’t answer that now, but I’ll go find out.” It’s even okay to say “I can’t make a decision right now, let me think about it and come back to you.” Managers who feel like they already know everything stumble badly when they don’t know what they need to. Managers who dispense uninformed answers not only cause mistakes that are their own fault (see #5) but at the same time, lose the respect of their team. Managers who make snap decisions to appear to be experts make costly mistakes.

Good leadership is harder than it looks. There are lots of well meaning paths that lead to horrible results. That’s why so many people have stories about their “worst boss ever.” I will freely admit to have wandered into many of those traps myself. Fortunately, I’ve had great leaders who have gone before me take the time to be the mentor I’ve needed. If I’m lucky, the tidbits above will help people avoid some of those very same traps.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How do you define a “bad” boss?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

Should You Choose Your Passion as a Career?

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Answer "what do I want to do?" in terms of career

Answer by Charles Tips on Quora.

“What do I want to be?” is a different question from “What do I want to do?”

According to Carol Dweck and some other psychologists, there are two kinds of people in this world–the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. For Virginia Postrel this was the stasists and the dynamists. The first mindset represents the be-ers. They say things like, “I’ve got to be true to myself,” “I’ve got to be me.” Naturally, these are the people who know and follow the passion that is their true calling, right? Wrong. Well, they may follow their inclinations but seldom to a higher level.

It is the growth/dynamist mindset who are the becomers. “I’ve got to be all I can be” or “the best I can be,” is their mode in life. You’ve got to follow your inclinations to higher and higher and higher levels to turn them into your passion. You’ve got to imbue your passion with a spirit and mastery easily recognized by others in order to turn it into a career. And then you can enjoy a quite lovely career. It is about self-actualization (The Five Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).

Recognize that “what do I want to do?” poses a less threatening question than “what do I want to be?” Answer it first and let things fall into place. Answer “what do I want to do?” in terms of career, and then you are free to turn “what do I want to be?” into a more meaningful question… what do I want to be in terms of know-how, skills, morals, relationships with others and so on.

I hope my youngest son Keaton Tips will not mind me using him as an example. What did he want to do as a child? Watch TV. This actually caused me a good deal of anguish as I’d had a younger brother who escaped into a TV set every day after school. I barely got to know him. I personally don’t much care for TV. But Keaton watched it with a difference. The second time he’d watch a show, he’d recite the dialog ahead of the actors. Pretty soon his knowledge of children’s cartoons was encyclopedic. At 10 and 11 he’d say things like, “Oh, that’s the music playing in the background in that scene of Brave Little Toasterwhere…” or “Hey, they stole that line from The Simpsons in the episode where…”

As a kid, Keaton would try to tell us stories. But he was legendarily bad, the butt of many family jokes. Then, in his teens he learned to animate, and what a storyteller he was! It turned out his mind was so choked with details that he could not simply tell a story; he needed to lay out the whole sound and imagery for you.

And so now, just turned 26, he’s been a partner and creative director for three years in a San Francisco animation and motion graphics studio. He graduated college with six credits as special effects supervisor on feature films, including the Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012). He has met many of the most famous animators and graphic artists around, who are flattered at his thorough familiarity with their work and who recognize him as a peer.

All this because he watched TV like a sponge. Figure out what you love to do, and then do it with passion. You’ll be better for it.

This question originally appeared on Quora: Should someone choose their passion as a career?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


Life Lessons from a Seventy-Something

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Whatever you're thinking you'd like to do someday — start now

Answer by Dee Dees on Quora.

By the time people reach their 70s, they’re beginning to look back at the plans they made and dreams they had that never materialized. We always think we’ll achieve a goal when we finish school, or after we’re married, or after the kids are grown, or after we retire, and then one day we look up — and all those things have happened and we still haven’t realized our dreams.

That being said, the first thing I’d tell young people is “Start now.” Whatever you’re thinking you’d like to do someday — start now. If you want to backpack through Europe, do the research, get a passport, save the money. Take steps that will commit you to follow through. Plan it with a friend. Pay a deposit. You might want to start small by doing a one-week hike in Ireland. Plan something bigger for the next year.

I realize sometimes there are commitments to other people that hold us back from doing what we want. If you’re already married, holding a 9-5 job, parenting kids, you need to work around those responsibilities without leaving yourself in the dust. I’m not advocating being selfish, but I’m encouraging you to do what you can when you can.

It’s been said that at the end of life we regret the things we didn’t do more than those we did do. Be responsible in life, but always look for ways to have fun, enrich your life, and have no regrets.

The second thing I’d advise would be to start early planning for retirement. When you’re 20 or 30, retirement seems very far off, and you think you can start saving “later.” The sooner you start some kind of plan, whether savings, an IRA, or other, the more you will be able to enjoy life in your later years, and the less you will need to worry about how you’ll survive after the paychecks end.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are some life lessons people in their 70s can share with the younger generations?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

How to Respond When an Interviewer Asks if You Have Any Questions

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Shy away from questions that can be easily answered by a few minutes of reading the company’s website

Answer by Edmond Lau, Engineer at Quip, on Quora.

“What questions can I answer for you?” I asked the interview candidate. We had finished working through some technical problems, and I was ready to gauge his curiosity and passion toward the product, the team, and the mission.

“I don’t really have any,” he replied.

Apparently, he already knew all there was to know about the company after a couple of interviews, and there was nothing more I could add. It was the weakest reply he could’ve given if he wanted to show excitement for the job, and yet, he wasn’t the only smart person I’ve interviewed who’s given that response.

I’ve interviewed roughly 500 people in the past eight years, across Google, Ooyala, and Quora, mostly for engineering positions, but also for positions in management, data science, and product. In nearly every interview, I offer candidates a chance to turn the tables and grill me on questions.

The strongest candidates respond with curiosity. They want to know what the company culture is like, how teams go about shipping projects, what challenges the product faces in the marketplace, what aspects of the work environment can be improved, and what’s being done about them. They would fill the entire interview with questions if I let them. They’re not just looking for objective answers — they’re also curious about how my viewpoints differ from those of other interviewers.

The weaker candidates mistakenly assume that answering the technical questions correctly is all that matters in an interview. That’s important, but technical competence is just the table stakes. Interviewers adopt a much more holistic view of someone’s interview performance.

It’s not hard to understand why — if I’m going to be working with you for 40+ hours per week, whether you can figure out the correct answers to problems we might encounter is only one factor out of many. I’m also evaluating:

  • How well you handle feedback or criticism.
  • How quickly you can reason about a problem.
  • Whether you’d be a good culture fit for the team.
  • What gets you excited about the mission and the product.
  • How well you communicate.
  • Whether we can work through hard problems together.
  • Whether your skill set complements what we already have on the team.

When interviewing for a job, don’t think in terms of the fraction of questions you can answer correctly — that alone won’t differentiate you from the rest of the applicant pool. Instead, focus on all the various ways that you can add value to the team and how you can effectively communicate that value to your interviewers.

Maximize the Signal-To-Noise Ratio

In an interview, you only have 30 minutes to an hour to impress your interviewer. And the more value that you can convey per minute in the interview, the more likely you are to succeed and get the job.

As an interviewer, I optimize for questions with a high signal-to-noise ratio, ones that reveal a large amount of useful information (signal) about the candidate per minute spent, with little irrelevant or useless data (noise). I’ll spend some time firing away questions to probe a wide surface area, hone in on any warning flags, and spend energy guiding the flow of the interview whenever we hit an area with diminishing returns.

Interviewing, however, is an imperfect science. And as an interview candidate, you can increase your chances by nudging interactions in the right direction. If you want to distinguish yourself from the other 99% of applicants, your guiding principle should be to maximize the signal-to-noise ratio of your interactions with recruiters and interviewers.

That principle carries throughout the interview process, starting from your application. Jobvite provides recruiting software to its customers, and according to one analysis conducted across 600+ customers, only 7% of job applicants come from referrals, and yet referrals account for 40% of total hires. [1] [2] The conversion rate from referrals is so high because having someone (or a connection of someone) on the team vouch that you’ve been awesome to work with in the past provides a much higher signal than a few hours of interviews. Your resume is likely to get fast-tracked rather than just sit on the pile, waiting to be discovered. Given the value of a referral, if you don’t know anyone at the company, it’s worth trying to go through a friend, a friend of a friend, LinkedIn, Quora, or any other network to make the initial introduction.

Once you’ve secured an interview, the signal-to-noise ratio guides your interview mechanics. Sharing your thought process as you’re working through a problem, for example, is valuable because you convey a non-zero amount of signal to your interviewer. I get to learn how you reason through problems, how well you communicate, and which parts you excel at or struggle with — signals that I wouldn’t get by watching you pensively stare off into space.

The principle should also guide the tools you use to tackle interview problems. Someone asked on Quora a while back whether interviewers frowned on candidates who use Python or Ruby to solve interview questions. Seen from the perspective of maximizing the signal-to-noise ratio, it’s easy to understand why using Python or Ruby might actually be preferred.

Languages like C, C++, or Java tend to be significantly more verbose than more productive languages like Python or Ruby that come with more powerful built-in primitives like list comprehensions, lambda expressions, or destructuring assignment. Research by Prechelt compared 80 implementations of the same set of requirements across 7 different languages and found that solutions written in C, C++, and Java were on average 2-3x longer in terms of non-comment lines of code than scripting languages like Python. [3] Most candidates I’ve interviewed who code in C, C++, or Java therefore start out at a disadvantage — they need 2-3x the amount of time to convey the same information as someone who uses Ruby or Python. Each minute spent writing boilerplate code for a less productive language is a minute not spent tackling the meatier aspects of a problem and not conveying useful signals to the interviewer.

There are exceptions, of course. If you’re interviewing for a position that involves kernel programming, low-level systems, or iOS and Android development, you might convey more signal by using a language like C, C++, Objective C, or Java because it’s more similar to what you’d be doing on the job. At a more established tech company where code is written in C, C++, or Java, the ability to use one of the company’s standard languages may also provide a signal that interviewers care about. Ultimately, your choice of programming language, like any other decisions during your interview, is important to the extent that it affects the speed with which you can solve problems and provide the interviewer with useful signal.

Assuming you’ve handled the technical questions well, the signal-to-noise ratio also explains why it’s important to ask your interviewer questions. Asking good questions is one of the few opportunities you have to demonstrate your curiosity and excitement for the team and the product and to signal what you actually care about in a job.

What to Ask Your Interviewer

So what questions should you ask your interviewer when it’s your turn to grill him or her on questions?

Shy away from questions that can be easily answered by a few minutes of Googling, reading the company’s website, or using the product (if it’s a consumer product). Those types of questions signal laziness. If the company builds a web or mobile consumer product, you should have done your homework and already tried out the product prior to the interview – it still surprises me how often I’ve interviewed candidates who never even tried out the product they’d be working on and yet expect that they’d be able to get the job.

Instead, focus on questions that the interviewer can uniquely help you to answer. For example, you might ask them to help paint the picture of what working at the company is like:

  • What’s your typical work day like?
  • What’s the process of taking an idea you have from an inception and shipping it to production?
  • What fraction of your time is spent building new things versus maintaining old ones?
  • How do product/business/engineering decisions get made at the company?

Or focus on the team culture:

  • What’s one thing you really like about working at the company and one thing you’d like to improve? What’s being done about the thing you’d like to improve?
  • What are the core values of the company, and what are some examples of how they’re reflected day-to-day?
  • How would you describe the culture of the company?

Or dive deeply into one aspect of the product that you’re curious about:

  • How did this particular product feature get designed and launched?
  • Why did you decide to launch this particular version instead of this other one?
  • How has the product evolved since launch based on user feedback?

Or ask about growth opportunities:

  • What’s the most unexpected lesson that you’ve learned on the job?
  • What is the onboarding or mentoring process like (if any) for new hires?
  • What opportunities have you had to work with different people and projects during your time at the company?
  • How is knowledge across projects documented and shared at the company?

Or learn about the challenges that the company is facing:

  • What are the biggest obstacles to this company becoming massively successful?
  • What are the current priorities and focus areas at the company?
  • Where would I be able to add the most value?

Given the endless array of questions, the next time someone asks you if you have any questions in an interview, be prepared with an answer other than “no.” Ask ones that can provide you with a lot of signal, as they’ll also signal to your interviewer that you’re thinking hard about the opportunity.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What should one say when the interviewer asks “Do you have any questions for me?”

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

Your Facebook Profile is Also a Professional Tool

The top of the login page for Facebook.com.
The top of the login page for Facebook.com. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook is ubiquitous, and it is an easily accessible and common search engine

Answer by Adam Nash, President & CEO of Wealthfront, on Quora.

You might find this answer surprising, especially from a former executive at LinkedIn (I’m currently the CEO at Wealthfront). But the short answer is, yes, in many cases, there is a professional necessity for Facebook.

Let me first get my obvious bias out of the way. As one of the people who had a hand in building out LinkedIn, I truly believe that there is a valuable and natural separation between your professional identity and your personal identity. As a result, I would counsel any professional to take great care in how they present themselves on LinkedIn.

However, Facebook is ubiquitous, and it is an easily accessible and common search engine for people. It is well indexed in search engines like Google.

Chances are, if someone is looking for information about you, as a professional, they will definitely see your LinkedIn profile. There is also a strong chance they will end up looking for your Facebook profile as well.


A few reasons really:

  • Completeness. It’s easily accessible and fairly common. It feels like a reasonable part of due diligence.
  • Curiosity. Facebook plays strongly to our curiosity to know more about people. The fact that there is a strong personal/professional split can make people distinctly curious about your split.
  • Psychographics. Whether correct or incorrect, by looking at your social behavior on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, other professionals may believe they can get a better sense of who you are as a person.
  • Transparency. Finding a Facebook profile reassures others that you have “nothing to hide.” In a world where Facebook is ubiquitous, not finding a profile or not finding sufficient information may inadvertently beg questions.

Facebook offers quite a few tools to control privacy and sharing. A few recommendations to consider:

  • Tightly Control Your Public Profile on Facebook. To the extent you can, make sure your public profile on Facebook (including public shares and photos) are carefully curated to present the image you would be comfortable with a business partner or colleague seeing. This doesn’t mean hiding your humanity, but it likely means publishing only a limited amount that frames who you are.
  • Don’t Make Personal Squabbles Public. Too many times, relatively well-behaved adults present a poor version of themselves when they get into arguments in the comments on Facebook posts, not realizing those comments appear on a public share of a friend. My advice? From a career perspective, save arguments for private messages and other communication. Assume that every comment you make on a Facebook share could be public.
  • Watch for inconsistency. When people view multiple social profiles, inconsistency (or worse, hypocrisy) tends to stand out. Presenting yourself as serious and hard-working on LinkedIn, while portraying an active and wild night-life on Facebook will beg questions.

As a final note, Facebook is most useful professionally as an alternate messaging platform for close friends & colleagues. We live in a world where many people split their attention across too many communication channels.

As a result, I now know people who only reliably respond to text messages, answering in minutes where an email will sit unanswered for days. I know people who only respond to DMs on Twitter, or messages on WhatsApp. I also know people who only respond reliably to messages on Facebook.

So if your goal is fast and efficient communication, it’s worth having a channel to your friends and colleagues who prefer Facebook (even if you don’t.)

Necessity is a strong word. You can obviously succeed professionally without Facebook. However, I would argue that using Facebook effectively has distinct value as a professional and there are situations where it can be considered a necessity.

This question originally appeared on Quora: Professional Networking: Is there a professional necessity for Facebook?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

These Skills Will Help You Excel in the Workplace

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Building a network of effective relationships

Answer by Balaji Viswanathan on Quora.

Basic Skills

These are things everyone needs to master, regardless of their roles.

  1. Listening: This is one of the foundation skills most of us never really master. Listening is fundamental to learning and maintaining relationships. 8 Ways to Master the Art of Effective Listening
  2. Observation: How good are you in paying a close attention to the world around you? Knowledge relies on observation. Without a keen sense of observation, it is hard to move up in any career path. Gain an edge by improving your observation skills
  3. Writing: Most often people send me resumes and cover letters with horrible structure. They get instantly tossed out. It is sad that while 12 years of schooling stress so much on writing, most of us still don’t pay attention to mastering it.
  4. Networking: Building a network of effective relationships is an amazing skill. Networking is not about partying with a whole lot of classmates. It is about building a professional relationship with a diverse group of people & making meaningful connections. It involves understanding people, remembering their needs and connecting them with the right people. Networking Is Not Working: Stop Collecting Business Cards and Start Making Meaningful Connections.
  5. Presentation: Can you present an idea well? It involves both speaking skills as well as the art of simplifying things. Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery
  6. Read & follow instructions: This is another skill that we seem to be completely losing. Can you read a manual and follow instructions?

Specialized Skills

  1. Sales: Are you the kind of person who can understand a product, connect with the right customer, build trust and convince them to do the right thing? Sales is an amazing skill to have [and a high paying one too] and the master entrepreneurs — Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were fine salesmen. If you are still in college, start selling something. Keep refining this art.
  2. Design: Can you design things in a way it makes things logical as well as aesthetically pleasing? If you have an eye for design, you could learn User Interface. At a time when companies are competing on design and delivery, it would be an amazing thing to have.
  3. Systems Engineering: Are you very hands-on in IT and can fix things? Do you have the patience to read through the manual and try out different solutions? Enterprise IT departments are always hiring.

There are hundreds of such skills — ranging from physical therapy to financial analysis that still pay a lot. Start from this page: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — Use the controls at the top and play around with the parameters. Click through specific career paths. Although the jobs are US centric, the skill sets are broadly applicable.

This question originally appeared on Quora: Are there skills other than coding that I can learn to get a good salary job?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Etiquette

This Is How You Should Handle Criticism

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Listen and ask questions

Answer by Mira Zaslove on Quora.

The best way to handle criticism depends on the type of criticism. And who it’s coming from.

Generally, there are 3 types of criticism. The way you handle the feedback will depend upon the situation. And your temprament.

1. Constructive feedback

When starting something new, you will inevitably get feedback. And if you are asking the right people, some feedback will be negative. People who are knowledgeable and care about you, will be honest. And the more they know, the more negative they may seem. It’s hard to do, but listen. It’s much better to deal with criticism early, when you can do something about it, rather than later, when it may be too late.

Also, people who only flatter you, are not helping. If your idea has an obvious and fixable hole, and someone tells you it’s flawless, their positive feedback is hurting you. Surround yourself with people who test your ideas. Don’t only listen to people who tell you what you want to hear. Pleasant “yes men” are more dangerous than the jerk who tells you the brutal truth you need to hear.

How to handle constructive criticism

Listen and ask questions. It may not be what you want to hear, but be open. If they don’t like the idea, ask them bluntly, “what do you think can be improved?”

If you don’t agree with the criticism, tell them you appreciate their candor. Then tell them you need some time to think about what they said. Then quickly move on. Don’t get defensive.

2. Jealousy

If you’re doing something big, people will be jealous. The bigger you aim, the harder they may want you to fail. If you are threatening someone or the status quo, jealous people will be aggressive, unpleasant, and negative. They want you to quit.

How to handle jealousy

Try not to talk to this person. If they are family, or someone you have to deal with, change the subject. Don’t sweat their negativity. Zone out. When they talk, act like you are listening. But think about something else.

Jealous people will sap your energy. Their goal is to distract you–so don’t let them. Don’t waste your time arguing with them, or fueling their fire. You need to keep focused on what matters.

Many people say not to take criticism personally. This is easier said than done, especially when you are trying to create something new. One way that many help is to imagine yourself as a 3rd party looking in on the situation. You may find yourself less biased if you try to remove yourself from the situation—even if temporarily.

3. Haters going to hate

Some people are just negative. They enjoy playing devil’s advocate. And no matter what you do, they will criticize. Wouldn’t you rather be hated for a big idea, rather then your choice of clothing?

How to handle haters
Passively agree with them! Haters want a fight, so don’t give it to them. If they bring up something negative, say “you have a point.” Then shut up. They want a debate, so don’t give it to them. Haters are just wired that way, and it has nothing to do with you.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What is the best way to handle negative criticism?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME movies

Hans Zimmer on Interstellar and Working With Christopher Nolan

Composer Hans Zimmer attends the 'Interstellar' New York Premiere on Nov. 3, 2014 in New York City.
Composer Hans Zimmer attends the Interstellar New York Premiere on Nov. 3, 2014 in New York City. Jim Spellman—WireImage

"Chris and I work as a sort of breathless, constant sprint because we are just trying to keep up with our own ideas"

Answer by Hans Zimmer, Interstellar composer, on Quora.

I think one of the things that is really great about working with Chris is that he doesn’t, in any way, get in the way of my imagination. In fact, he works very hard at not having me confined by the mechanics of filmmaking. So, our process is usually starting long conversations just riffing on ideas. Then slowly I start writing and experimenting, coming up with sounds, etc., all the while keeping in constant conversation with Chris.

In Interstellar, for instance, there’re so many themes, so many pieces, which always got to a certain point during the writing process but never had an ending, because Chris and I would get to a certain point with an idea and then abandon it because we got excited about the next idea. You have to think of how Chris and I work as a sort of breathless, constant sprint because we are just trying to keep up with our own ideas. The ideas are so plentiful when Chris and I get together, but the execution always takes more time and it can be so frustrating. It’s sometimes very frustrating for him as well because he’s trying to make a movie and he’s waiting on the music.

When it comes to the music for Interstellar, I can honestly say that in one way or another, the music is our music, not just my music. It’s entirely our music, and that’s a testament to how much I let Chris into my world. The great thing is that as a composer, you can only write from the heart and from your innermost place. So, you have to trust your director. And that’s the thing — there’s a great sense of trust and a great sense of balance that Chris brings to the composing process. Because Chris cuts his movies in his garage, (giving his films a sort of a homemade quality), he never makes me feel that I have the enormous weight of the canvas on my shoulders. His editing process is really helpful for my composing process. The work and the story is always brought back to the personal and the intimate, and that’s perfect for how I work.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What is it like working with Christopher Nolan?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

These Are the Warning Signs That You’re About To Be Fired

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Your goal really should be to get another job, while you're still employed, before the axe falls

Answer by Michael O. Church on Quora.

You get more warning if it’s a larger company. In small companies, the warning can be zero.

As soon as a manager puts something negative in writing, that’s a warning sign. If you get something to the effect of, “On September 4, we discussed <X> and you agreed to <Y>, but then you <Z>,” you should know that something’s up. There will probably be factual inaccuracies. You should correct your boss, in writing, but don’t expect it to do any good in terms of keeping your job. You just do that to make it clear that you can play the documentation game too, and that you won’t go down without a fight, so they are more likely to give you more time to get out on your own terms, and severance if they eventually fire you.

A PIP is a dead giveaway. Almost no one passes PIPs. You either fail (and get fired) or it’s ruled “inconclusive”, which means you might face another PIP in 6 months. (HR didn’t think you could cheaply be fired. “Inconclusive” means you have the same boss, more pissed off.) The only time people pass PIPs is when they change manager mid-PIP (and that’s usually only possible when your current manager leaves, because people don’t want PIP’d employees to transfer to their teams) and the new manager likes them.

Once you’re on a PIP, you better be job searching. Document every interview as a sick day, related to a disclosed health problem, and demand that your manager and HR accommodate it by adding time on the PIP. They hate that. It’s not going to save your job, but it sets the precedent that things are happening on your terms. Demand a time study for a PIP and, if they laugh that off, say that you’re going to talk to some unions about getting the performance evaluation process (including your PIP) evaluated for time study. (If they fire you early, they’re guilty of retaliation. They can still, however, legally fire you at the end of your PIP.) Remember: your goal isn’t to keep your job (you can’t) but to scare them into paralysis or capitulation, in order to get out on your own terms. Once you get another job, tell absolutely no one where you’re going until you’ve been in the new place for at least 6 months. You don’t want your boss or some other adversary finding out where you’re heading and shoot you down.

The termination endgame is unpredictable and dangerous no matter what, so you can’t bank on anything. Even if you do everything right, you may not get a severance, and you may be fired early even if you think they legally can’t. (At-will employment is intensely complicated and often has undefined behavior, but this also means that some companies take chances that no lawyer would endorse.) So don’t bank on a severance. Your goal really should be to get another job, while you’re still employed, before the axe falls. The benefit of being employed while job searching is worth more than a severance. Already-employed people easily get 10% higher salaries, and are assigned to better projects, and when you multiply this by, say, five years… the math favors changing jobs before the severance conversation can happen. Your new employer will just put you on a better track if it’s poaching you than if you’re seen as having come off the street.

If you do end up in a severance negotiation and the cash is enough to cover the expected length of a job search, take it. Ask for the right to represent yourself as employed. You may want to get agreement on a good reference, but that’s not as important if you’re pretty sure they won’t give you a bad reference. (Obviously, you won’t want to use your manager.) Use a peer or an ally for a reference.

If you’re fired during a job search process, don’t update any companies that you’re currently interviewing with on that development. (It does no good, because no one will consider you ethically obligated to do so.) You also don’t want to update your CV. As for whether you continue to represent yourself as employed, if you’ve been given that right formally, the answer is an obvious yes. If you haven’t, the answer is “it depends.” In that case, you have to weigh the risk of getting caught against the risk of having your unemployment counted against you.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How do you know if you’re going to soon be fired and what can you do about it?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME psychology

How to Get What You Want

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The only thing that matters is what you can control and what you do about it

Answer by Oliver Emberton on Quora.

There are just two reasons why you haven’t done the stuff that you ‘want’ to do.

  1. You can’t because of something external
  2. You won’t because of something internal

Here’s the thing: nearly everyone who succeeds, will always assume number #2. By default, the reason they have failed is themselves. It is, without fail, their own fault. Always.

If this sounds like willful bunk, consider the flip side: those who fail always assume it’s not their fault. With that attitude, your ego is forever letting itself off the hook. You can’t learn from your experiences, except maybe that you shouldn’t have even tried, because — well — that big bad world was just super-mean to you again.

Try listening to a lot of normal conversation: it’s just ego repair.

“I’ve been here 6 years in the same job and they still haven’t promoted me!”
“I know, me too! It’s so unfair…

As Don Draper would say: I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent.

Whenever “it” or “they”, “he” or “she” is to blame, you’re just diverting the blame. Because the only thing that matters is what you can control: what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it?

There are always situations when you really can’t have something that you don’t control. Maybe you dream of being a championship triathlete, but you were born without legs. Well of course.

Except that kind of reductio ad absurdum doesn’t excuse 99.99% of the identical, fundamental ridiculousness that most people lament about: their health, jobs and relationships. For this trinity, the principles are well known and within the capability of everyone. Assuming, of course, you accept responsibility for that.

Why do we make excuses?

Making excuses can make us feel better. Excuses are like painkillers for our self-respect.

Surely they evolved with this purpose. For not everyone can succeed all the time, and if you can’t, it’s better that you don’t become too depressed about it.

But the chances are the things that you want — that you want the most — are not fast cars, Angelina Jolie’s chest or a giant catapult to the moon. Most of us crave fundamentally simple things: love, respect, security, health, significance. These things don’t require that we’re born to wealthy parents, or with perfect genes.

If you’re reading this, the chances are you have access to education, sanitation, medicine, freedom of speech, shelter and the sum of the world’s knowledge (Google), and that you take them for granted. For over 150,000 years human life would have utterly sucked compared to now, and you’ve been born in the last 70 or so, in the blessed minority, when it doesn’t. You’re so lucky you can’t imagine.

You are the problem.

Whenever you hit a wall: find what you can do about it, do it, and forget anything else. All the other stuff just consumes your attention and accomplishes nothing.

The solutions to all your problems are probably so obvious, you likely already know them. The trick is simply acknowledging it’s your responsibility alone to make it happen.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How can I get what I want?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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