What is the right balance between collaboration and working independently? My boss is extremely busy. When is it a good time to consult versus working independently and with confidence?

No man or woman is an island (unless you are a novelist or a painter) so you need to learn how to collaborate with others to get something accomplished. Given that your boss is very busy, I would go to her only for good reasons. This could include getting guidance on a project which will meander or fail without her input. Or to update her on your progress so she doesn’t think you’re just hanging around at home eating bon bons and watching Twitch.

As a general rule, it’s always important to over communicate with your bosses, peers and colleagues – particularly during times like now when we are all generally ensconced in our homes. But don’t over do it. Treat her time wisely. Focus on getting things accomplished. Oh, and one last point. Remember that every moment with your boss you are being evaluated. So treat it as such.

Don’t go into a discussion ill-prepared otherwise you’ll just be hurting yourself in the long-run. Focus on the guidance you really need from the job, make it clear you have it covered, and then execute with excellence.

I’m uneasy going back to the office, but there’s talk that can happen sometime in the spring. How do I express those concerns and what if I disagree with the decision to go back when it is finally announced?

Honesty is the best policy, so be up front and express your concerns. I doubt you will get much push back in this environment where many companies like Amazon are allowing their employees to work remotely for some period of time.

Others, like Facebook, are allowing a substantial portion of their workers to work remotely forever. It’s because they think workers will ultimately be more productive if they are able to work in the commute-free, safe, and comfortable environment of their homes.

So if many great companies have adopted this policy, your company should also be considering it. If, after your protests, your boss still insists you work in the office, then she has made the decision for you. Time to get another job.

My company has had some layoffs. I sense employees are trying to position themselves to save their jobs. How can we minimize the backstabbing and mistrust?

After layoffs, companies generally go through an adjustment period. Employees are naturally wary of their bosses and concerned about the future of the company. So recognizing that you are entering a period of instability is important as you consider how to act.

If you think your company could have additional layoffs in the future, which is a reasonable assumption, acknowledge that it’s nearly impossible to reduce the office tension, and backstabbing and mistrust will ensue. But don’t waste your energy retaliating or being preoccupied about what others could do to you. Instead, use your energy to make sure your boss, and her boss, know the value you bring to the organization and your desire to stay, assuming that’s what you want.

Unfortunately, businesses routinely go through tough times and more often than not fail. So no level of Machiavellian jousting will matter in those scenarios. Focus on your work, over communicate, and stay above the fray. If you think the business is in for much tougher times, and future layoffs are inevitable, then always make sure you have other options and start looking around.

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