How to Rock the Boat Without Getting Fired

Have you ever dreamed of coming to work and punching your annoying coworker in the face? Maybe you wished you could slap your boss when she made a rude comment to you. Perhaps you wanted to yell and scream at the top of your lungs that you’ve had enough of ignorant behavior in the office. That’s the bad kind of rocking the boat. Such behavior can get you fired or worse, have charges brought against you. The good kind of rocking the boat is less dangerous and usually reaps positive results. It definitely would not involve any violent physical contact or immature behavior. You get the picture.

You can rock the boat, but you need to have a master plan. Stirring up trouble to get your way is bad. Reacting immaturely to injustice is bad. Know when to speak up and have a good reason for rocking the boat. Challenging your boss just because you can’t stand his haircut or the way he dresses or how he constantly breathes heavy like Harrison Ford in the movie Sabrina, is not a valid reason to rock the boat. Remember that you’re trying to rock the boat without getting fired.

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1. Have a Master Plan

Hold your horses. Don’t come guns a blazing into your boss’s office to say that you hate how he handled the last team meeting. He’ll probably respond with an angry glare, thinking you’ve got some nerve. You need a master plan. Irrational behavior will get you fired and eventually locked up in the psych ward. You may secretly enjoy charging your annoying boss, but that won’t make your boat rocking successful. Remember, safety first! People should not get hurt in the process. You’re trying to promote change, but still keep your job.

What’s your reason for rocking the boat? Come on, be honest here. If you’re angry at your annoying boss, your master plan will have flaws. That can quickly snowball into getting fired. You need to have a green light to rock the boat. That means you want to create positive change. When you see red flags indicating your negative state of mind that means you are at a red light. Stop and don’t pass go!

When a bad boss treats you disrespectfully, that’s a good reason to rock the boat. Just have a plan. Challenging this boss in public during a company meeting will humiliate him. Ok, so deep down inside you may be jumping for joy at that prospect. Let’s be clear, that’s not very mature of you. Mature people know how to avoid getting fired. Take a moment to think. If you were in your boss’s shoes, how would you react if confronted in front of your employees? You’d probably be annoyed and want to lash out at the offending revolutionary. So, don’t you think your boss—who is only human after all—would react the same way? Rock the boat in private. Just keep the rocking PG! Meet with the boss in his office. You can still be challenging the status quo. You’ll just be doing it in a manner that won’t get you fired.

Be assertive but not overly aggressive. Remember, you’re not coming in like a raging banshee out for blood. Think of yourself as more of a diplomat who wants to make waves, but knows how to smile while doing it.

2. Know Your Boundaries

woman painting

Ok, so having a master plan is not enough. You need to know how to color within the lines. Remember that masterpiece you made for your mom when you were five during your first day of kindergarten? Sure, she hung it on the refrigerator and said you did great work. You know now that you scribbled all over that page. You failed to stay in the boundary lines. So, yeah, you were a kid. That’s what kids do. Now, you’re an adult who should know that boundaries are important. After all, your employer can’t have employees coming to work and stirring up trouble simply because they feel like it. Pandemonium would erupt. The employees would rule the roost. Definitely not the best environment for productivity.

Do you know your boss well enough to predict whether or not your actions could be detrimental to your career? You don’t want to rock the boat if you think he’s going to go ballistic and turn into a crazy person. If you’re working for an irrational boss, he may not appreciate you rocking the boat. Think before you act. You don’t want to start your own revolution that will get you fired.

Maybe you’ve been trying to get your boss to allow employees to take naps during the day. Don’t stomp your feet, yell and scream and create a scene. That’s something your kindergarten self would do. Hopefully, you’ve grown up since then! Then again, maybe that would help. Your boss might think you need a nap right then! Embrace your rebel side, but balance that with conforming to the rules. Follow the chain of command in order to get your voice heard. Going the other route of starting a workplace coup will quickly get you terminated.

Get your coworkers on your side by having them sign a petition for this nap room or permitted nap time. Having supporters can help your case. You won’t look like a lone wolf who is simply trying to start trouble in the workplace. Besides, having some partners in crime can give you the courage you need to approach your unapproachable boss as you rock the boat. Do your research. Get a list of companies like Google and Ben & Jerry’s that permit employees to nap at work.

Then comes the hard part—scheduling a meeting with your boss. Don’t chicken out. You can do this. Boldly share your suggestions and supporting facts. If you need a wingman, bring one of you colleagues with you. The rest of your supporters can hang out by the door hoping to listen in. Not to be a downer here, but your efforts may fail. That’s a real possibility. Yet, if you are a true boat rocker, that won’t phase you. Go up the food chain. Schedule a meeting with your boss’s boss.

3. Deal With the Fallout

Nuclear Explosion

You’re going to have fallout, even if you had a master plan and colored within the lines. So, drastic consequences would be that you’re escorted out by security and barely had time to grab your favorite coffee mug from your desk. You’re manhandled down the hall as your coworkers peer over the top of their cubicles with wide eyes, shaking in their boots. They feel sorry for you but then quickly get back to work—because boat rockers get fired! If you still have a job, then you’re off to a good start. Just don’t be fooled. There will still be fallout. In case you haven’t realized it yet, not everyone likes boat rockers. Many people simply like to go with the flow and leave things as they are—even if they’re unhappy with the situation. Remember, that it takes guts to rock the boat.

Are you prepared to deal with the fallout? Even if you don’t get fired, once you’ve rocked the boat, things may never be the same. You may soon exist in an alternate universe in the office. People will look at you differently. You’ll either become a hero or a villain. Being a hero is great. Who wouldn’t want to be adored as a courageous individual who rocked the boat! Others will think you’re a troublemaker. Hmmm, not such a great position to be in. You’ll definitely find out who your true work friends are. People who used to be your lunch buddies may start avoiding you at all costs. No one wants to be seen associating with the office pariah. Whether people see you as a hero or a villain, you will likely still be standing alone. It takes guts to rock the boat. Not many people have the gumption to do what you did.

When you meet with your manager to present your case to have a fun and engaging break room created for the employees, you may get shot down. Who cares that you had a zillion awesome facts to support your idea, right? Your annoying manager won’t care. He’s probably tapping his foot and fuming, with smoke coming out of his ears because he wished he’d thought of this idea first. Be prepared that if you take your idea to upper management, your boss may actually act out his fantasy of locking you in the basement and holding you hostage. Ok, so maybe that’s an extreme example.

Just don’t underestimate a scorned boss. Bypassing his authority can become a sticky situation for you. Be prepared to fight back in an assertive way. No, you cannot kidnap him and hold him hostage in the basement. That’s just the fantasy, remember. If upper management grants your request, your boss may try to find ways to retaliate against you. He doesn’t want you to look like a star in the eyes of the big bosses and all the employees. Be prepared for extra assignments and late nights working overtime.

Handle them in a positive and assertive manner. Always be professional. Refrain from acting out your revenge fantasies. Put away Emily Thorne’s red sharpie and stop trying to figure out ways to get revenge on your Victoria Grayson-like boss.

See Also: How to Effectively Work for a Micro-Managing Boss

Do you feel strongly about something? Don’t be afraid to stand up and rock the boat. Just make sure you have a viable master plan. Know how to color within the lines. Be prepared to effectively deal with the consequences of your actions.

Have you ever rocked the boat at work?