Should I acknowledge my weaknesses with my boss?

Is it better to pretend you’re this strong in every single way, or acknowledge your weaknesses?
Is it better to pretend you’re this strong in every single way, or acknowledge your weaknesses?
Image: AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Q: We all have weaknesses—how much should you acknowledge and apologize for them with your manager, and how much should you try to fix them on your own?

Dear Working Hard,

You don’t need your boss’s blessing to go out and hone your talents and insights in areas where you’re looking to improve them. There are plenty of opportunities—formal or otherwise—that you can capitalize on to drive personal and professional development. For example, if you’re a natural-born marketer, why not spend some time hanging out the software development team to learn better ways to promote your product? If you’re a software developer, why not spend more time with colleagues in advertising and sales to discover new features or solutions you might add that could create value and new opportunities for customers?

Instead of focusing conversations with your manager (or, for that matter, with yourself) around shortcomings, it’s important to refocus them on creating opportunities for you to leverage your personal strengths, while also boosting productivity and performance.

Think of it this way. As a leader, which would you prefer: An employee who comes to you apologizing for underperformance or lack of insight, or one who comes to you—before a point of concern arises—actively looking for ways to enhance her skills, boost her productivity, or increase the bottom line? A worker who’s happy to clock in and clock out doing the same routine tasks every day, or one who purposefully makes a point to embrace constant learning and growth and expand her insights and horizons on a running basis?

Case in point: We all know someone whose career seems blessed, who always seems to get handed more responsibilities, more promotions, and better assignments. Often, that’s because luck is actually hard work—the place where opportunity meets preparation. Most likely, they’re actively putting themselves in fortune’s sights.  And the fastest, most reliable way to do this is by being courageous—focusing on taking action rather than apologizing.

My advice: Forget about apologizing, and focus on moving forward. What do you need to do right now, right here today, to get where you want to be later in terms of your talents or your career? Then make a point to take that step—and take more steps, one after another, until you’ve arrived at that destination.

Scott Steinberg is the author of The Business Etiquette Bible.

Do you have a workplace etiquette question? Submit to Scott by emailing