10 Things Your Boss Wants You to Do Without Being Told
Depending on how effusive — and prone to giving feedback — your boss is, it can be hard to know exactly what he or she really needs from you. But no matter what industry you work in, there are some universal traits that higher-ups wish the people they manage had, according to experts.
Not only do these characteristics make a boss's day-to-day easier, having them may put you on a fast track for a raise or promotion. With that in mind, here are 10 ways to be the rock-star employee your boss dreams of.
1. Do Your Job.
Yes, this sounds obvious, but actually delivering results is the primary thing your boss needs from you. After all, it's why she hired you.
"You have the tools and the knowledge to deliver results, and it’s up to you to do so," says Rob Mead, head of marketing at Gnatta, a customer service company. "Your leader will be there for advice, support and to get you through the tough times, but you need to provide results and she will then fulfill her end of the bargain by helping you get to the next level."
Coasting along won’t win you any points with the boss — nor will it advance your career.
2. Be On Time.
"Whether it's to a meeting, for a deadline or just to a team happy hour, nothing is more off-putting than someone being late," Mead says.
Yes, sometimes being tardy is unavoidable — traffic, family emergencies and other conflicts arise — but it's on you to have the grace to communicate with your boss and your colleagues when these things happen. "Leaders remember who's there on time, and those people will be the ones they can count on," he adds.
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3. Provide Context.
Bosses are typically busy managing everything from people to crisis situations while trying to lead a business — no easy task. So giving yours a frame of reference when speaking or sending an email about projects and deliverables can make a world of difference, according to executive coach and TEDx speaker Lynn Carnes.
"Recognize that you have incredible power to shape how the boss sees something if you go beyond the typical vague question of 'What do you think?'" she says. "A quick sentence of context — like, 'This is about the XYZ project' or 'I've been thinking about our ABC campaign' — gets her on the same page as you quickly." Plus, the forethought that your boss has many other things on her mind is also much appreciated.
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4. Get to the Point.
Coupled with providing context, Carnes says, is getting to your point quickly. "Nothing drives a boss crazier than for you to beat around the bush waiting for her to connect the dots," she says. "Trust that your boss can 'handle the truth' and make your statement or ask for what you need as clearly as possible."
If you’re writing an email, take the time to edit your message for length and break down what you need to say into bullet points so your boss can easily read and understand what you’re trying to relay. Any opportunity you can create to save your boss time — and help her avoid unnecessary frustration — will benefit you too.
5. Schedule Time.
It happens to the best of us: You stop by your boss's office and ask, "Got just a second to go over this?" and 20 minutes later you're getting to the end of your "quick second," at which point your boss doesn’t seem to be paying attention. "You think it’s because he doesn’t like your ideas or doesn’t care about your problem," Carnes says. "In reality? It's because he is now running late for a meeting and is trying not to be rude by cutting you off."
Be realistic about the time you need with your boss, and don’t pop into his office for a "sec" if whatever you have to say will inevitably take longer. Instead of showing up unannounced, have the forethought to schedule time with him and get on his calendar.
6. Have a Can-Do Attitude.
Sure, being an overly positive Pollyanna might just annoy your boss (and everyone else in your office, to be honest), but there is something to be said about an employee who willingly takes on the challenges of her job. If you don't agree with a decision or a direction the boss wants to go in, then by all means push back and explain your position, but don't be the person who continually gripes over how difficult or insurmountable your tasks are.
"As someone for whom being positive doesn't come naturally, it took me time to master this, but it’s key," Mead says. "Being told that something is impossible is a switch off for any senior person — there's always a way to do something. Stating that something can't be done is never the right answer."
7. Solve Problems, Don’t Cause Them.
We've all heard this one: Don't bring problems, bring solutions. "It’s a massive cliché, but, as with all clichés, it contains a grain of truth," Mead says. "If you always bring problems, people will eventually stop listening. If you bring solutions, however, you’ll be remembered positively — even if they don’t always work 100 percent of the time."
He explains that leaders are always looking for people who care enough about their roles to improve both their own areas of responsibility and those of others. Having the creativity and ingenuity to at least try to resolve complications will get you recognized for being resourceful and for being a team player who looks out for the greater good.
8. Take Initiative.
Being a self-starter goes a long way toward impressing the boss, yet taking initiative is seldom done, says Jessica Tsukimura, head of the New York Client Services team for Stag & Hare, a global branding and design agency. In fact, she says that this quality is usually the main piece of feedback for her team in every performance review.
"See an issue or a need internally or with a client? Why not try to develop solutions before it's assigned to someone? This showcases your willingness to pitch in as well as your ability to problem solve and be effective," Tsukimura says. "Your proactive nature will make you stand out among your peers, and your boss will no doubt take notice."
9. Take Nothing Personally.
To quote "The Godfather" (and "You’ve Got Mail"), what happens at the office "isn't personal, it's business." This is especially true when it comes to the feedback your boss gives you.
"Bosses need to give constructive feedback on your work without worrying about hurting your feelings," Carnes says. "And if you do find yourself having taken things personally, you don't have to react. When you get defensive, it sends a warning signal that there is something to worry about." Instead, she advises taking a deep breath and remembering that feedback will help you flourish and grow.
10. Don’t Judge.
Bosses have to constantly make decisions. Some of these are very difficult, and many of them cannot be discussed in detail with employees. Chances are that you won't agree with all of them. But it's up to you how you react to them.
"While it's OK to ask the boss why a decision was made, recognize that she may not be at liberty to share all the details," Carnes says. "It's a great time to assume positive intent and give her the benefit of the doubt given the set of circumstances she was in." Passing unnecessary judgment can come off as childish and even discourage your boss from envisioning you in a more senior role down the line.
What Do YOU Think?
Did you find any of this advice helpful? What do you try to do to be the best possible employee? Share in the comments section.
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