A ton of books have been written on the sole subject of managing your boss. From Managing Your Boss In a Week: A Teach Yourself Guide to Monster Boss: Strategies for Surviving and Excelling When Your Boss Is a Nightmare, there are Amazon.com pages, bookstores, and library shelves stacked with reading material dedicated to these people. It’s funny that thousands of pages could be written on one aspect pertaining to a person’s working life. Yet, there is a reason for this anomaly.
Beyond being the individual who lets you get your foot in the door, your boss also determines what happens to you once the door closes. Whether you get a raise, important assignments, move up in the company, and sometimes whether you’re able to move on to bigger and better things, are to a large extent determined by the person to whom you answer first thing in the morning. And, as if bosses weren’t influential enough, studies have found that direct supervisors have a huge impact on our happiness. I have certainly found this to be the case in my own life.
Given the role bosses will play in your overall career, you can’t afford to look at them as nuisances anymore—tolerating them as you may have during positions you held in college. Your boss is now someone you have to pay attention to. More important, your boss is now someone you have to manage.
An entire book may not be needed to key you in on how to best interact and deal with your supervisors, but everyone starting out in their career can benefit from some pointers. The following advice is devised to help you manage those strange people we call bosses, and to advance your career in the process.
No matter how cool certain supervisors are, and no matter how chummy you are with them, you can be sure of two things: they know who’s in charge and they’re watching you. In fact, they’re grading you. Don’t let them catch you slipping. When your boss thinks of you, you want him or her to think about how wise they were to hire you and what an asset you’ve been to the company. You help create and sustain this good image through two ways: your performance on the job and the way you treat your boss. Think about it. You can’t succeed at a company if you’re a great employee but your boss hates you. And you can’t succeed if you’re a dead weight but loved by your boss. Your boss has to love you and your work. The following are ways to ensure both.
Loving Your Work
Do your best 24/7: Don’t just do your best on assignments you feel matter the most. Treat every assignment, from filing papers to entertaining notable clients, as important. Your boss won’t feel comfortable letting you work on major assignments if you act like you can’t or don’t want to handle the simpler ones.
Show initiative: Your boss expects you to do what’s asked of you, so being able to take and follow orders won’t get you more than a thank you. Look for ways that you can help your boss or department meet key goals, be it cutting costs, boosting productivity, simplifying a process, or better serving customers.
Bring ideas to the table: Present yourself as knowledgeable, creative, and proactive by offering your boss suggestions and solutions (once you have proven yourself at a company and gotten to know your boss). In doing so, your boss will then think more highly of you, ask your opinion more often, and hopefully come to rely on you for help when problems arise.
Help others: Don’t lose out on an opportunity to help other employees by offering advice or training them. This demonstrates your team-player mentality and management skills while showing that you are not out to just better yourself.
Finish assignments ahead of time: Remember how pleased your teachers were with students who turned in assignments before they were due? Same thing goes for bosses. Completing projects or little tasks before your boss remembers to ask about them makes you look industrious and thoughtful.
Volunteer for extra assignments: Bosses give extra credit just like teachers. You can earn extra credit from your boss by doing more than what’s asked of you. Take on additional assignments when you have the time. This shows your commitment to the company and your enthusiasm.
Do it how the boss likes: We all have a certain way we like doing things, which we think is the best, of course. However, so does your boss. Adopting the simple work habits your boss seems to prefer, or swear by—be it following up every phone call with an email, scheduling certain tasks first thing in the morning, or formatting a proposal using a certain font—will make your boss know you’re paying attention to him or her and are aiming to please.
Compliment your boss: If you like your boss’s hairstyle, outfit, car, presentation, or newly decorated office, then say so. Everyone likes and remembers compliments. However, please note that the word was “compliment,” not “kiss up.” The difference is that one is sincere and the other is not. Your boss knows the difference.
Make your boss look good: A surefire way to gain your boss’s approval is by telling that person’s boss or peers how much you admire his or her work ethic or other positive traits. By relating how much you like your boss, how hard working or innovative he or she is, you demonstrate your loyalty and gain more brownie points than you can count.
Be honest: Bosses, like everyone else, despise liars; don’t let your boss catch you in a lie! You should be recognized as a person who is honest and sincere. Also, when your boss asks your opinion, state your thoughts truthfully and tactfully, even if you disagree with him or her. Your boss will appreciate your honesty and trust you more.
Be enthusiastic: Smile when you arrive to work. Act like you’re glad to be alive and glad to have a job. You don’t have to run around with a fake smile on your face, but you should definitely not sport a frown and constant yawn. You want your boss to think that you are glad to be in your position and enjoy working with him or her—not like you’re at work just for the money and have to tolerate your boss (even if that’s the truth). If you are enthusiastic, your boss will feel likable and in turn treat you well. And funny enough, acting enthusiastic when you really don’t feel that way can make you feel better.
Try practicing those tactics to create a better working relationship with your boss and anyone else to whom you report. After working with your boss for a while, you should be able to devise some of your own original tactics. To do this, pay attention to what your boss considers both good and unprofessional work. Take note of the employees your boss seems to favor and dislike. In general, find out what makes your boss tick and then set your clock to the right time. A few things to gauge:
Your boss’s communication style: Does she prefer to communicate in person or primarily by email or phone? Does she like to chit chat before getting down to business or dive right into the issue at hand?
Your boss’s decision-making style: Does she need a sheet full of facts before making a decision, or is she willing to go with her gut—or that of someone she trusts? Does she usually seek the opinions of others before choosing an option, or does she keep most everyone shut out of the decision-making process?
Your boss’s pet peeves: What habits annoy her and are sure to cause someone to get on her bad side? What does she consider the height of unprofessionalism?