In today’s workplace, it goes without saying that it’s a good idea to remain on the boss’s good side. Your relationship with this person can be a major factor in not only your on-the-job happiness but also your career success. And your boss can be a powerful ally; having a manager who thinks highly of you may improve your job security since you’ll have someone who is willing to defend your value to the firm should layoffs occur. So, the last thing you want to do is exhibit behaviors that undermine this relationship.
Unfortunately, your manager may not always tell you if your behavior is driving him or her nuts. Here are eight actions to avoid:
1. Turning down new assignments.
Your supervisor comes to you to say that you’d be the ideal person to mentor a new staff member. She wants to know if you have the time to take on this task. You do, but you’re not interested in the responsibility, so you decline the offer. Bad move. It’s unwise to build a reputation as someone your boss can’t count on. Plus, it’s a good rule of thumb to accommodate your boss’s wishes, as long as you have room on your plate for the extra work. A pattern of “no’s” can convince your manager to stop offering you opportunities, including ones you might be interested in.
2. Being ‘high-maintenance.’
Do you require constant feedback or positive reinforcement to remain productive? Must you check in with your boss every hour to ensure you’re on the right track? This constant need for attention may prevent your manager from attending to important tasks or getting into a good work flow, which is enough to drive even the most patient professional up the wall.
3. Communicating poorly.
You’re working on a high-profile project and just left your supervisor a voice-mail message with a quick progress update. He calls back, asking to be e-mailed the information. And, given the importance of the assignment, more detail would be nice. It’s critical you understand your boss’s communication preferences and adjust your style accordingly to ensure the two of you remain on the same page. In addition to preferred mode of communication, consider how much — or how little — information your manager would like.
4. Asking too many questions.
Everyone knows the saying “In one ear and out the other.” Don’t embody it when interacting with your manager. Repeatedly asking the same question (“Whom should I follow up with again?”) is a sure-fire way to annoy your supervisor. To avoid this situation, always listen carefully when your boss is speaking and try to seek clarification on new projects from the get-go. If you must follow up, be sure to approach your manager with a specific list of questions and take notes so you don’t need to bother him or her again.
5. Failing to follow through.
You’re rushing to finish a presentation for your boss. After reviewing it, he notes a few typographical errors that you should have caught. To build your manager’s confidence, you must think ahead and pay attention to details. As you tackle a project, think about the types of concerns your boss is likely to have, questions he or she may ask, and stumbling blocks that could get in your way. For example, if you’re in charge of organizing an important meeting, have you tested the necessary technical equipment ahead of time? Prepared and proofread any handouts? Made arrangements to arrive early so you can set up? Even when things are hectic, keeping a keen eye on every detail is necessary to impress your supervisor.
6. Refusing to admit your mistakes.
Creating an excuse to justify poor performance is dishonest and unprofessional. Plus, chances are your ploy won’t stand the test of time. If you make a mistake, step up to the plate; then go further by devising a plan for both correcting and avoiding similar incidents in the future. For example, if you include the wrong subject line in a mass e-mail, moving forward, always ask a colleague to review any memos with large distribution lists before hitting Send. Employees who accept ownership demonstrate professionalism, maturity and confidence.
7. Waving the red flag after the ship has sunk.
Your manager has asked you to compile a complicated report by the end of the week. Friday afternoon, you realize you can’t finish it in time and break the news to your boss. She’s furious! If you had just let her know earlier, she would have been able to provide you with extra resources to complete the project by the deadline. The lesson here: Let your supervisor know as soon as you sense a problem growing. With advanced notice, your manager can often work with you to stave off disaster.
8. Fueling the rumor mill.
Above all, supervisors seek employees with a positive outlook, especially given all of the negative news about today’s economy. Enthusiasm is contagious, and these individuals are able to influence the attitudes of others. You don’t want to be the one at the water cooler who spreads gossip or complains.