Want to get on your boss's good side and do better at work? One way is to understand her perspective, and the perspective of a manager can be very different from yours as an employee. Here are eight things your boss probably wishes you knew.
1. Bring solutions, not just problems. If you just bring your manager problems, she has to solve them, but think how much more valuable you'd be (and how much time you'd save her) if instead, you brought proposed solutions. Even if your manager wants to respond differently, having a proposal to react to is easier than having to start figuring it out from scratch.
2. Everything has a trade-off. When you're responsible for only one piece of the pie, it's easy to think that solutions are obvious. But when you're responsible for the whole pie, it gets far more complicated; decisions that seem easy for you may require a trade-off somewhere else. For instance, you might not understand why your manager won't approve your request for new software. But approving your request might mean that she has to cut her budget somewhere else, plus explain to a different employee why she can't have the training course she requested.
3. Your attitude matters almost as much as your work. Managing a team can be exhausting, and it's significantly harder when a team member is resistant to feedback, difficult to work with or just plain unpleasant. Even if your work is good, many good managers will refuse to tolerate poor attitudes, and you could find yourself without a job or hampered significantly in your current one.
4. If we say yes to you, we'd have to say yes to others. It might be just fine for you to work from home two days a week, but not for the whole department to do it. And if your manager allows you, it's likely that others will want to also. Managers can make exceptions for individuals, but in many cases, it will cause morale problems or even prompt accusations of treating one group differently than another. (There are times when this is OK - for instance, it's OK to treat high performers differently than others - but your manager is considering a wider landscape of impact than you might be.)
5. Feedback is meant to help you. Really. It can sting to hear what you're not doing well enough, but imagine if your manager never bothered to tell you: You wouldn't progress in your career or get merit raises, and you might wonder why others were getting better assignments and promotions while you were passed over. Managers (most of them, anyway) don't give feedback to make you feel bad or put you down; they do it because they want you to do well at your work - both for the company's sake and your own.
6. Taking ownership is huge. It might be fine to merely execute a project that someone gives you. But it's far better when you can truly own the work - meaning that you're the one driving it forward, obsessing over it, spotting problems before they arise and addressing them and generally taking the same sort of responsibility for it as you might expect your manager to with her own work. Approaching your work like this can be what takes you from a B-player to an A-player and can pay off dramatically in the course of your career.
7. We expect you to be a grown-up. That means that we expect you to try to find the answer yourself before asking us for help, to resolve your own interpersonal issues with co-workers, to have a work ethic that means your work doesn't change when we're not around, to avoid causing drama in the workplace and to otherwise behave like a professional adult who doesn't need to be told to do these things. That said...
8. We want you to ask for help when you need it. Most managers do want to hear when you're struggling, whether it's with a particular problem on a project, a difficult client or an overwhelming workload. Don't hide your problems in the hopes that they won't be noticed - speak up when you're struggling and ask for advice. Good managers will welcome it.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.
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