How Do I Make My Boss Happy with My Work?

Original Spanish version published in America Economia (Latin America) on October 28, 2016

As hard as it may be, we have to recognize and accept that bosses are the people who represent the company to which we sell our professional services. Therefore, my boss is my main client and I should always treat him/her as such. That does not mean that he or she will always be right –or that I necessarily think they are the best bosses in the world– but I need to make sure that they are happy with my work and feel they can rely on me.

To that end, the first thing to do is align expectations. It’s about understanding what they expect you to do, how they want you to do it, what the factors for success in your position are, and what they expect you to do in your work and for him or her. It is good to try to realign ourselves from time to time, because everything changes very quickly. You must ask your boss-client what they expect in order to know what to do and do it well.

It is also very important to fully understand how your boss prefers you to communicate, and how often they want you to report on tasks or information, to copy them in emails, or keep him or her well-informed about work-related events or office news or projects, and the like.

Few people take the time to align themselves with their bosses and later risk misunderstandings. If the boss does not take the initiative to align herself or himself with you, you must take the initiative yourself. Doing so is professional, because it seeks to define your relationship with and the expectations of the client for whom I am working. Indeed, not all bosses are conscious of the need to align themselves with their people or quite know how to go about it –all the more reason for doing so yourself. Helping our bosses be better bosses is also part of our job. The same goes for asking them for feedback.

Regarding your boss, there are many mistakes you should avoid, the most important perhaps being those related to your attitude toward him or her. That is why it is wise to never underestimate your boss’s abilities and, much less, look down on him or her.

Looking down on our boss is a serious mistake for which we will pay for the rest of our careers. We must not forget that the effect of the references given by our bosses will stay with us for many years to come.

It is very common to feel that you can do the job better, faster, or with better results than your boss, but to forget that there is subordinate relationship is a big mistake. The key word in the relationship is respect. There is nothing more disrespectful and even aggressive than disdain, which is expressed in many ways, attitudes, and even gestures or looks. Take care not to fall into that!

We know that we should offer our bosses solutions, not problems. Our job is to help the boss shine and be very successful. If our boss feels we support them, help them be better and stand out, and that we are also loyal, we will gain their confidence and grow with them. Trying to compete with or beat our boss at everything is a silly mistake that leads us nowhere and irreparably damages the relationship. Being nice and attentive with your boss does not mean “kissing up”. Talking badly about them or criticizing them in front of others, even if in private with people you are close with, is an unforgiveable sin and a very critical error in judgment that you will always pay for sooner or later.

If we think that our boss behaves incorrectly or unethically, it is better to distance ourselves from that environment and try to get a new position where we feel comfortable and happy as soon as possible. Fighting against improper conduct is pointless and leads to no good.

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