3 Things You Think Your Boss Wants (But He Doesn’t)

All year, you’ve been the picture-perfect employee. You’ve thoroughly communicated with your boss, provided him with a steady flow of updates, and praised his great ideas. Sounds like you can sit back and relax, because you’ve obviously got an ultra-positive annual review (and maybe a raise to go with it) totally in the bag.

Well, not so fast. Turns out, some of the “great” things you’re doing might actually be hindering your performance—and your boss’s opinion of you. To make sure you’re not unintentionally crossing your boss the wrong way, consider these three common things employees think their bosses want—but they don’t.

1. Thoroughly Explain Why Something Went Wrong

When something goes wrong, it’s not exactly second nature to step up to the plate and whole-heartedly accept the blame. Instead, you want to make sure that your boss understands exactly why you weren’t able to meet your deadline or finish the monthly numbers. Whether your co-workers have been flooding you with questions, you couldn’t get someone in the marketing department to return your call, or no one would show you how to do a V-lookup, there was just no way for you to meet that impossible deadline. And of course you feel compelled to clearly explain your hold-up.

What Your Boss Thinks

An excuse is an excuse, no matter how valid it may be. But at the end of the day, the work didn’t get done, and that’s what your boss cares about. Sure, things go wrong—even managers expect that. But when it comes to explaining why, your boss doesn’t need to know anything besides the basics—and certainly doesn’t want to hear you place the blame on someone else.

If you really want to impress him, admit to the mistake and explain how you’re going to move forward: “I want to apologize for missing the deadline this week for the call-handling report—I should have prioritized my time better. This week, I’m setting daily checkpoints in my calendar so this doesn’t happen again.”

If you offer up a plan of action, rather than an excuse, you’ll instantly gain your manager’s respect. And if you actually follow that plan, well—you’ll completely blow him away.

2. Provide Constant Updates

When you’re working on a big project or dealing with an uber-important customer, your first instinct is to let your boss know any and every detail that develops throughout the day to make sure you’re on the path to success. You want your boss to know that you’re taking care of business—and give him ample opportunities to re-route you if you veer off track.

What Your Boss Thinks

While your boss needs to be aware of what you’re working on and any issues you’re having, he doesn’t need to know every tiny detail of your progress—because ideally, he trusts you to take charge and make decisions. Your success is important to him—but keep in mind, he also has work that needs to get done, and it gets harder for him to focus when you pop in the door every half hour to say, “Hey, I wanted to let you know that I just got an email from my client and he wants an update on my progress, so we scheduled a phone call for this afternoon.”

Yes, it’s important that you keep your manager apprised of your progress and ask pressing questions that require an immediate answer (after all, it is a manager’s job to guide and, well, manage you), but it’s equally important to strike a constructive balance. Urgent questions are one thing—but to report your ongoing progress, try setting up a weekly face-to-face check-in to discuss what you’ve done and how you can move forward. And, don’t rely solely on him—challenge yourself to seek out other resources within the company who can answer your questions.

3. Fake Your Approval

When your boss proudly presents his latest and greatest (albeit ridiculous and completely impractical) idea for your department, who would argue? Let’s be honest: It’s incredibly intimidating to be the lone dissenter in the room, and it’s easy to assume that unless you go with whatever he says, you’re going to face some unpleasant consequences (read: No raise for you!).

What Your Boss Thinks

While it’s likely that your boss truly believes in his ideas, he doesn’t want you to just sit back and accept them without a word. Most managers realize that they don’t have a 360-degree view of every situation—after all, the employees are the ones on the front lines, interacting with customers on a daily basis and using company processes firsthand. With that insider information, managers look to their employees to point out parts of the plan that won’t work or ways to improve it—or to develop different ideas completely.

Your boss wants you to contribute to the conversation. By voicing your opinion (even by disagreeing with his), you’ll prove that you want to be a part of the company for more than just the paycheck. He wants you to feel like a part of the team and make contributions to the company as a whole. And, of course, he wants to make sure the ideas that your team implements are the ones that are actually going to work—not just the ones that came from the boss.

Every boss has a different management style, but when it comes down to it, all managers wants you to take responsibility for your actions, show initiative, and contribute to the growth of the company. And to progress in your career and grow as a professional, you should want those things, too.

By Katie Douthwaite
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