Shortly after I started working, someone gave me one of the most useful pieces of advice I received early on in my career:
If you really want to please your boss, make their job easier.
Being recognized as a good employee takes more than just working hard and doing what you’re asked. This became especially clear to me when I became and manager and had different kinds of people reporting to me. As your manager, my job is to provide you with the guidance and resources you need to produce quality work, which I am ultimately responsible for. Sure, you could be a hard worker.
But if I have to expend a lot of time, effort, and extra thought to get you to do the job I need you to do, you can be a pain to manage.
So, how do you become the worker that is pleasant to manage? There are a few things you can do.
Save them time. Do you have regular check-in meetings? Come with an agenda. Have a lot of questions? Consolidate them into a list and get them answered all at once instead of peppering your boss with questions throughout the day. If you’re accompanying them to a meeting, offer to take notes. Record major points made, key questions raised, and next steps, then send them your notes. Your boss is a busy person, and they will appreciate your organization and efficiency.
Tell them what you need. Your boss is ultimately responsible for the quality and completeness of your work. If you aren’t making adequate progress, identify what’s holding you up. You could need more clarification, guidance, training, input, feedback, or a decision? It’s better to proactively ask for what you need than to leave them wondering why you haven’t gotten the job done.
Come with an answer. Where possible,offer a hypothesis and ask whether they agree instead of asking open-ended questions. For example, “I think I should do x,y,z. Do you agree?” is a lot easier to answer than “What should I do?” By coming with a point of view, you relieve them from the burden of having to fully think through something from scratch.
Keep them in the loop. If something has gone wrong, or if you think you won’t hit a deadline, raise the issue sooner rather than later. Your boss will be a lot more forgiving when they have enough time to react to problems rather than when it’s too late to do anything.
Speaking from a manager’s point of view, if you are the employee who makes your boss’ job easy, you become the person they enjoy working with. You are the one they always want on their team. You are invaluable. There’s a high likelihood that they will do what they can to keep you happy, so that they can keep you. And that’s a good place to be.