In their career, nearly everyone answers to someone. Many things are changeable in the working world, but having a boss isn’t one of them. If you must have a boss, it is recommended that you don’t piss them off.
Though, it’s easier said than done. From the first time you clock in to your last day of work, someone, somewhere has oversight of you.
Looking at a traditional employee-manager relationship, what are some common mistakes that prevent you from getting along with your boss?
Below are three common habits to avoid.
1. Do Someone Else’s Job. We hear and see a lot of words about going the extra mile, being part of a team, capitalizing on our strengths, etc.
But in practice, if you frequently come to your boss with “here’s how I would do this better,” you risk appearing puffed up or back-stabbing.
You also risk your boss wondering how much time and thought you’re putting into your own actual job.
- If you are the social media manager, read the room before taking it upon yourself to write a better draft of an internal communication you think your MarComm colleague could’ve done better.
- If your management peer is hiring for a role that will not report to you, it may be best to refrain from pushing your own candidate into the mix if signals from HR say “back off.”
If your boss asks you to assist on a project, contribute an idea or piece of expertise, or support a struggling co-worker, great. If you volunteer such things unasked and your boss takes you up on it, even better.
But don’t fall into the trap of appearing to constantly step on others’ toes or into their territory. It may leave your boss wondering about your career motivations.
Also, it will have them question your time management skills.
2. Be Defensive Towards Feedback Instead of Receptive. If you’ve ever had a restaurant kitchen mess up your order, you may know the itching irritation of an excuse rather than a straightforward, “I’ll get that taken care of.” Just as for an overdone steak, so for your relationship with your boss.
Whether your boss is bringing an oversight to your attention, or asking you to work on a difficult skill, one of the best habits you can learn is to hear them out.
Take in the information in an open-minded manner. Regardless of whether you’re offended, don’t fight fire with fire.
In most cases, pushing back to justifying yourself is ineffective for your long-term career success.
Why? Doing so challenges authority and pisses off any boss.
This is not to say be a doormat or yes your boss to death. On the contrary: deciding when and how to justify yourself is one of the main hallmarks of assertive communication at work.
Try to assume positive intent. When your boss mentions an area of work improvement, you put yourself in a stronger place when you appear receptive to the feedback rather than defensive.
3. Resist Change at Work. Reliability is good. Complacency is bad. If you’re hired because you were the job candidate with the strongest consultative sales track record, you don’t suddenly change your entire sales style on day one of the job. If it ain’t broke…
But staying stuck in one way of doing something, or being resistant to a new way your team is taught to handle something (client communications, perhaps) wins you no friends.
When your boss implements a change, the surest way to piss them off is to resist change. That includes giving it a half-hearted stab, then throwing your hands in the air in frustration.
Learn to change or your career will suffer from a pissed off boss. The ability to learn and change has been an asset since the first time an ancient human ancestor decided to try coming down out of the trees.
You don’t want to be the one on your team who’s stuck in the high branches because it seems to daunting to find a way down. You’ll just get left behind.
This is not an apology or an excuse of an ineffective, unprofessional boss. If your boss aggressively attacks you as a person, no amount of receptiveness on your end is going to make that right.
If your boss constantly saddles you with others’ work to the point that you can’t do your job, the problem isn’t you.
But in a context of professional behavior and positive intentions, you will always do yourself a favor by cutting down on the above-three tendencies, if you have them. Your boss, and your work quality, will thank you.