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How to Keep the Boss Happy

5 Ways You Bug Your Boss – And How to Stop

By Susan Johnston

Even if you get work done and generally get along with co-workers, you could have habits that bug your boss (not to mention your officemates). While these quirks may not necessarily get you fired, they certainly can keep you from climbing the corporate ladder.

We’ve uncovered five habits that bug your boss and offer tips on how to avoid them.

1. Showing up late

According to LaRhonda Edwards, a human resources manager with thirteen years of HR experience, tardiness is one of the biggest concerns for managers. “If the normal work day starts at 8 o’clock, then the expectation is that you’re in the office ready to start your day,” she explains. Her advice to the chronically late? “Plan ahead,” she urges. “If you live 50 minutes away, you don’t leave 50 minutes early. Tag on extra time and anticipate road blocks.” Some people even set their clocks a few minutes early to ensure that they’re on time.

2. Choosing the wrong mode of communication

Different bosses prefer different modes of communication. Lindsey Pollak, a workplace expert and author of Getting from College to Career, says if you text your boss and she prefers in-person meetings, “either your information won’t get across or you’ll irritate [her].” Fortunately, there’s a simple fix: ask your boss how and when to send updates. If you’re too shy to ask outright, then Pollak suggests observing how they communicate with you. “If you have a boss who communicates once a day by email, that’s the boss’ preferred frequency and method of communication,” explains Pollak.

3. Keeping a messy work area

A cluttered, messy work space can give your boss the impression that you’re lazy or disorganized, so try to keep your desk neat. “Never put more on your desk than you’re going to work on for the day,” recommends Edwards. “At the end of the day, make sure you set up for the next day. I may be working on five things at once, but at the end of the day, they’re gone, and I set up for the next day.”

4. Asking questions you could easily answer on your own

Most managers would rather you ask a question than make a mistake, but many questions can be answered on your own. “Is this something you could Google or ask a colleague?” wonders Pollak. “The internet is so vast that a lot of information you can get yourself.” If you must approach your boss with a question or issue, then Pollak recommends brainstorming beforehand. “Rather than saying ‘This client is terrible. What should I do?’ think about potential solutions,” she says.

5. Forgetting to turn off your cell phone for a meeting

Cell phones are practically ubiquitous in the workplace these days, but it’s still disruptive and disrespectful when they go off during a meeting. Edwards says that you should, “put your cell phone on vibrate or leave it in your own office so it’s not a distraction.” That way you won’t be tempted to text either!

Boston-based freelance writer Susan Johnston has covered career and business topics for "The Boston Globe," "Hispanic Executive Quarterly," WomenEntrepreneur.com, and other publications.

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