What Your Boss Really Wants From You

Like it or not, unless you are in position in sales, where performance can objectively be quantified, your future in any company lies with your boss’ subjective assessment. Ultimately, it is your manager’s opinion of your work that will determine whether you get promoted, get additional benefits or get fired. It may seem a simple matter to please your boss, but in practice it is full of invisible landmines, especially for those who have no experience managing other people.
Merely following the rules is not enough. I t may even be counterproductive in some cases. There is a kind of labor protest where the union members do not strike nor violate any regulation. What they do is to follow the letter of the regulations almost literally and without any consideration as to its damaging effect on the company’s operation. This type of industrial action, called “work-to-rule”, results in severe disruption and is in reality a mockery of the rules.
Now, unless you want to get fired, you would not dare to do “work-torule”. However, to a lesser degree, this is what many employees are doing by default. Ignorance of the consequences of their actions rather than malice is the usual reason for their behaving in this naive manner.
It is not that managers are intentionally trying to make themselves hard to understand. There are many reasons why they fail to accurately communicate to subordinates what is for them the ideal behavior. The number one reason is simply the mistaken assumption that you should already know what you are supposed to do.
Your Boss’ Expectations Decoded
There are numerous ways to improve your boss’ satisfaction with your work by deciphering some of the expectations. For those who are not clairvoyant, you can look over some of the tips below:
Do what the boss is instructing you now and not after you finish your other tasks. Unless there are urgent tasks, you must assume that she wants you to do the latest task she is assigning you. Do what the boss wants immediately and not after you finish what you were doing. It is irritating to the extreme for a boss’ request to be put on hold. I know of a senior employee who was terminated for refusing to follow her boss’ order because she wanted to finish an important task she was working on. It turned out that the employer had a different idea of what was more important. Still, there are cases where you are not able to do the request at once, but even then, you must explain the situation and let your boss decide what should be done first. Even if you think you know which task to prioritize, you could, at most, only suggest and leave the decision to your boss.
Do not put your boss on the spot. Another pet peeve of managers is when you put them in a situation where they will encounter problems. This is a frequent situation with frontliners dealing with demanding customers who insist on getting something that is forbidden by company policy. Technically, you may be following the rules if your boss has the authority to override the rule, but by letting your boss face the irate customer, you are putting her in a difficult situation. By all means, handle the problem yourself without overreaching your authority.
Try to see the big picture. To have a better grasp of how higher management thinks, try to look at your work in terms of its impact on several dimensions: on its long-term significance, its bottom line (how much earnings or cost savings it will bring), and on how it affects other aspects of operations. An example of this is if you know the damage that may be caused by a delayed or faulty report that you are working on, you can give this task a higher priority.
Do not be afraid to ask for clarifications. Rest assured that if there is an ambiguity in the instructions to a critical task, your boss would love to hear you ask for more information. If there is any instruction that is unclear, you must not be too shy to ask for more details or to have the instruction repeated. Usually, what prevents this is overconfidence or the fear of irritating your superior. Do not make wild guesses when you can simply ask.
Observe your boss’ preferences. What is appreciated by other managers may be repugnant to others. Despite claims of objectivity, it is impossible not to be swayed by personal preferences. At work, you should focus on learning how your boss would like subordinates to behave.
Employees are sometimes at a loss as to what their boss really wants, as there will always be something unsaid but still expected. Do not just write it off as the fault of management because there are ways to improve your understanding. Taking the effort to know what is the right thing to do could be the key to jumpstarting your career.

*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. D-4, Sunday, June 30, 2013. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.