Managers are only human, which means they're just like us. They'll judge you just like you judge others, but they may not always communicate their issues directly. How might your manager judge you and how can you set yourself up so you're in the best position for success? Amy Feind Reeves of JobCoachAmy weighs in.
Managers: they’re just like us! You may not see them in US magazine buying groceries in sweatpants, but the headline still holds true. They’ll judge you for wearing yoga pants just like you judged that woman in accounting for the bad haircut—but they won’t tell you because they don’t want to be mean. If they really care, they’ll tell you not to wear them when clients are in the office. If they don’t really care but your work is pretty good, they’ll tell you at your formal performance review.
But they may never tell you. And pretty soon everyone else is getting promoted except you, and you have no idea why. Maybe not just because you wear yoga pants a lot to work, but also because you turned in a project that had bad numbers or a few typo—and it was easier to just fix them than to tell you. In other words, managers are just like us because they often take the path of least resistance. “I’ll just clean up this stain on my couch pillow instead of telling my friend she spilled wine on it,” or “If he’s going to be 20 minutes late all the time to meet me for lunch, I’m just going to tell him I can’t meet him for lunch anymore.” It’s easier to change your own behavior than to change someone else’s right? Managers think the same way! They are just like us.
Here are some ways to get around some of the classic “silent career killers” that no one ever tells you are on your manager’s mind but are pretty obvious once you think about.
These are the ways your managers judge you:
The hours you keep
There is no substitute for getting in early and staying late. Yes, managers do notice. All of them. Got your work done? Take some initiative. Nobody else logging extra hours? Great! It makes it easier for you to stand out.
How well you understand your job goals—and theirs
Ask not what your manager can do for you, ask what you can do for your manager. Consider how your own tasks fit into the bigger picture, and take the next step when you can. For example, if you are collecting or analyzing data, summarize it in a format that simplifies the process of using the data to draw conclusions or create hypotheses. If you don’t know how your output will be used, then ask.
Nobody else logging extra hours? Great! It makes it easier for you to stand out.
Your organization skills
Being well organized does not mean having a neat desktop or a color-coded filing system, although both can help. Being well organized means showing up on time (i.e., early) to meetings knowing the answers to questions you might be asked, and producing documentation as requested. It’s not about you feeling good about your “system." It’s about your system producing results that make your manager’s job easier.
The relationship you develop with your peers—and theirs
Being well liked is great—it makes life more fun to go to work knowing that people enjoy working with you thanks to your sparkling wit, athletic prowess, or command of popular culture. However, your main goal is to be well respected for what you deliver. When it comes time for raises and promotions, candidates who are savvy and reliable win out over candidates who are funny and charming 100% of the time.
Your ability to ask for ways to do better.
In the work world, the managerial path of least resistance always wins. If you earn praise from your manager, you can expect that it will be readily delivered because delivering that message is easy and fun. If you are not doing well, don’t expect anyone to point it out. Delivering constructive criticism is uncomfortable and really hard to do well. It’s easier to take you off key tasks, shuttle you to the side and hope that you get the message (even though it rarely works.) Constructive criticism only comes when you ask for it. Ask often, and don’t wait for your next review. By then, it could be too late.
Amy Feind Reeves is the Founder and CEO of JobCoachAmy, where she leverages her experience as a hiring manager to help new and seasoned professionals find jobs that make them happy. Her corporate practice focuses on managing millennials. Amy has enjoyed successful careers as a commercial banker, global management consultant, entrepreneur, corporate executive, and non-profit executive. Amy graduated cum laude from Wellesley College and earned an MBA at the Tuck School of Dartmouth College. She is on the Board of Directors of The Philanthropy Connection and teaches financial literacy to middle school students for WE FLY.
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