Want to become your boss's favorite? Here are 10 habits that, if cultivated, will have your boss showering you with lavish praise:
1. Keep track of everything your boss puts on your plate, so she learns that she doesn't have to follow up to make sure thing are getting done. Give her the peace of mind of knowing that if she talks to you about it, it's either going to get handled or you'll bring it back up with her for follow-up.
2. More broadly, have your act together. Stay on top of things, ensure your boss only has to tell you something once, don't let things fall through the cracks, and generally be someone she can rely on. Often employee complaints of micromanagement can be traced back to problems in this area, and fixing this stuff can fix the micromanagement.
3. Make sure you're on the same page about expectations: your goals for the year and what success would look like for you, as well as what decisions she should be consulted on and what kinds of things you should handle on your own without her input.
4. When you bring problems to her, also suggest solutions. Saying: "What should I do about X?" puts the problem on her plate. You make her job easier if you say, "Here's the deal with X. I've thought about A, B, and C, and I think we should do C because... Does that sound right to you?"
5. Be vigilant about putting all the facts on the table when you're discussing things with her. This means not only being scrupulous about sharing all relevant information and not trying to shape facts one way or another but also divulging your own biases (you're human; you'll have them).
6. When you make a mistake, take responsibility for it. It sounds like this: "I really screwed this up. It happened because ____, and I'm doing ____ to fix it and ____ to make sure it doesn't happen again." Even if something isn't a mistake per se, your boss may love to hear that you're focusing on improving. For instance, you might tell her, "I wasn't thrilled with how the conference went, and next time I think I'll do ____."
7. Pay attention to what kinds of questions your boss asks so you get a better understanding of the types of things she cares about. By paying attention to what she asks, seems worried about, etc., you can often draw larger messages about the sorts of things she will care about in the future. If you learn to anticipate those things in advance and address them before she has to ask, you will be beloved.
8. Listen to feedback with an open mind, and don't get defensive. It's fine to disagree, but do it in a nondefensive way. For instance: "I see what you're saying. The way I was looking at it was...."
9. Speak up when you're unhappy. If you're frustrated about something, raise it. (Of course, be smart about this: Bring it up at a time when your boss isn't swamped or frazzled, and think about your delivery ahead of time, just as you would want her to if she were raising a sensitive issue with you.)
10. If she's a good boss, tell her. Few people think to say it.
Alison Green is chief of staff for a medium-sized nonprofit, where she oversees day-to-day management of the staff as well as hiring, firing, and staff development. She is working with the Management Center to coauthor a book on nonprofit management. Her writings have been published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Maxim, and dozens of other newspapers. She blogs at Ask a Manager.