If you're looking to get your boss's approval, but don't want to be seen as a "brown noser" by him or your colleagues, there's thin line to walk. You want to shine in terms of the work you do, but you don't want to alienate yourself from your colleagues.
Roberta Matuson of Matuson Consulting, and author of the upcoming book, The Magnetic Workplace: How to Hire Top Talent That Will Stick Around, calls this "managing up," and believes every employee should have a strategy for getting on his boss's good side.
Speak the same language. "Get to know your boss's management style and adjust your style so you are both aligned," Matuson suggests.
For example, if your boss loves having phone calls about every little thing, and you prefer email, defer to her and use her preferred communication style. You'll make things easier for her and you'll develop communication skills you might be weak in. Another example: If your boss just wants the high-level update on projects you're working on, resist giving her a play by play.
Help your team. Sometimes the best approach to impressing your boss isn't direct. Being a productive member of a team can also get his attention. Leigh Steere, co-founder of Managing People Better, LLC, suggests being fully present in meetings. Turn off your phone and don't get distracted by checking email. Pay attention and offer your own insight. Be a productive member of your team.
"You are not doing this for the purpose of pleasing your boss," explains Steere, "Rather, you are doing this to help your team and your organization. When you help the team, you are helping your boss."
Solve problems. Another way to get your boss's attention in a positive way is to become known as a problem solver. Kevin Spence, founder of CareerThoughts.com, gives the example of how he once automated a report that had required five people to spend a great deal of time updating each week. While the solution didn't directly help his boss, he took notice when his staff had more time to work on important projects.
"Often times, solving small (but meaningful) problems is enough to make a good name for yourself without sucking up," says Spence.
Strategically compliment. While over-complimenting your boss may seem overkill, a well-planned compliment can help you. "Compliment your boss in front of his boss," says Matuson, "Everyone likes a pat on the back every now and again. Doing so in front of the boss is always a plus."
Keep the boss apprised. Simply keeping your boss in the loop on what you're working on may help you stay in his good favor—but only if he's open to getting regular updates from you.
"Just send a short note to your boss at the end of each week, just keeping him or her apprised of everything you did during that week. Come evaluation time the boss may well use those notes to help write the evaluation. And at the very least you'll have all that ammunition when it's time to discuss raises," says Barry Maher, a consultant, author, and speaker.
The key to getting the thumbs up from your supervisor is to determine a strategy that works best for your boss and her style. If she is a no-nonsense kind of manager, the flattery about her day's outfit will get you nowhere, and may even put a red mark next to your name in her book. On the other hand, some managers like being pandered to. Observe your boss and how she responds to others' efforts to impress her, then adapt your own strategy accordingly.
* Produce quality work. If you're not strong at spelling or punctuation, find a proofreading buddy who can help review your work before you turn it in.
* Maintain a good attitude. No one enjoys working with sour grapes. If you have a complaint or suggestion, voice it with a neutral tone and frame it in terms of how you want to help the department perform at its best.
* Show you are willing to go the extra mile to help others. Maybe you're done with your report and have an extra 30 minutes before normal closing time. If you see someone who is struggling to meet a deadline, ask what you can do to help. Demonstrate you're a team player who helps where needed.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.