6 Things You're Doing That Drive Your Boss Insane

angry guy

Photo: Ian Muir via Flickr

You’re relatively new to the workforce and you’re eager to make a positive impression on your boss. That’s a great attitude to have, but it isn’t enough.

The truth is that when you enter the professional world, you bring some personal habits that may or may not please the boss. And it’s likely that you lack the proper perspective to know the difference.

The office environment functions according to well-established and preordained routines. It relies on patterns, systems, cycles, and procedures for it to run efficiently. Such an atmosphere engenders various habits in everyone—a fact that’s as easy to forget as it is imperative to remember. As you meander about the office, trying to get a footing, it would be wise to remember that good habits generally require an effort to develop, whereas bad habits germinate in their absence.

Before it all becomes too familiar to you, learn the kinds of habits bosses hate so you can avoid developing them in the first place.Bosses hate it when…

1. You don’t show initiative.

No boss wants the burden of having to chronically tell you what to do. It’s time-consuming, exhausting and he’ll lose confidence in your abilities. It’s a manner that is lazy and it’s one of those habits bosses hate.

Don’t wait to be told what to do, particularly during downtime. Your boss would rather see that you’ve taken the initiative to alphabetize a filing cabinet than surf the web when things are slow.

When you give the impression that you’re unmotivated, you send a clear message of disinterest to your boss. Your boss probably has a lot invested in his job, so one of the last things he wants to see or hear from you is a lack of regard toward, or affection for, your job.

2. You show too much initiative.

On the other hand, you should also be concerned with showing too much initiative. It doesn’t matter if it stems from excessive ambition, motivation, energy, or even a basic desire to please, it’s one of many habits bosses hate.

Be careful not to overdo tasks and assignments; it’s generally unnecessary. Instead of giving the impression that you’re hard-working and creative, it has the potential for seeming inefficient: Why bother adding colours and graphs to a research assignment when that time would have been better spent getting on with other work?

An additional danger of showing too much initiative is in showing disrespect toward the office hierarchy. When you go above and beyond the call of duty, there’s a chance that you’ll step on some toes.

3. You make excuses.

This is one of the most annoying habits bosses hate. If you give him an excuse, it means that you overlooked some responsibility and are now offering a defence on your own behalf for that oversight.

“I didn’t get the research done because I had a flat tire and by the time I got home it was really late.”

Whether or not that statement is true, what your boss hears is: “It’s not my fault; a flat tire absolved me of responsibility.” Your boss will be less focused on what you actually said and more on what you imply.

Ultimately, you should know the difference between an excuse and an explanation. By definition, the former seeks exemption from blame, while the latter seeks clarity from confusion. The unnecessary details that typically subsidise an excuse only create more confusion; they do not address the fundamental point, which is your mistake. And when you address your mistake—by acknowledging it and by taking steps to correct it —it’s the only thing your boss cares about and it’s the only thing you should expect him to care about.

Finally, resist the urge to embellish on an excuse or to flat out fabricate one. It may seem like the solution for getting you out of a jam, but you will have created another issue for which to be accountable.

4. You complain.

Moaning, b*tching and whining are all reasonable synonyms for complaining. And no one, especially your boss, has any interest in hearing them; it’s just one of those habits bosses hate.

Just because your boss has worked there a while and earns more money, doesn’t mean that he’s any happier about some aspects of the job, such as staying late. He has a life too, and he knows which office situations are unpleasant without getting a reminder from you. It is in your best interest to avoid such phrases as: “God this sucks” or “I was supposed to meet someone an hour ago.”

Before you open your mouth, know the difference between a complaint and a critique. Complaints are personal and anyone can complain. Critiques require an effort because they tend to be constructive, meaning they aim to correct something. If the comment about to leave your mouth does not feature a proposed solution, if it’s so banal it could not even support a solution (“It’s only three o’clock? This is the longest day ever!”), save it for happy hour, your girlfriend or your blog.

5. You ask too many questions.

Naturally, it’s not a bad thing to ask questions, especially when you’re trying to clarify tasks before taking them on. In fact, asking questions should be encouraged. Asking too many questions, especially too many stupid questions, is among the habits bosses hate and can quickly become aggravating.

To begin, they are a fundamental waste of the boss’ time and an emblem of inefficiency. They also reflect very poorly on you, your intelligence and on the perceptions others will develop about you. A manager will think twice before assigning you an important job, remembering how the last time you practically needed someone to hold your hand all the way through.

The bottom line is that bosses value employees who are resourceful enough to figure some things out on their own.

6. Don’t be a habitual hassle.

Without exception, there’s a motif running through these habits bosses hate: These habits tend to devour space and time in the life of your boss that aren’t yours to occupy. By squandering his time you have delayed him elsewhere—and he’ll likely remember the reason why.

You’ll find that some people, even longtime veterans of the workforce, continue to exhibit the kinds of habits bosses hate. Don’t be surprised if those are the same people who also complain about the company’s glass ceilings, how they fail to encourage their employees and how rarely they give raises.

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