A former Google HR exec says too many people make the same mistake when trying to impress their boss

Courtesy of Thumbtack‘What impact am I having?’ asks Justin Angsuwat, pictured.
  • You won’t wow your boss by doing absolutely everything. Instead, prioritise the work that will have the most impact – and say “no” to everything else.
  • That’s according to Justin Angsuwat, vice president of people at Thumbtack and former human-resources executive at Google.
  • Angsuwat said he doesn’t reward people who just seem busy, but it seems that other managers and industries to some extent do.

First one at the office in the morning? Last one out at night? Justin Angsuwat doesn’t really care.

Angsuwat is the vice president of people at Thumbtack, an online platform that connects people with local professionals; he was previously the head of human resources for Google’s go-to-market functions. So he’s spent a lot of time thinking about how to evaluate employees’ performance.

Angsuwat said he often sees people trying to wow their manager by doing absolutely everything. This is a mistake.

At Thumbtack and at Google, Angsuwat said, “we rarely reward people who just seem busy.” Hence the indifference to who spends the most time at their desk. “We would rather reward those who are having an impact through the work they do.”

To be sure, some managers and organisations value time spent working more than others – even if employees aren’t actually being very productive during that time.

Erin Reid, an associate professor of human resources and management at McMaster University, studied a global consulting firm and found that many men simply pretend to log 80-hour workweeks. That way, they can impress their superiors with their dedication to the company while still spending time with their families.

But Angsuwat’s broader point is that results are key. He said, “The single best way to impress your boss is showing you can prioritise the things that matter and then executing well on those things.”

Read more: An HR exec who’s worked at Starbucks and Coach shares the best way to impress your boss

Always keep in mind how your work contributes to the organisation as a whole

That necessarily means that you’ll often have to muster “the courage to say ‘no’ to some things,” Angsuwat said. In fact, you might even need to say “no” to your manager.

As Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job, previously told Business Insider, you might say something like: “I would be happy to do that project, but what that could mean is that [whatever other project you’re working on] will have to be put off until tomorrow, because I was actually going to spend the next three hours finishing that proposal. Would you like me to put that off?”

That is to say, frame your response in terms of doing your best work for the organisation.

It’s also important to learn what your boss really cares about and deliver on that, also known as “managing up.” Dave Kerpen, founder and CEO of Likeable Local, previously told Business Insider that managing up is about “helping your manager look great to his or her manager.” Kerpen recommends either asking your boss directly what’s important to them or subtly trying to figure it out on your own.

“The key to impressing your boss is not doing lots of things, but doing the right things,” Angsuwat said. “Ultimately, it’s being able to answer the question, ‘What impact am I having?”

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