As a people manager for the past two years, I have come to appreciate the people that report to me. They are bright, work incredibly hard, and achieve fantastic results for our department.
At the same time, there are a few behaviors that come up occasionally with my direct reports that annoy the heck out of me.
If you want to keep your boss happy, avoid the following behaviors.
1. You skip over their head
There is nothing more frustrating than when a direct report skips over your head. As a people manager, you are responsible for keeping your boss informed about the activities of your team.
When a direct report skips over your head, they put you in a situation where you are not only out of the loop but you also cannot control the message that goes to your boss.
On a few occasions, my boss has referenced a conversation he had with one of my employees that I had no idea happened. I was not prepared to answer his follow-up questions on the situation and looked out of the loop.
Give your boss a courtesy heads up
Now that I have experienced the other side of this situation as a manager, I make an extra effort to keep my boss informed when I interact with his boss.
His boss will occasionally send me emails and ask me to do various tasks for him. As soon as this happens, I notify my boss about the conversation and the items his boss has asked me to do.
This prepares my boss in interactions that he has with his boss, which I am sure he appreciates.
2. You make them question your reliability
The greatest tool you have as a boss is your ability to delegate.
Bosses that are unable to delegate work to their people are overwhelmed and frankly, poor bosses.
Employees need the opportunity to work on tasks outside of their day-to-day responsibilities for the challenge and bosses need the freedom to manage their team and not bury themselves in their work.
Before a manager will delegate important work to you, they need to be sure that you are reliable.
I have had a few situations where I have trusted my direct reports with important stretch assignments and they were not able to follow through.
Figure out the difficult assignments and tasks for them
The assignments that are delegated down from bosses usually require initiative from the employee to figure out. They often have been passed down the chain of command a few times and by the time it gets down to the employee, the actual ask might be unclear.
Bosses need to know that their employees can sift through difficult or vague instructions and get the job done.
Your boss likely needs to return the assignment to their boss by a specific time and needs to know that they can count on you to deliver.
I have been hesitant to delegate assignments to employees until I trust that they can deliver them.
You likely have worked hard to prove your reliability to your boss, don’t lose it.
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3. You don’t keep them informed
Another pet peeve of mine is when my direct reports don’t keep me informed. I manage a large team and rely on my employees to keep me up to date.
To stay in the loop, I try to make the rounds to their desks multiple times per day and encourage them to stop by my desk at any time.
I meet weekly with the other managers in the department and occasionally, I am blindsided by an issue with my team or an issue on a project that I didn’t know was occurring.
Keeping your boss informed makes them happy and also helps them effectively do their job.
I have heard from some employees that they prefer to not bring their boss in when certain problems happen because they want to prove they can handle it by themselves, they don’t want to bother their boss, or they don’t think the issue warrants an escalation.
This thinking will hold you back.
I know that my team can handle issues on their own but I still appreciate the heads-up when they are happening.
Often my peers on the management team or my boss will want to discuss a project issue and I can be more effective if I am up to date.
Letting your boss in on project issues not only helps them better do their jobs but also helps you.
Seek out your boss for daily check-ins
When I watch my employees work through an issue, I get a chance to see their conflict resolution and decision making skills first hand.
At year end, I can vouch for their ability to navigate difficult situations and include that information in their review.
Now that I have experienced this situation as a manager, I try to be especially good about keeping my boss informed.
I stop by his office a few times a day and forward him important emails as an “FYI.”
I want to make sure that my boss is prepared to answer any questions that come his way and that he is able to effectively make decisions for the department by staying informed.
I am sure he appreciates the heads-up, especially when the news gets to his boss and he is called for an update.
4. You undermine their authority
Managers will often have at least one employee that will try to undermine their authority.
When I first started managing my team, I had a situation in a team meeting where a more senior person on the team started fighting a decision that I was communicating to the group.
Instead of trying to understand the decision, the employee made a loud and public declaration that the change was not a good idea and would not back down.
It made the more junior persons on the team question my decision. It also put them in an awkward situation where they were torn between trusting the senior person who they look up to and rely on for mentoring and trusting me, their manager.
I handled the situation by explaining my decision in the meeting with the team and then pulling the senior person aside after the meeting to discuss what happened.
Help your manager by showing your support
As a manager, you rely on certain influential team members to help you execute your strategy for the team.
You realize their influence on the team and want them to help you achieve your goals for the team rather than work against you.
If you have been the employee in this situation, realize the benefits that you will gain by making your manager’s job easier.
If you become your manager’s right-hand man and trusted ally, you will likely move up more quickly in the office than if you fight them to prove your point.
5. You don’t act on their feedback
As I mentioned in an earlier article, sometimes employees don’t act on the feedback that they are given.
It could be that they are only hearing the good and blocking out the bad, that they disagree with the feedback, or that they don’t know how to act on it.
I have come across this issue a few times with my team and it’s frustrating.
After some careful thought, I realized that maybe my team isn’t recognizing the feedback they are given because it’s not what they are expecting.
For example, employees might expect to hear negative feedback such as “ you messed up with the customer in that last meeting and it was bad” versus the more neutral and less specific feedback “you can continue to develop your knowledge of our business.”
Managers will not always give situational feedback like the former. General feedback like the latter should be expected and acted upon too.
Know that feedback won’t be delivered on a silver platter
Sometimes employees don’t pick up on feedback because it is delivered indirectly.
For example, your boss and peers may not always tell you outright what you need to work on but could imply it through their actions.
It’s your job to pick up on the clues.
The most frustrating thing about hearing feedback is that it’s not always true.
There have been a few occasions in my career where I have received feedback that I disagreed with or didn’t feel was correct.
In those situations, I still had to act on the feedback I was given and take steps to address it. It was important for me to show that I was listening and open to change.
Even if you disagree with the feedback you are given, it’s still very important that you address it, because that perception of you is out there even if it’s untrue.
When I see my employees improve in the areas that we have discussed, I give them major credit.
Taking feedback well and being “coachable” are two qualities that managers highly desire in their employees but are difficult to find.
Annoying your boss is never good
Interactions with your boss should always be positive! Become your boss’s right hand man by avoiding these annoying behaviors and be rewarded.
Managers, what are your biggest pet peeves with your team? Employees, can you tell when you’re annoying your boss?
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