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How to Impress Your Boss at Work Without Sucking Up

By Jason Steele

men boss at workIt would be nice if we lived in a world where our bosses judged us solely by the quality and quantity of our work. However, the reality is that personal impressions are very important.

In the workplace, impressing your boss can often make the difference between maintaining your position and getting a promotion. In a down economy, it can even be the deciding factor between keeping your job and getting laid off.

Know What Kind of Boss You Have

Some people judge their employees by their input, and others do so mostly by their output. For example, a consultant may work from home, deliver his work electronically, and never interact with his boss. In this instance, he would be judged by his output since his boss would have no way of knowing if he pulled an all-nighter or just whipped up the report in a few minutes.

On the opposite extreme are many office bound workers. Their bosses may look over their shoulder at all times to see if they’re busy, but rarely notice individual contributions.

Although most jobs will fall in between these two extremes, recognizing how your performance is being evaluated is key to improving your standing.

How to Improve the Perception of Your Inputs

Consciously or not, most people still judge employees by their perceived contributions. There are several ways you can appear to be more productive:

  • Arrive Early. This has always been the key to impress a boss who is concerned with your inputs. Since it is so hard to predict when traffic will be bad or your bus will be late, sometimes the only way to ensure you are always on time is to arrive early. Arriving before your bosses will give them an impressive notion of your work ethic.
  • Dress Well. It is probably subconscious, but people who are more nicely dressed than their peers are perceived as being better workers. Be careful not to take this too far. Observing a higher dress code will stand out as an obvious attempt at flattery. For example, if no one else wears a tie, then you shouldn’t. If they do, then wear a nice, clean one.
  • Use Your Computer Like a Pro. Nearly all jobs, even labor positions, now require the use of a computer. Using your computer quickly is the technological equivalent of walking quickly. Here are some tips to improve computer performance and productivity.
  • Leave Your Baggage at Home. If they could, every interviewer would ask if aspects of your personal life are going to distract you and your co-workers and hurt office productivity. The ideal employee is completely dedicated to the job and has no personal life. Although that does not describe a normal human being, you can still do your part to keep your personal life personal. Do your best not to publicly share problems with your co-workers. Telephone calls to your family and friends should ideally take place in private. Short of a genuine emergency, do not rely on your personal life as an excuse for any issues related to job performance. Strive to be your office’s lowest contributor of drama.
  • Stay Focused. Don’t be seen paying your bills at the office or aimlessly surfing the web. Long chats with your co-workers about non-work related subjects can only reinforce the image that your mind is elsewhere.
  • Stay Positive. If you don’t like your job, constructively approach those who can help you. Offer specific remedies rather than general complaints. Frame your solutions as being in the best interest of the company, not your personal well being. Do it privately and never complain about your job publicly.
  • Be Incredibly Honest. Never lie about any aspect of your job or your co-workers, even when the truth is embarrassing. Being caught in even the smallest lie can destroy your credibility when it matters the most.
  • Stay Late. Don’t leave the office before your bosses leave. Even though this can be extremely inconvenient at times, it shows them that you are working longer hours than they are, and it exudes a sense of respect. Leaving early every day reflects a lack of passion about the position and a lack of desire to take on additional projects.
  • Walk Quickly Around the Office. My grandfather taught me this trick a long time ago. When you need to speak with other colleagues, get some water, or even use the restroom, do it quickly. When you are noticed, it will always seem like you are very busy at your job. People who do not look busy are the first people looked at when firing employees.

impress boss meeting

How to Improve the Perception of Your Outputs

  • Keep Up with the Industry. Some people are so focused on their job that they forget about the world around them. Read trade magazines or join industry groups. If you can make references to what you have learned, your boss may begin to see your accomplishments in a broader context.
  • Be Proactive. Yes, I know this is a popular buzzword, but there really is value in suggesting something yourself before your boss does. Coming up with your own ideas and assignments establishes yourself as someone who is interested in promoting the interests of the company even when not being required to.
  • Meet or Beat Your Deadlines. Delivering your finished product ahead of schedule will always impress your boss. The Scotty character from the original Star Trek series popularized the idea of overestimating the time to completion by finishing repairs ahead of schedule. This trick still works in the real world!
  • Don’t Turn Down Assignments. When your boss comes to you with a project or research assignment, simply accept it and add it to your list. Even if you are extremely busy, learn to prioritize your different projects. Stay longer hours if you have to and get each assignment done on time. Sometimes your boss may give you many things to balance on your plate in order to test your skills, work ethic, and passion.
  • Keep Track of Your Work. Only by measuring your output can you show your boss what you have accomplished. Keep track of the quality and quantity of your work throughout each quarter. Write down examples of areas in which you’ve improved since your last performance review. When a client or a co-worker offers you a compliment, make note of that as well. By keeping a record of these things, you will have much-needed ammunition in your favor to present during your performance review and use as leverage to get a raise, bonus, or promotion.

Final Word

Anyone can chat up their boss and try to ingratiate themselves. While it is possible that people will favor those with whom they are most friendly, most employers will continue to evaluate people based on their perceived job performance. Following these suggestions will help you to improve your standing with your supervisor, whether they are actually concerned with your performance, or just notice if you appear to be busy.

What are some of the things you’re doing to impress your boss?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Jason Steele
Jason has been writing about personal finance, travel, and other topics on blogs across the Internet. When he is not writing, he has a career in information technology and is also a commercially rated pilot. Jason lives in Colorado with his wife and young daughter where he enjoys parenting, cycling, and other extreme sports.

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  • http://www.financiallypoor.com Kevin

    I’d say punctuality is the most important. I was late 1 time to many for work (I was young and naive) and I’m pretty sure that cost me a promotion. Even if you do the rest of those things, if you’re late, they won’t make up for it.

  • http://www.pfsdebtrelief.com Stephan

    great tips. i have found over time that it is always better to be known by your boss, instead of being the good working quiet guy that the boss always forgets the name. if you arent visible to your boss, your work wont be either, making it that much harder for you to stand apart from your co workers.

  • http://ownthedollar.com Hank

    Staying on top of your industry is definitely important. You should also consider getting extra certifications, classes, etc. in your field to make you more valuable and knowledgeable.

  • http://www.pfsdebtrelief.com Stephan

    im glad you mentioned the being late part, i was always taught to be early, and it has paid off for me not only in the work field but also socially. i hate having to wait around for people and am glad that i never make anyone wait for me when we have plans at a certain time.

  • http://harborfinancialonline.com/ tax 2010

    I agree with Kevin about being punctual being important. Just being a straight up good employee is what I look for in my people. I have learned to let the bad ones go early on.

  • jj

    Being early should be a given but its crazy to me how many people act as if its no bbig deal. Its alssoo safer if youre driving. I pray for the laties.

  • Kevin White

    My boss arrives about 6:45am and frequently sticks around past 6pm or
    even 7pm. I try to arrive around 6:30am but I admit sometimes I leave
    at 5:30 or so and she’s still there. Sigh… I still put in a good 54-55
    hours during the week and another 4-8 hours on the weekends but trying
    to be the last to leave all the time can be taxing (would mean at least
    70 hour weeks).

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