What's My Boss Thinking When I...?

Chester Elton

What have you done for your boss lately? Ever picked up a cup of coffee for her on your way into the office? Maybe you've found yourself joining the company bowling league just because your manager is on the team. Have you ever wondered what s/he thinks of you? Are you a brown-noser or a hardworking employee who goes above and beyond? Chester spent some time with ABC News to share the inside scoop on what your boss really thinks when it comes to your actions.

Here were the questions ABC viewers asked us. Our answers are a peek inside your boss's mind:

What does my boss think when I show up for work at exactly
nine o'clock and leave at exactly five o'clock?

If you arrive just in time for the daily stand-up meeting and are in your car at
5:01 p.m. every evening, the message you're probably sending is that you're just there to punch the clock. You don't really care. Try using the fifteen minute rule, which says if you're in fifteen minutes early and stay about fifteen minutes late, you're showing that you are engaged. In this economy you've got to be focused on the task at hand, not the clock. Get the job done, which sometimes means working past quitting time.

What is my boss thinking when I don't speak up in a meeting?

Your boss probably thinks you're a new form of wallpaper instead of an energized, engaged go-getter. It also looks particularly bad if he catches you playing BrickBreaker on your BlackBerry. Employees who get promoted most often stay focused in meetings and chime in with intelligent comments. With that said, we don't recommend you become a Chatty Cathy and caution you not to be the person who's always trying to one-up everybody or only add negative remarks.

Now, what if you're naturally shy? If you would rather eat glass (or English cooking) than speak up in a meeting, then think about a thoughtful follow-up email to the team that says, "I've been thinking about the project. How about we try...?"

What is my boss thinking when I come in late with an excuse?

"The car broke down," "the traffic was horrible," "John Travolta high jacked the subway train."
Chester's father taught him these words to live by: Excuses, even when valid, are never impressive.

To illustrate,
Chester was getting his tooth fixed the other day and asked his dentist, "What do you do when an employee shows up late, but with an excuse?" The dentist gave the example of receptionist Sue. Her car had broken down just the day before, on the way to work. Sue found the closest station, caught the next train, walked to work from there and was still ten minutes early. Now that's impressive. And great employees impress.

What does my boss think when I am talking with my coworkers in non-work related conversations?

Most bosses know that it's valuable to have a team that connects with each other now and then on last night's TV shows, what the weekend was like, or who's leading the office Fantasy Football rankings. But if your boss hears you talking about non-related issues too often, you run the risk of being labeled not only as a slacker but a distraction to others. Keep those personal conversations short and in small groups. A large, long gathering with you in the middle sends bad signals all over the workplace.

What does my boss think when I give feedback, some of which is critical, of his/her work?

Public criticism of your boss is NEVER a good idea. Even in joking. Great teams support each other and their leaders. Now, that doesn't mean you can't disagree with her ideas. Pick your battles sparingly, make your arguments to her face and not behind her back, and do it in private. Public dissension sends signals you are trying to undermine your boss or that you may even be gunning for her job.

What is my boss thinking when I'm visibly jealous when someone else is receiving praise?

We've all probably seen this happen, or perhaps you've been the jealous one. The scene is familiar: Ryan is getting an award, and you look around and can almost hear some of your team members' thoughts: "That should have been me," "If the boss were paying attention he'd have seen me do the same thing last week." Body language can send poor messages. Don't be a sore loser; be a team builder. Be happy and gracious for those receiving praise. In fact, be the person who recommends others for such recognition. And if you're the recipient, be a gracious winner. We wouldn't recommend, for example, that you hold up a giant foam "No. 1" finger during your moment in the sun.

To see Chester's full ABC News interview visit chesterelton.com. You can see how Chester answered the questions above and others, including: What is my boss going to think if I come into the office all dressed up or if I come in with a pair of blue jeans on? What does my boss think when I organize every event in the office? and others.

 Chestor Elton, co-author of The Carrot Principle.
Adrian Gostick, co-author of The Carrot Pricinciple.
Copyright 2009. All Rights Reserved.

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