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Work Better with Your Boss

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Editor's note: In honor of National Boss' Day on Oct. 16, we offer some practical tips on how to work better with your boss.

Bosses are the butt of a lot of complaints. There are the micromanagers, bad communicators, and control-freaks, those with impossible expectations, and those who under-appreciate their employees. Sometimes we're tempted to wonder: how did they ever get into management positions in the first place?

In a dating relationship, any of the qualities listed above would be red flags and call for a breakup. But when it comes to our supervisor, we are stuck. Many are given management positions because they naturally rose through the ranks due to good job performance, not necessarily because they are adept managers.

Experience has taught me that being a boss requires a lot of effort, time, and energy. Some days it is difficult enough to stay on top of my own to-do list much less ensure our interns have an appropriate workload, meet their goals, and are properly mentored. Next time your boss isn't 100% clear on the objectives or forgets to share an important detail, remember that as a leader she is responsible for every idea, program, or product put forth by the team; so dig deep for some empathy and cut her a little slack. Instead of expecting our bosses to take care of us, it’s each of our responsibility to enhance our boss’ job by producing quality work and meeting their expectations and needs.

Whether your boss is a dream come true or a nightmare, here are some suggestions to truly shine as an employee:

Communicate. If your boss is a bad communicator, overcompensate. Ask constructive questions to get the information needed for the project. Make sure you have the who, what, when, where, and why. Do not be intimidated—your courage will pay off and may even get you noticed for that promotion or recommendation later.


Overtask and prioritize. Ask which of the multiple tasks you've been given should be prioritized first. Knowing your boss' expectation and their internal prioritization will help you be a valued employee.


Learn to manage up. Learn your boss’ agenda and anticipate their needs. If they like a bullet-pointed list of your day's activities, have it ready. If you think a news article or information is of interest, share it with them. The more you think and plan ahead, the easier their job–and yours–become.


Bring solutions, not problems. Try to solve problems yourself before bringing them to your boss. It is always better to provide options on ways to address the problem. Being a problem-solver in the workplace, even if the final decision lies with someone else, is a big plus.


Be happy to be there. No matter what emotion they greet you with, always greet your boss with a smile and sunny disposition. Your can-do attitude may help set the tone for the day. A positive attitude is the oil that keeps the work wheels running smoothly.


Good bosses and bad bosses come and go, but these habits set the stage for your success as an employee. The only person we can control is ourselves and our own attitude towards a situation. Rather than complain about things we cannot change, let's appreciate our bosses. In this job environment, may those who have jobs be thankful. It's all in a day's work.

Photo via Wickerfurniture

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Erin Van de Voorde

chill out music

Currently a project manager in Washington, D.C., Erin grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin where she learned many life lessons. On the weekends, she and her Marine husband can be found hiking, shooting at the range, or indulging in a little whiskey or wine tasting.