What Does Your Boss Really Want?

Ask bosses what they want from employees, and most will say “performance.” But what, exactly, does that average?

Most people view “job performance” in finite terms… showing up on time, working eight hours, moving the appropriate number of papers from the in-box to the out-box. But the really important stuff, the things that can keep you in the bosses’ good graces, and on the payroll, are less tangible.

These are desirable traits in employees, in spite of of the job you’ve been hired to do, or where you are on the corporate ladder… intelligence, decisiveness, confidence, initiative, integrity, competence, cooperation, self-control, flexibility, dependability, and consistency. Err on the positive side of these terms; “initiative” is not the same as “pushy” and “dependable” doesn’t average “resistant to change.” 


In a nutshell, managers actively seek and retain employees who:

  • Make them (and the company) look good
  • Don’t cause (or contribute to) human resource or legal problems
  • Get along with others
  • Accept changes graciously
  • Don’t make commitments that they can’t keep
  • Do the responsibilities they have accepted
  • Ask for help when they need it
  • Have a good work ethic
  • Are fair and ethical
  • Don’t have to be asked or taught more than once
  • Lend a helping hand when it’s needed
  • Actively seek and learn new skills

This may seem like a daunting list, but if you think about it, it’s the same sort of shared-sense stuff that made you popular (or unpopular) in school. Who did you choose, and in what order, when getting a team together for red-rover or dodge ball? What traits made them desirable? Who did you choose last, and why?


Keep in mind that your boss’s performance rating is often based, not on his/her performance, but on yours! Being the most productive person in the department won’t be enough to save you from a dreaded “pink slip” if you require an excessive amount of supervision, have become a liability, disrupt the harmony of the work group, or otherwise threaten the boss’s job security.


(c) 2009, Kathy Hayward, Pivotal Force. All rights reserved.

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