Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

Employee of the Year: How to be Your Boss' Right-Hand Woman

It’s no secret that being on your boss’ good side can be important for your career. She keeps your paychecks coming, and will someday be acting as a reference for you. And at best, she’ll also be the one putting your name in for a raise, opening doors for you, and acting as a mentor.

So, just like any important business relationship, it’s worth putting in a little extra effort to make sure your working relationship with your boss is strong. Think of how you treat your boss as not unlike how you treat your clients—you might be surprised how much those relationships have in common.

Your boss has a job to do, projects to run, and intiatives to execute—and she hired you because she wants you to help her make it all a success. Here’s how to show that you’re that dedicated, proactive, got-your-back type of employee, and get yourself on your manager’s good side, for good.

1. Identify Problems—And Solve Them

Your boss has a lot on his or her plate, with responsibilities that likely range from growing the business to keeping existing clients happy to balancing budgets. Add to that managing a staff of employees that have varied personalities and professional motivations—it’s not always an easy job.

So, look for ways you can relieve some of her duties, even if it’s outside of your job description. Instead of waiting to take orders (your boss might not even have time to come up with what those orders should be!), be proactive and ask how you can help.

Better yet, suggest specific projects or tasks that you’d like to take on, like “I know you’ve been spending a lot of time on the marketing project. Is there a piece of that I can take off your plate?” This can double as a strategy for getting your feet wet in an area that’s outside your formal role, as well as for building some new skills.

2. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

In your first entry-level jobs, your boss probably knows that you’re over-qualified to do things like schedule meetings and make copies. In fact, that’s probably why she hired you. So, when you’re asked to do things that don’t quite “showcase your full potential,” don't turn your nose up. Yes, you can (and should!) try to take on bigger responsibilities too, but when you’re asked to do something, even if it’s small, that means it needs to be done.

3. Pay Attention to Feedback

When you’re given feedback in a review or otherwise, remember that perception is reality: Whatever your supervisor's perceptions of your performance are, that’s what you must deal with. For example, if she mentions that you’ve been late several times (even though it’s only been twice! By 10 minutes!), don’t argue the facts, just plan to arrive early every day. If she mentioned it, it’s important to her—or to her boss.

4. Give her the Benefit of the Doubt

If you're annoyed that your manager is taking a three-hour lunch or spending another Tuesday afternoon at the golf course, relax. It's not your place to judge. That time may be well-spent nurturing a relationship with a client or new business prospect. (Or maybe not. But, in that case, there’s really nothing you can do about it.)

Most importantly, don’t bad-mouth her to your colleagues—you aren’t doing yourself any favors, and will likely only stir up negative emotions. If your co-workers start the complain-fest, you can empathize with their issues ("Gosh, I’m sorry to hear that") without piling on your own rants. Remember, your words can always come back to haunt you.

5. Don't be a Suck-Up

All that said, you don't have to open every door for your boss or put her favorite latte on her desk every morning to get ahead. In fact, that’s a poor way to generate trust. Instead, focus on being a dependable, smart, and hard-working member of the team. That’s what will score you more points than anything else—and the kind of points that matter.

Photo courtesy of Ambro.

A logo with "the muse" in white text.