Learning about your boss does not mean delving into his deep, dark secrets, nor does it mean researching his salary and personal spending habits. This research is about taking the time to get to know your boss in a professional sense. What are his credentials, experience, and duties?
Learn enough about your boss to solidify your place on his team. Show an interest in the boss’s background as it pertains to the company and his job duties. What exactly does the boss do? Listen to
explanations of how routine duties are completed. The more you know about your boss’s job and how it is handled, the greater your value to him. Try to figure out how your position supports his.
Even if you cannot perform your boss’s duties, knowing something about the work can be a boon whenever you are searching for information or checking and completing documents for him.
How do you go about acquiring information about the boss without seeming as if you are probing for personal information? It depends on the particulars for which you are searching. Through conversations
with your supervisor and by reading company newsletters, organization charts, and annual reports, you can learn the answers to the following questions:
■ What job-related education does the supervisor have?
■ What job-related experience does the supervisor have?
■ What degree and/or professional certification(s) does he hold
and in what area(s)?
■ Does the supervisor have any special skills, especially ones that
are strong assets to the company in his particular capacity?
■ Where does the supervisor’s position fall on the corporate
■ To whom does the supervisor report and who reports to him?
■ Is the supervisor part of a management team? If so, who else
■ How knowledgeable is the supervisor with regard to the company
and its products and services?
■ What competencies and skills does the supervisor possess
regarding his individualized tasks?
■ What are the supervisor’s routine company-related tasks?
■ Does anyone else work closely with the supervisor?
■ What special projects does the supervisor work on or supervise?
■ How do the supervisor’s position and duties fit into the company’s
■ How is the supervisor evaluated and by whom?
The following questions can be answered through conversations with
or direct observation of the supervisor:
■ What are the supervisor’s work habits? For example, is he a
purpose-driven workaholic or a procrastinator? Organized or
disorganized? Laid back or stressed?
■ Does the supervisor allow enough time to meet deadlines or
does he work like a maniac to finish at the last possible
■ Is the supervisor a competent leader?
■ Does the supervisor encourage and motivate employees?
■ Does the supervisor communicate clearly?
■ What is the supervisor’s management style?
■ What are the supervisor’s strengths? What are his weaknesses?
■ What does the supervisor expect from subordinates?
■ How does the supervisor evaluate subordinates?
Knowing your supervisor’s work habits, expertise, personality traits, and abilities will help you determine the most effective way for you to support him in meeting company goals. This insight will also be valuable overall in forging a better-quality working relationship. Besides learning about your boss professionally, it is natural that you will gather some personal details in the course of working with him, such as whether he has a family, if he takes cream in his coffee, or prefers danish to donuts.
Consider the following scenario:
Mr. Saul, the boss, is a procrastinator who lets things go until the last possible minute.
Knowing his penchant for procrastinating, his assistant, Ms. Jist, takes it upon herself to do research for Mr. Saul’s current project, to organize the project file, and to set up a timetable for completing
the project with time to spare. She then emails him reminders of the timetable deadlines as they approach.
Ms. Jist’s friend tells her, “I cannot believe you do Mr. Saul’s work for him because he is too lazy to get it finished on time.” Ms. Jist replies, “He is not lazy; he is a busy man. My job as his assistant is to help him get the job done, and that is what I am doing.”
Can you see how learning about your supervisor from a professional aspect will benefit you in your position? You can adjust your own work habits and personality to complement the supervisor and increase
both your visibility and worth.
Be willing to assume responsibilities you are capable of doing that will lighten the boss’s workload and demonstrate your initiative. Sometimes you have to overlook the shortcomings of the supervisor, roll up your sleeves, and pitch in to get the job done.
101 Ways to Make Yourself Indispensable at Work, ISBN: 9781435454323
Prepared for firstname.lastname@example.org, Joanne Hale
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