Five Things to Always Say to Your Boss

It’s not easy to be the boss. Or to have one.

Last week I wrote about the Five Things to Never Say to Your Boss, and it seemed to hit a nerve out there in the world. Thanks to so many readers who passed it around and provided me with their own stories. I hope the advice helps everyone — employees and managers — get a little closer to what they want.

Not wanting to end on a negative note, I thought I’d follow up with advice for what every manager would love to hear from employees. These kinds of comments make a boss want to thank their lucky stars for hiring you in the first place. They make employees stand out as high potential players, and importantly, the kind of team members everyone wants to have around.

For some of you, these comments may sound like brown nosing. Take note: you are far more sensitive to this than your manager is so don’t err on the side of caution. I’ve never heard a leader complain that their team is too solicitous. Ever.
No matter your level in the organization, if you’re an employee, try adopting these approaches and watch your reputation and prospects improve:

1. What else can I help with?

This is a simple question with deep resonance. By asking it, an employee comes across as concerned, ambitious, selfless, team-oriented, and energetic. Whether it’s at the end of the day or before the end of the quarter, employees who make this valuable offer stand out. Yes, it may mean you receive more work on your full plate. But the risk is worth it. Even when your boss says “no, thanks,” he’ll be doing it with a smile on his face while appreciating your dedication.

2. I finished the deliverable early so you have more time to review.

Managers get used to balls being dropped and deadlines being missed, and learn quickly to build in cushions to compensate for the human error part of the job. The best employees consistently meet deadlines and can be relied upon to deliver. However, rarer still are the employees who actually get something done early and go ahead and kick it up to their boss. (When folks get things done ahead of time, they will often hold it for a misguided fear of appearing not busy enough or to be rushing.) If you are able to deliver early, and give your boss some unexpected leeway in the process, she’ll be delighted. And you look organized and considerate.

3. I’ve noticed a problem, and would like to take a stab at a couple of solutions for you to consider.

It doesn’t matter whether the issue is corporate, product focused, or trivial, the act of noticing something that could be improved and taking the initiative to develop solutions is the stuff of rock star employees. All day managers are brought problems, usually without solutions. Those with true leadership qualities (whether or not they have the title) see the same issues everyone else does, but take it upon themselves to be part of fixing them. They don’t expect to get loads of credit, but take action because it’s the right thing to do. Even when it’s not specifically their job.

4. I appreciate feedback so don’t hold back.

Here’s the rub about feedback. Employees need it desperately to improve. Regular feedback is like a GPS — allowing an employee to quickly course correct rather than waiting months for a formal review. However, managers often hold back criticism because it’s hard to give, and they aren’t sure how it will be accepted. It takes energy to frame feedback “just right” and so it’s skipped or is given so indirectly it’s meaningless. By letting your boss know you are open and ready for frequent feedback, you’re creating the path to receive it. (And even if it hurts sometimes to hear, take it for the gift that it is.)

5. Thanks.

Managers can’t say this in mixed-level company, but it can be a thankless job. Literally. Most managers feel woefully unappreciated. They go to bat for your raises and promotions, mitigate team failures, divert attention from dropped balls, and stand up for you with angry clients. Sure, they get paid for this privilege but just like everyone else, it’s nice to feel appreciated even while doing what’s expected. Saying a sincere thank you goes farther than you think. It shows that you appreciate the effort, and frankly, you get the bigger picture of what’s involved. Make the effort to say thanks for the big things, like a fat bonus, and the little ones, like advocating for the team. Be sincere, and it will be meaningful.


About kristihedges
Executive coach, leadership development consultant, blogger, contributor, author of Power of Presence (AMACOM).

3 Responses to Five Things to Always Say to Your Boss

  1. Jeff Zelaya says:

    Hi Kristi,

    Just wanted to thank you for this great insight. Love your blog. Going to go say these things to my boss now.
    Jeffrey Zelaya

  2. “5 Things to Always Say to Your Boss” could also be called “5 Things to Always Say to Your Client”. Most of your points are easily applicable to a client / customer relationship, especially in a B2B relationship.

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