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7 Ways to Impress a Tough Boss


Did you start a new internship or job this summer? Congrats! You’re probably killing it, being the hardworking collegiette you are. Unfortunately, not every employer is able to see that. Maybe you come into work every day, eager to do your best, and your boss doesn’t even acknowledge your presence! Or maybe you thought you would blow her away with a stellar report, and instead she told you to do the whole thing over.

Whether your boss is ignoring you or just being plain mean, we came up with some tips for how to handle even the toughest of bosses.

1. Be the first one in the office

You may think that your boss is just crazy, but plenty of collegiettes have bad work habits that they aren’t even aware of. Make sure you’re totally blameless here before you start worrying about your boss’s behavior. Vicki Salemi, career coach and author of Big Career in the Big City, says arriving early is one of the easiest ways to get on your boss’s good side.

Showing up early and leaving late will show that you “don’t focus on the clock in terms of a start or end time, but instead, that you mean business,” Salemi says. When you set an alarm to wake you up, set another one for a few minutes before you need to leave for work. That way, you’ll know when you need to wrap up your morning routine and get out the door.

When your smiling face is the first thing your boss sees when walking through the office door, he or she will know that your work is your top priority. Don’t be the girl who walks in 10 minutes late because she stopped for coffee. Plan your mornings out and always leave extra time for public transportation issues and other unexpected delays.

2. Dress the part

Dressing appropriately for your office is an absolute must. If you’re unsure what the culture is like at your job, always err on the side of overdressing. As they say, you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have!

Even if your office is super casual, there are definitely certain style choices you need to avoid. You don’t want your boss to make snap judgments based on your appearance, so it’s best to play it safe.

Stay away from ripped jeans, save your crop tops for the weekend and don’t go overboard with your makeup. If you’re ever in doubt about an outfit, then you probably shouldn’t wear it. It might fly with the office culture, but it may prevent your manager from taking you seriously.

3. Focus on the job

When you’re at work, your phone can be your worst enemy. There are few things worse than having your boss walk in on you taking a Snapchat. Even if you pick up your phone to check your email, you’ll somehow end up scrolling through your Instagram feed for 20 minutes.

Nixing bad office behaviors like checking your phone will help your boss take you seriously. “Show that you’re committed to the job by eliminating distractions,” Salemi says. “Delete distracting apps like Twitter and Facebook from your phone, or, better yet, don’t even take your phone out of your bag while you’re in the office.”

It only takes one time being caught on Facebook to ruin your boss’s impression of you. Getting rid of the temptation to check your phone will help you to stand out as a dedicated employee.

4. Go all out

We’re sure you’re doing a great job at work, but if your boss is having trouble seeing it, it might be time to kick it into overdrive. Show your boss that you’re the most valuable member of the team. “What boss, no matter how easy to please, wouldn’t want an excellent team player reporting to them?” Salemi says. If you knock every project out of the park, “you’ll make him or her look good,” she says.

“As a manager, I’ve always been impressed when my employees … worked beyond responsibilities on their job description and took initiative,” Salemi says. So don’t just do what you’re told; do as much as you possibly can.

However, be careful not to burn yourself out. You don’t need to voluntarily be in the office for 12 hours a day – especially if you’re unpaid. You just need to show that you really care. Take a few extra minutes to turn a report into an organized, easy-to-follow presentation. Volunteer to run errands or work on projects that aren’t necessarily within your job description. Find little things here and there that you can pick up in addition to your standard workload.

A big part of giving it your all is not waiting to be assigned a task; offer to help other team members with their assignments when you have downtime. Look for things to do and get them done before your boss can even ask you about them. The best way to satisfy your boss is to meet his or her needs before he or she is even aware of them!

5. Schedule a one-on-one meeting

If your boss never gives you any feedback, you might be feeling pretty frustrated. How are you supposed to know if you’re on the right track when you’re getting nothing but radio silence?

According to Tom Dezell, author of Networking for the Novice, Nervous, or Naïve Job Seeker, a lot of employers struggle when it comes to providing feedback for their employees. “It’s perfectly acceptable during your ‘learning curve’ to ask others what the boss’s style of providing feedback is,” he says.

If you’ve asked around and it seems like your boss doesn’t give feedback to anyone, then it’s up to you to get some yourself. “If you learn that the lack of feedback is simply the boss’s MO, request a meeting to clarify ways you can find out how well you’re doing,” Dezell says.

This is just how some managers work; everyone has a different style. “Don't take it personally, and don't let them get you down,” says Nicole Samartino, programming & community manager at FindSpark, a community for young creatives. “Actively set up a meeting to get feedback. Sometimes you need to sit the person down and demand their attention.”

Approach your boss when he or she doesn’t seem too busy. Or, if it’s easier for you, send him or her an email; sometimes it’s easier to ask for something when you can have time to compose your words. Explain that you’re enjoying working with him or her and you feel that you could work even better with some input on how you’re doing. Approach it as a way to improve your work, not a need to boost your ego or have your hand held. That way, your boss can see that your end goal is doing your best for the company.

Your boss may not even realize that he or she isn’t giving you any input, and the only way to get any is to ask for it!

6. Stay positive

If your boss seems to hate everything you do, try not to let it discourage you. “Dealing with a constantly negative boss can wear on you,” Salemi says. If you get overwhelmed by the constant negativity, Salemi says it “can leak into your outlook and work itself.”

So how do you avoid becoming miserable at work? Fill the rest of your world with positivity. Look for little ways to brighten up your office; Salemi suggests posting inspirational quotes by your computer and getting lunch with your more positive coworkers. If your boss is still getting you down, don’t forget that this situation isn’t permanent. “Your current boss won’t be your boss forever, and eventually you’ll hopefully have a more positive one,” Salemi says.

Dezell suggests trying to see if everyone is getting the same treatment. If it seems like your boss doesn’t like anyone, “you can at least comfort yourself to not take this personally,” he says. However, Dezell adds, “Keep an eye on how this may be impacting your work. It’s awfully hard for individuals or groups to consistently perform at top levels in negative environments.”

If you’re unlucky enough to be the one person your boss doesn’t like, work is going to be rough (we can’t lie), but we’re confident you can make it through. Samartino says, “If your personality doesn't mesh well with your boss, you're going to have a hard time. You may never ‘win’ your boss over, but it's smart to understand what makes him or her tick.” Above all, Samartino says, “make sure you don't do the things that make them mad.”

Just knowing that your boss doesn’t like you is the first step to repairing that relationship. Tread carefully in every interaction you have; you don’t want to give him or her another reason to dislike you. If your boss hates being asked questions, Google everything you’re unsure about. If Google can’t help you, ask all your other colleagues and managers before taking to your boss.

Learn what kinds of things your boss reacts well to, and play those up. Is she usually too swamped to get herself a cup of coffee in the afternoon? Pick up an extra on your Starbucks run. Figure out what makes your manager happy, and make sure you’re the one doing those things for her.

7. Show your interest

When doing your best at work just isn’t enough, sometimes you need to take a softer approach to warm up to your boss. A simple way to get on anyone’s good side is to show that you care.

“Take an interest in their world,” Salemi says. Find out what he or she is interested in and incorporate it into your interactions. “If your boss loves a particular sports team, start following that team,” she adds. Keeping up with the things your boss loves will give you a chance to make small talk. Ask about your boss’s children, weekend plans or college. It will show him or her that you care and help you to find shared interests to build a better relationship.

One thing to be careful with here is crossing the line from professional to personal. Just make simple, casual small talk and let your boss take the lead. If your boss doesn’t seem eager to talk about a topic, avoid it. You don’t need to know every detail of the party he or she is going to this weekend, or what year he or she graduated college. Keep your questions light and slightly vague to get the conversation started as well as to also avoid crossing the line.

If you’re having trouble at your new job or internship, don’t stress. Take it from our experts – there’s always a way to get through it. Even if you can’t get on your boss’s good side, no job lasts forever. But we’re confident that you’ll find a way to prove yourself and win over that tricky boss!

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