Everyone gets annoyed by coworkers at times, whether it’s rolling your eyes at the guy who chronically monopolizes meetings or being driven to distraction by your cubicle mate’s loud chewing. To some extent, that’s just the reality of working with other people.
But when it’s your boss that you’re annoying, it’s worth paying attention. If you have any of the following seven work habits, you’re almost certainly annoying your manager – and could benefit from a different approach.
1. Presenting guesses as certainties. It’s fine to not always have the answer; a reasonable boss won’t expect you to. But you need to be up-front about it when that’s the case. If you take a guess but frame it as a certainty, there’s a risk that you’re giving your manager wrong information. That means that she’ll be making decisions or taking actions based on bad information – which is a really big deal. So if you’re not sure about something, just say so – and then say you’ll find out.
2. Responding defensively to feedback. If you get upset, hurt, or angry when your manager gives you feedback on your work, you’re making it hard for your boss to do her job. Worse yet, she might start avoiding giving you important feedback that you need to hear. You need to know what you could be doing better, and you’re more likely to hear it if you don’t make it hard for your boss to tell you.
3. Taking forever to get to the point. Your boss is probably busy. When you bring her information, or a problem, or a question, get to the upshot quickly. If you’re giving 10 minutes of background before you ever get to the point, you’re almost certainly frustrating her.
4. Missing deadlines without clearing it in advance. It might be perfectly okay for you to miss a particular deadline – but if you don’t clear that with your manager ahead of time, you’re likely to look really bad: unreliable, disorganized, and flaky. And that’s a recipe for your manager not trusting you in the future, which in turn is a recipe for your manager checking up on you more, which neither of you will like.
5. Neglecting to think about the big picture. Managers have to think about the big picture all the time – how something will affect the team and the organization as a whole. For instance, approving your request for new software might mean that she has to cut her budget somewhere else, plus explain to a different employee why he can't attend the training course he requested. If you only think about how things will affect you, you’re showing your manager that you don’t have a broad perspective and that you don’t understand the things she cares most about. That will harm you in everything from project assignments to promotion potential to the quality of the relationship overall.
6. Getting stuck in a negativity loop. Everyone has occasional frustrations at work. But if you get caught in them to the point that you’re becoming a toxic presence in the office or the constant naysayer, it’s time to make a fundamental decision: Can you find a way to be reasonably happy at work or is it time to do something else? No good manager will put up with a team member poisoning the atmosphere in the long run (nor will it do your reputation any favors).
7. Hiding behind email. Yes, it can sometimes feel easier to stay behind your computer to hash out difficult subjects. But sometimes you need to pick up the phone or talk to people face-to-face, and your boss will rightly get frustrated if you insist on sticking to email for complicated or sensitive conversations.