5 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy

Stop them now and build a successful career

Five things that you're probably doing that stress out your manager, so stop all five.
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You're ambitious and smart, and you have career plans. You know your job well, and you work hard, so why does your boss hate you? Well, maybe not hate you, but it's clear that she likes your coworker a lot more than she likes you, even though you're clearly the better employee.

Sometimes that's just a personality thing—let's face it, everyone doesn't click with everyone—but sometimes it's because you're doing something that's driving your boss up the wall. If you're doing any of these things that can really tick off a boss, maybe your actions are the true source of the problem (and not that your boss is just crazy).

Here are five things that, if you're doing them, you need to stop—now.

You Think You Know Better Than the Boss

You might. It's possible that you're smarter than the boss. (And, in fact, good bosses should look to hire people who are smarter than they are.) But, that doesn't mean you can just do the job however you want. Sometimes, people say, “Hey, I'm exempt, so I can do the job however I want." This is not true. You need to do it how your boss wants you to do it.

This doesn't mean you need to keep your mouth shut. For example, a co-worker's first job out of school was for a real estate management firm. Do you know how they looked at their incoming and outgoing money? They typed it up in Word and added up the figures with a calculator. True.

She introduced them to the concept of Excel and showed them how Excel could do formulas that would add the amount of money up for them. Wow! They had no idea. (This happened in the late '90s, so it's not as bad as it sounds.) This was an appropriate and helpful way to contribute a new idea.

What she didn't do was insist she had a better way to manage calculations and go ahead with it over her manager's objections. Share your ideas, but if your boss says no, let it go.

You Whine

You may technically perform awesomely at your job, but if you complain about every little thing that goes on in the office, your boss will not love you. Are there problems? Yes. Should your boss address these problems? Maybe.

There are things called priorities, which means that, while it's true that the business could run more efficiently with a state-of-the-art enterprise software installation, the priority right now is meeting payroll. Stop whining about it.

Likewise, whining about your coworker's special privileges, assignments, or body odor isn't likely to win you any love and affection from your boss. If your coworker gets to work at home every Tuesday and you'd like to do that too, ask your boss: “Janet has the flexibility to work from home one day per week. Is that something that's possible for me as well?”

Then have a conversation about creating a flexible schedule. If your boss ultimately says no, the conversation is finished. Your job is likely different than Janet's, requiring your presence in the office. Janet may have a medical condition that qualifies under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and her reasonable accommodation could be to work from home one day per week.

Or, your boss may think of you as a slacker if she isn't standing over you. In any event, let it go.

You Go Over the Boss's Head

If your boss is sexually harassing you, violating securities law, or passing out drunk in her office, absolutely make a formal complaint with HR or with her boss. But, if your boss just gives you lousy assignments, take those up with her first.

What if your boss makes a huge mistake? For instance, what if her plan for Client A will flop spectacularly, and you know it. Shouldn't you go to her boss to save the company?

First of all, you have no idea whether that is your boss's plan or if she's carrying out her boss's plan, so going over her head, in that case, will make you look foolish. If it's truly her idea and you go to her boss, and the big boss agrees with you, it will make your boss look foolish. How much do you think your boss will like you if you've just humiliated her in front of her boss?

Instead, document the problems you see, go to your boss, and say, “Jane, I have some concerns about your plan for Client A. I've listed them here. Can we talk about this?” Rational bosses will sit down with you and go over your list.

(Unless you're a documented whiner, see above; then she'll assume this is another of your petty complaints and ignore you. The story of the "Boy Who Cried Wolf" applies to adults at work as well.)

If, after she's gone over the list with you and rejected all of your ideas, you have two options. Option one is to say, “Thanks for listening to me Jane. I hope you're right, and I'll do everything I can to help your plan work successfully,” and then do it.

Option two is to say, “Jane, I'm really concerned that this is going to damage the company's reputation if we do this. Can we at least loop your boss in on this?” If Jane says no, and you're still super concerned, at this point going over heads is necessary, but understand it will damage your relationship with your boss.

It may be worth it if you're right, but what if you're wrong? Proceed carefully and keep careful documentation.

You Avoid Tasks That You Don't Like

Your coworkers can all see that you disappear right after the departmental lunch instead of helping to clean up. You may say, “I'm a director. Admins should do the lunch cleanup.” That may be true, in some companies, but certainly not all. You need to do yucky things in every job. Your boss will take note if you push these off onto coworkers or just avoid them altogether.

Sure, if you can figure out a more efficient way to accomplish a task, that's great, but when inventory time arrives, everyone has to do inventory. Your boss notices when you call in sick every inventory day. It may not be a big deal, and the thing you're avoiding may not even be a core function of your job, but it is likely damaging your relationship with your boss. Go ahead and take your turn.

You're Not Being a Team Player

Look, some employees are introverts. Right now they could be self-employed and working from home. This is an introvert's dream. Some introverted employees have also been blessed to work with a bunch of other introverts so they weren't often forced to participate in team-building events that involved sharing feelings or playing sports.

But can introverts function as team players? You bet. If someone was out sick, would they take over meetings? Yep. Would they take phone calls on a day off to solve a problem? Absolutely.

Just because you didn't cause a problem doesn't mean that you can't help solve it. Team players work together. It's not all about going to the departmental party. When someone in the department gets a promotion, did they congratulate that person or were they envious that they didn't get it?

Well, sometimes both, but hopefully their envy was hidden. And you know what? It makes for a better environment for everyone.

Things are not always fair, but acting as a team player means that you work together with your coworkers to create a better overall outcome. Observing you not being a team player will make your boss unhappy.

Happy bosses make for an easier, less stressful day at the office. Making the boss happy also increases your chance of achieving your career goals, so make sure that you're working hard to keep your boss content and watch your career take off.


Suzanne Lucas is a freelance writer who spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.