What Your Boss REALLY Thinks Of Your Behavior

Some workplace no-nos are more obvious than others. When, for example, a former boss gave me a stern talking-to about wearing earrings that weren’t “corporate enough” (huh?), I felt pretty blindsided. When another boss took me aside to remind me that “9 a.m. means 9 a.m.” — well, I knew I had that one coming. At work, one person’s amusing quirk can be another’s greatest pet peeve. And while some bad habits (like lying or being mean) are just plain unacceptable, there also exists less-than-ideal conduct (like defensiveness or over-sharing) that seems to walk the line. You may think you’re getting away with these behaviors, but chances are good your boss has noticed.

So what are the sneakiest employee attitudes that are actually more damaging than they seem? We spoke to experienced female supervisors across the country — working in media, HR, tech, small business management, and high-end hospitality and food service — to get their takes. (Spoiler alert: Almost all of these bosses flagged "millennial entitlement" as an attitude that needs addressing — and all but one of them are millennials themselves.)

You may think these habits are harmless, but they’re probably driving your boss crazy.

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It's the most basic of workplace transgressions, and it may be the most common. You're in the middle of a project when your boss rushes in and gives you detailed instructions for the next one. You listen, sort of, while still keeping half your brain focused on what you're currently doing. That works, right? We can divide our brains at will and focus completely on multiple things? If only.

Half-listening can lead to the dreaded asking-your-boss-for-repeat-instructions-two-days-later move, which translates as one thing: more work for your boss. So do yourself a favor: Whip out a notebook, or open a new document tab on your screen. Take copious notes on her instructions so that you can return to them when you need them.

The same goes for repeat projects that follow the same process every time. Julia, a manager at an NYC human resources company, laments the "inability to retain instruction from one project to the next. Every time you start a new project, you don't have to reinvent the entire process. We have templates, we have shared spreadsheets; every project does not need to be a brave new world with an entirely new format."
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If you work in a public setting like hospitality or food service, schmoozing can definitely be part of the job. But it’s one thing to chat up a client about the weather; it’s another to tell them all the details of your recent breakup. Jane, a restaurant and inn manager in Minneapolis, says “My biggest pet peeve is when my employees give too much personal information to guests/clients. It’s so inappropriate.”

Another common over-share? "Giving me every single symptom of their illnesses in real time when they need to call in sick," explains Nikola, a supervisor at an energy-efficiency nonprofit in Chicago. She adds that the excessive info, in addition to being inappropriate, can easily come off as someone trying to prove the validity of a fake story via a ton of details. "Just say you're sick," she urges.
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One thing you can safely assume is that your boss knows how to do her job. It may sound obvious, but acting as if you know more than she does is not a great way to prove your worth.

“Mostly, as a female boss, I think there is a little bit of ego of young dudes to show me and tell me things, like they think I don't know," explains Pam, a small business manager in NYC. "I've received lessons on how to make an espresso, or how to use the camera that I've been using for 10 years."

Mansplaining aside, Pam adds that she struggles to get employees to fully understand the difference between the work atmosphere on a normal day versus when important clients are visiting. "You need to have a sense of awareness about when it's okay to chat, make jokes, and laugh with co-workers, and when it's not," she explains. "It seems simple, but I end up shushing people a lot. Basically, I don't want to micromanage your millennial self-indulgent behavior. Turn your cell phone ringer off, leave the work space if you need to make a personal call, don't sit on Facebook or watch videos with the sound on while other people are working around you."

Jaya, who leads a healthcare tech team in Boston, agrees. "Managing millennials, overall, means dealing with a lot of entitlement and delusional thinking," she adds. "They work for 10 minutes and ask for a promotion. When they told me I'm technically a millennial, I couldn't believe it! I'm in denial."
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If your boss calls you out on something, it's only natural to want to defend yourself. But while you should of course speak up if you've been wrongly accused, you don't need to rattle off a laundry list of the many tiny reasons why your project was late. If you're told that your work didn't meet certain standards, the best thing to do is accept the feedback and assure your boss that you'll do better next time.

"Excuses aren't helping anyone," Julia says, "and neither is constantly interpreting feedback as criticism. Of course, part of that is in how the information is delivered from supervisor to employee. But even when I use strategic, thoughtful methods of offering constructive feedback, sometimes employees just won't listen to anything that isn't praise."
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You are an intelligent, creative, and resourceful thinker. We know you are. So why give up on a task just because it got a little challenging all of a sudden?

"When you come up against an obstacle," Julia explains, "don't act like it's a world-ending problem. It's a challenge to overcome. I see too many employees constantly interpreting challenges as reasons why something can't be done instead of looking for creative ways around that obstacle."

"Saying something is 'above your pay grade' can be a way of ensuring that you don't advance to that would-be pay grade," Nikola adds. Translation: Sitting back and waiting to be told to do something can give the impression that you're not interested in growth — yours or your company's. "It's a way of not being creative, not taking ownership, not finding solutions...It's like restricting your role to being a machine — not the smart, flexible, creative person I need to confront situations and deal with them. It also links in with being unhappy in your current job." Which brings us to...
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Hey, we've all been there. Maybe you're just having a bad week, or maybe you genuinely no longer feel connected to the job you have and are applying elsewhere. Either way, regaling your entire team — and your boss! — with your hopes and dreams of leaving all this behind is, pure and simple, poor form. Until the day when you pack up your things, send your appreciative all-office goodbye email, and move on to greener pastures, you still have this job; act like it.

"Losing sight of your actual job is a problem," says Erica, a senior editor in NYC. "I think a lot of millennials are so success-driven, they are constantly looking for another opportunity to grow into at work — and that’s great! It’s also good to make sure your manager is aware of your long-term goals. But it can be frustrating, as a manager, if people who work for you are more invested in their next potential step up than they are in doing a good job at the job they have…right now."
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The flip side of making sure you take initiative is: Make sure you don't take on too much. We all want to show our bosses that we're dedicated, but you can't expect your boss to always know when you're at max capacity. And if you can barely keep your head above water, work-wise, it's going to be detrimental to your performance. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't think I have the bandwidth for that right now; can we discuss some other ways we might achieve this?"

Part of this, Julia explains, is remembering who you actually work for. "Saying yes to anything anybody asks you to do is a problem — it's like thinking your job is whatever anybody tells you to do, not what your actual boss has discussed with you."

As someone who watched the poor Only Kid At The Nonprofit Who Knows Powerpoint begrudgingly take on the work of ten teams for years, I couldn't agree more.
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Yes, voicing your opinion when something is not going well — or when you're having a conflict with a coworker — is important. Jaya explains that it's not so much complaints that are a problem; it's the one-sided aspect of certain complaints. It's one thing to raise your concern about something, but you should come to that conversation prepared to help address that problem. "Complaining about an issue without offering a solution is like presenting work without having a point of view," Jaya explains. Show your boss that you've given the problem thought before coming to her; prepare a list of different suggestions for how you might work together to resolve it.
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Ah, the 9-to-5 schedule. So predictable. So reliable. And so tempting to trim down. We all know that running late happens (thanks, MTA!), but when you make it a regular habit, it just plain gives the wrong impression. And it's something every one of the managers we spoke with agreed upon.

"On the daily, showing up more than 15 minutes late consistently is a drag," explains Pam, "especially since our work is on deadlines. How am I to know if someone else needs to step in to pick up the slack or if you will appear whenever you feel like it and finish the work?"

Julia says that one of her biggest pet peeves is when employees make a habit of "packing up and leaving at 5:28 p.m. (their hours are 8:30 to 5:30)." Of course you should be able to leave on time in general. But if you're never flexible about your end time (i.e. staying an extra half hour to finish an important project), then your boss will likely be inflexible when you ask to leave early for an important appointment.

"You get the job done," Nikola concludes. "I don't care how much time it takes someone; you accomplish the goal."
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