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What is Your Job?


By steve - Posted on 20 April 2011

Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar.
--Drew Carey

What is your job?
"Director of IT?"
"Consultant?"
"Contractor?"
No, those are job titles.

What is your job?
"I support the servers and the network."
"I'm a software developer."
"I help clients with computer problems."
No, those are job functions.

What is your job?

Here is the answer and it is so simple...

If you can get your head around this and get past what you might consider offensive about the concept, this will change the way you work and it will increase how successful you are at your job.

Your job is to make your boss look good.

You need to make your boss look smart for hiring you or for keeping you. If you are consulting or contracting, you need to make your client (and by extension your primary contact at the client) look smart for contracting or keeping you.

Whoa.

What does that mean, exactly? If your boss is the biggest jerk in the world, how do you go about making him look good?

First, keep in mind you probably can't fix your boss. You have what you have, right up until you leave that job. What you can do, though, is fix your response to your boss and fix how you do your job.

Fix your response to your boss

Most sane people have needs, spoken and unspoken, that, when met, make them easier to get along with. I'm not talking about doing anything illegal, immoral, or that breaks the rules in the employee handbook. NEVER do those things for yourself or others. What I'm talking about is that you need to discover what makes your boss tick and deliver on that.

This can take awhile, but you can figure it out by observing your boss, seeing how other employees are treated, or just listening to what your boss says is important to them. You might even try asking, though you won't always get a clear, concise, and honest answer.

Some things to look for:

  • Needs to know every detail.
  • Never wants to know the details.
  • Wants you to make the decisions.
  • You can never make decisions.
  • Likes reports, meetings, charts...
  • Hates reports, meetings, charts...
  • And so on...

So, rather than working the way you want to work with your boss, work the way she wants you to work with her.

Fix how you do your job

If you start to think in terms of how to make your boss look good or look smart, you'll see that the way to do that is pretty well defined. Some organizations are subtly different, and some should face some radical shake-ups, but the rules are relatively similar in Western culture and similar within Eastern culture.

I'm far from an expert on Eastern culture, so I'll stick with what I know.

Here are some common elements about doing your job that will help. Some of the times you might have to do the opposite, but look at your organization or client and use your judgement. Every one of these could be followed with, "unless in this organization..."

  • Be professional.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Be on time.
  • Be great at what you are assigned to do.
  • Take care of things that you aren't assigned to do, but need to be done.
  • Be a subject matter expert (SME).
  • Be really good at several things.
  • Be a team player.
  • Be slow to take credit, but except it when given and deserved.
  • Understand the big picture.
  • Know the mission/vision/goals of the group or organization.
  • Live the organization's culture, or at least the good parts of it.
  • Be even-tempered.
  • Be slow to blame or accuse.
  • You don't (normally) have to be a sycophant, but don't do anything to make your boss look bad in meetings, in the hallways, or anywhere. If you have to contradict them on the facts, do so privately.
  • Don't gossip about or ridicule your boss with other staff.

I've worked for many bosses and clients. Some were good and some were... well, not as good. I haven't had a bad relationship with any where I was able to keep top-of-mind that my job was to make them look good.

Just remember, you may be a boss some day and you'll want your employees working to make you look good and, if you think making your boss look good is tough, think of the job they'll have.

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