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Introduction to 45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy…and How to Avoid Them

Let’s get this straight right off the bat: Bosses do not hire you to fire you.
It costs money to recruit and train someone, from the lowest position at a company to the top brass. It takes time and energy away from current employees every time someone has to show a new worker where the bathroom is or how to use the computer system.

So, it makes sense that your boss hires you to keep you. But after nearly 20 years of covering the workplace as a journalist, I think we have a problem.

Based on hundreds of letters I have received through my syndicated workplace column for Gannett News Service and USAToday.com, and hundreds of interviews I have done with company managers and career experts, something is seriously wrong here, folks.

The reason I say that is because I’m always getting letters from employees who are bewildered – hurt – thatthings have gone wrong or are going wrong in their careers. They don’t understand it, they tell me. Why are they not successful at work? Why did the boss give them a poor performance evaluation? Why did they get passed over for the promotion or the raise?

The answer is usually the same: Because they didn’t do what the boss wanted them to. (Duh.) And this, I have found, seems to confound many people. (Double duh.)

Cleaning up your bad habits

Let me be clear here: A boss expects you to be the best and the brightest you can be. That means you can’t cut corners, or try to “get by” or whine about what you deserve. They give you a paycheck and they expect certain things – many of which they do not believe they should have to tell you. That doesn’t mean you won’t get the training you need for certain tasks, but it does mean that you’ve got to stop making some pretty dumb workplace blunders.

It’s sort of like the robin that came to my house last spring. Not unusual, of course. But this robin had a problem. He continually flew himself — full tilt — into my window.

This was alarming at first. I worried the poor bird would at least break a wing, and at worst, kill himself. I wanted to help but didn’t know what to do.

So, I watched helplessly as the bird flew over and over into my window. It happened about every 10 minutes for a couple of hours. He would sit in a nearby tree, fly into the window then return to the tree.

Unfortunately, not only was this disturbing to watch such a misguided bird, but it seemed the impact would literally jar the poop out of him. My window was covered with bird droppings and the bird showed no sign of stopping.

But finally, it did stop. He simply flew away, leaving me no wiser as to his reasoning.

The next morning at daybreak, I was awakened by a thumping noise. Every few minutes it sounded as if something would hit the side of the house, then stop. After lying there bleary-eyed for about 10 minutes, I got a sneaking suspicion of what it might be.

The robin was back, and this time, he stayed. After a couple of weeks, after placing netting over the windows to try and keep him away, I was nearly crazed with that stupid bird. He was no longer a beautiful harbinger of Spring but a nasty piece of ruffled feathers who was covering all my windows with poop, driving me from bed in the early hours and just driving me mad the rest of the time.

Finally, for no reason that I know of, he left for good. I don’t know if the other robins did a kind of “robin intervention” to correct his self-destructive tendencies or he simply tired of the window assault and left.

Just like that bird, people in the workplace do things that make no sense and end up hurting themselves and driving those around them whacko. You may or may not be as stubborn as this bird, but I’ll bet you have some bad habits that could be cleaned up.

Based on interviews with hundreds of people in the workplace over the years, I believe part of the problem is that employees often have the mindset that since “everyone” spends time goofing off at work, or that “everyone” gossips or that “everyone” is rude these days – so it’s really OK to do those things. The boss doesn’t really care since “everyone” does it, the thinking seems to be.

But the truth is, the boss does care, and he believes employees should too. He further believes that correct behavior should be a given in the workplace. He doesn’t believe he should have to lecture or cajole employees into behaving properly – he’s not your teacher or your friend or your family. He is your boss, and, you are the employee. When your behavior shows that you don’t get that – well, it drives him crazy.

Grab your career with both hands

I want you to know why the rules are important and why they matter to the boss. I have never liked the “because I said so” response, so in this book you’re going to finally understand and remember not only the rules but why they are rules in the first place. 

It’s time to grab your career with both hands and take responsibility for making it a success. Employers want you to be successful because your success means their success. I want you to be a smart employee, because then you won’t write me those same, sad letters – or end up in my milk crate. And above all, you should want to do well in your job for any number of reasons, not excluding a steady paycheck.

I know that it can be overwhelming to know what to do and when to do it, but that reasoning can quickly turn into an excuse. It’s easier after all to just throw up your hands and admit defeat to information overload. But why ignore information that can help you earn more money, be more successful, be more satisfied and lose weight (OK, so maybe not that). 

As you read the book, you’ll understand that knowledge is power. With the right information – information your boss wants you to know and understand – you can be a much happier and more productive employee. And the best part? It’s not hard. It’s time to get started!