What your supervisor wishes they could tell you

I’ve written before about how much I love hiring, but even more important is what happens after you get the job.  For most of us, our goal isn’t just get the job and sit there.  You want to move forward, either with the same company or eventually find another job that will propel your career.  And chances are, you’re going to need your supervisor’s help.  And depending on your work ethic and you accomplishments, you may not get the support or the recommendation you think you deserve.

Here is how to make sure you know exactly where you stand with your supervisor and you become the successful employee that your supervisor really needs. And guess what? It’s so much easier than you might think!


Show up on time, every time.  There is a reason that 80% of success is showing up.  It’s because, believe it or not, most people don’t show up.  They don’t show up on time. They don’t show up consistently. They don’t show up prepared.  Just show up, be present.  You’ll be significantly more successful, I promise.

Supervisor Truth. You don’t show up for work, you don’t work for me.  But, if you can’t show up on time, I start to judge you and it makes it harder for me to trust you.  If you can’t manage your own life enough to get to your paid position on time, I begin to question the quality of work you’re doing with the job you were hired to do.  You may be amazing. This may be the first time you were ever late. Doesn’t matter – the damage has been done.  Show up on time. As a supervisor I notice and appreciate this.


Prepare in advance. I had a meeting recently where I asked 8 people to provide me with feedback and sent a list of questions in advance. 7 of them walked into the meeting like it was brand new information and only one person had printed the questions, taken time to review the information in advance, write down her information, and shared her opinions.  We had a great conversation and the information was extremely helpful.  It made me start to think about improvements I could make because I’d received such great information from this prepared person.

Supervisor Truth: Prepare in advance.  It will make you seem smarter, seem like you care more and, as a supervisor, I will trust you with more responsibility because you’ve impressed me with your follow-through.


Ask for feedback. I’ve worked with thousands of employees over the last decade.  And the ones that really stand out for me are the ones who ask for feedback.  They want to know how they can improve with the small things; they want to know my opinion and suggestions as a supervisor; they send me samples of completed work to review before it’s published. And I love it.  They are taking their professional development seriously and they’re actively involving me in the process.  And the more we have these conversations, the better they become and the more I trust them – and the more I like them!

Supervisor Truth: There is always room for improvement.  As an employee, you should actively be asking for tips and suggestions – but be specific.  I don’t have time to answer the questions of the universe, but I can tell you how to improve your spreadsheet functionality, I can proofread your webpage update and I can offer suggestions for the new program you’re doing.  When you ask me to help you improve the small things, it makes it much easier to guide you to improve the big things too.


Be confident in your opinion. We’re currently hiring in my office.  See, we hire replacements early so the replacement has time to work directly with the expert in that position – the graduating senior that has this job. And to develop these graduating seniors, I’ve asked them to co-interview the applicants with me (side note: you can develop anyone at any time, look for the opportunities). As we’re interviewing candidates, we have quite a few stand-out people.  We can’t decide between two candidates – can’t decide at all.  And after some time, my graduating senior says, “What if we hired both of them? There is so much work to be done that I haven’t been able to accomplish, I think they could benefit our department!” It was like the heavens opened up in vocal unison at that moment. This is exactly what we needed to do! Great idea!

Supervisor Truth: I want you to challenge the status quo and offer your ideas! And I want you to stand behind them. When I’ve trusted you, as an employee, then I need you to be an equal partner in the process. Whether it’s big or small, I know that good ideas can come from anywhere or anyone – and if you don’t confidently share your ideas, you’re robbing me of the chance to improve and you’re robbing yourself of the opportunity to make the positive impression you deserve.


Be supportive and respectful of your superiors.  A while ago, I had a worker that had been with us for a few months.  He was hired because of his skills and knowledge for a certain topic.  And in a conversation with him, he made it a point to state that I didn’t know what I was doing as his supervisor, he knew much more than me and he thought all of my ideas were terrible. I left the meeting so angry that I wanted to punch him in the face.  Now, that isn’t helpful to the situation and it isn’t appropriate – but I know it would have made me feel much better.  So for our next conversation, I reminded him that I was the supervisor and honestly, I didn’t care if he didn’t like my opinions or agree with my decisions.  He was required to be supportive and I didn’t need him to share anything else for the remainder of his tenure with me. We didn’t talk much the rest of his time with us and he never shared his opinions with me after that day. What a waste!

Supervisor Truth: I probably could have really used his expertise, but this guy didn’t understand the kind way to share his knowledge with others and it burned him.  There is a huge difference between agreement (liking the idea) and support (upholding the idea).  There have been many times that I haven’t agreed with supervisor’s decisions in the past, but as a professional, I know when I need to support them and that is exactly what I do and what I expect from my staff.


Allow yourself to be a beginner. When I started in retail, I went to the open “holiday help” interview with a friend because she didn’t want to go alone.  I needed a job badly and wasn’t sure what to expect, because I’d had limited experience at that time.  She ended up not taking the job, but I was glad to have the chance.  Everything was new, but I was excited.  And what I did know was that there were many other people around me that did know what they were doing.  So I watched them, I learned from them and I asked the right people the right questions. By the end of the season, I’d learned every basic job available and could do them well.  The seasonal job turned into a regular job and the regular job turned into my first management experience.  I remember that interview and those first days, weeks, months vividly.

Supervisor Truth: When I’m hiring, I’m pleased when I find a well-versed employee, but it’s not essential.  Many times, I hire potential.  See, I can teach you exactly what I need you to know – but I need the curiosity and the initiative to be present for that to effectively happen.  And sometimes, when you know everything – then I have to spend my precious time teaching you how to do it right instead of how you’ve always done it.  Don’t be afraid to be the beginner – you’ll be amazed at what you can learn when you’re really trying.


Even if it’s terrible, do it with a cheerful attitude. In retail, we had this job called a line jester and it was as bad as it sounds.  This worker has to stand in line to entertain customers and encourage them to purchase additional products. And this is during the retail holiday season when people are already frustrated, stressed and annoyed. For years, I had to beg workers to do this job and most would just stand in the line like a bump on a long – missing the point entirely.  Then one year, I hired a girl who needed money so badly, she assured me she’d do anything to get hours.  And guess what? She was the best line jester we ever had. She’d stand in line, cheer up customers, get a real excitement going and loaded their bags with extra purchases.  She was dynamite! And guess what? I was relieved that I’d found someone so happy to do this terrible  job and do it well, I scheduled her every minute I could for that job – so she got the extra hours she so desperately needed.

Supervisor Truth: As a supervisor, I know there are jobs that no one wants to do. No one. That conversation doesn’t need to happen again between you and me. Believe me, I get it.  But when you step into one of those jobs and treat it with the respect it deserves, you get from me the respect you deserve.  A cheerful attitude can often make or break your career.


All of your skills matter. As a hiring manager, I’m always looking for the additional benefits you can provide as an employee and I’ve been really impressed with some of the bonus skills I’ve uncovered. One of my best discoveries was an employee who had great technical skills, even though it wasn’t the job he was hired for.  This guy would train other workers, manage technical problems, work with vendors and order needed supplies – all without ever having to be asked.  He did it because it needed to be done and he knew he was good at it.  What a great asset to our team!

Supervisor Truth: As a supervisor, there are a lot of little things that bog down my time and keep me from focusing on my main job.  When you, as an employee, are good at something and help in that area and do it right – it’s like a triple bonus for me. And I like to work with people who give me a triple bonus.

You can make your supervisor love you or hate you, and it’s really up to you.  If you’re unsure about your expectations, meet with them and ask very specific questions to determine how you can be the most beneficial employee.  You have the power to make your job, your career and your professional future turn out exactly how you want it – you just need to know what to do along the way.


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