Everything you didn't learn in school that will help you survive the world of work. A place for newbies, for working moms, for seasoned professionals and "free agents" to share strategies, tips and tales from the trenches.

Nov 16, 2009

Ask a Manager: Getting Noticed by Management

Guest Lecturer, Dick Whitman, Manager in Residence

Dear Manager,
What are the best and worst things employees can do to get noticed by their manager or upper management?

The worst way to get noticed is to show that you are trying really hard to get noticed. We manager-types don’t like that. It’s the same way the monkeys at the zoo feel when you tap on the glass. It annoys us. So lay off the red exclamation points on your emails, ok?

The thing to realize is that a manager needs to balance the needs of the entire team along with the objectives of the job and his own ability to make things happen for you. It can never be all about one person. As far as I’m concerned, generosity toward teammates and a sincere contribution to the company’s success – in addition to quality work – are the most important things an employee can do to show his or her worth.

This takes patience as well, because sometimes there are just not a lot of opportunities for advancement that a manager can offer. You might find yourself on a longer path than you are comfortable with, but you can measure your success by the amount of trust your manager has in you. This can be seen when you are given important projects to work on, or when you are asked to share the things that you know with your team.

So try to stay away from expressions like “Me too!”, or “I was just going to say that”, or “Hey! Look at me!”. You don’t need to get the last word in every email exchange. If you send your manager information, and he replies with “Thank you”, you don’t need to reply with “You’re welcome!”. If a client sends you a nice email praising your performance, it is perfectly acceptable to tell your manager that the client was happy and sent a nice email. However, forwarding it along when the client or other teammates on the thread don’t think to do so for you…it looks like horn-tooting, which again, is akin to the glass-tapping.

While I am suggesting that you look for ways to help the company and the team for the common good, and to do it selflessly, you might think that you have already been doing that for a long time and you are still playing the wallflower. In these cases, I recommend that you talk to your boss about it. The important thing here is that you don’t go asking for a promotion or worse, storming in guns-ablaze all full of ultimatums.

You may have varied success with these methods depending upon the manager, but I have always found it refreshing when an employee comes to me and says “I feel like I have been making a good contribution, but can you tell me how you think I am doing, and what I would need to do to get to the next level (or ‘how I can get to a point where I take on some new challenges’)”. If you show that you are taking some responsibility for your own performance, and your own fate within the context of the needs of the company, you will generally find a manager who is more open to discussing your goals and how to help you reach them.

Related posts:
Avoiding layoffs: Making yourself indipensible
The office cocktail party
Things I wish I knew before joining the corporate world
Ask a Manager: Your questions answered

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