Part 2: Professional Relationships in the Workplace-The Boss

Have you wanted to know what’s on your boss’s mind? Here you have it. I have been a boss and subordinate for most of my military career. We all have a boss somewhere, even if it is yourself.

But, it’s extremely difficult to know what your boss expects from you if you haven’t had that conversation. Pro tip: have that conversation as soon as possible. Perhaps, review your description quarterly. However you do it, just make sure it gets done.

Regardless, these are things your boss expects of you.


Problems are like leftovers; they don’t get better with time. Be honest about your struggles. If I had a nickel for every problem that one of my soldiers hid from me I would be a rich man. Similarly, you need to let your boss know what’s going on.

If you have an unfriendly boss, then try to resolve the issue and bring it up in private. If you can’t resolve the issue, bring a friend with you to help share the load-bearing news. No boss likes to get blindsided by an avoidable problem.

Even more, if you’re called on the carpet for something, own it. Take responsibility for your actions. What’s even better is if you’re proactive. Approach the boss, admit your mistake, tell the boss your solution, then soldier on. That way, the boss can’t get mad if you already have a solution in mind! It’s already in the works! Just make sure that your proposed solution will resolve your issue.

The bottom line is: be honest. You’re not doing your boss any favors by hiding significant issues. However, my one caution is that you should bring up every little problem you have. That would inundate the boss with your issues. Only bring up the things that would concern your boss. Here’s a guideline of questions to ask yourself whether you should bring up a problem to the boss:

  1. Will this issue impact the entire team?
  2. Will this issue embarrass the boss or team?
  3. Will this issue impact other teams?

There could be more depending on your situation but use these questions as a guide. The intent is to make the team look good. If your problem could make it worse for you and your team, then you should probably talk to the boss about it.

Predictions and risk management

As the employee, the boss expects you to provide analysis. Within your cubical, you have your sphere of responsibilities. But, your boss isn’t looking over your shoulder the whole time at your data. So, they don’t know what you know.

It’s your job to tell your boss what you know and how it impacts the organization. Think of yourself as a weatherman. How does the weatherman talk about the weather?

  1. He states what the weather is
  2. Tells you about how the weather impacts the person
  3. Makes a recommendation

For your job, you state your problem, how it impacts the organization, and then make a recommendation for fixing it. Use this often.

Bosses have a risk-mitigation mindset. So, when they hear a risk and how it’s mitigated they have to think about how the solution solves the problem. Does that solution really solve the problem? Or does it cover up the actual issue? Also, your boss has to think about the process, too.

Think about it this way, it’s about ways, means, ends. Your boss has to think about the ways to solve problems, the means by which the problem gets solved, and the end results. If there is a flaw at any point during this process, then that can spell disaster for the boss.

As the employee, you have to spell it out for the boss. What risks are they taking by implementing your solution? What risk is there if he/she leaves the problem how it is? It’s a balancing act, but an employee’s obligation is to inform the boss on how to make the best decision possible for the team.

Learn your boss and help him/her make decisions. Your job is to make your boss look good.

Problem solver, not a problem creator

It’s not enough to just not be a problem. You have to solve them, too. Solving complex issues comes with anticipating those friction points as they come. For instance, have you looked at the company calendar and found conflicting deadlines? You’re now responsible for resolving that issue.

Also, don’t look at your job description and say, “well, I only do what they tell me,” or, “that’s not in my job description.” That attitude hurts the team and especially your boss. I mean, if you want to do well,  you’ll need to look outside of your “job description” to figure it out.

Keep in mind, your boss hates it when you bring up problems without solutions. It drives your boss crazy because now he/she has to spend time trying to solve your problem. It’s one thing if you bring something up and you have a half-baked solution for which you’re asking for assistance. However, it’s another thing entirely when you say, “hey boss, this thing is broken…” then silence…

In your boss’s mind, he’s thinking, “Ok…go get it fixed! What am I supposed to do about that?!!?”

Make your job easier. If you need help with a problem, have a working solution and ask for resources from the boss. Don’t just go up to the boss and say, “what do I do now?” That’s your job to figure out.

Just do your job!

If everyone just did their job, didn’t harass anyone else, and did the absolute BARE MINIMUM then that team will be the best in the organization. We think in terms of high, mediocre, and low performers. Even though bosses love high performers, those employees cannot sustain the team. Low performers and mediocrity weigh the team down because they pull resources and time away from the boss.

I can’t tell you how much time, mindshare, and frustration I expended on soldiers who did not pass their physical fitness tests, were not in compliance with their medical appointments, or generally performed poorly.

I remember when I wasn’t meeting my boss’s expectations early in my career. In essence, I was a low-performer. The pressure was real because I knew I wasn’t performing the way I needed to improve my organization.

Fast forward later in my career, I had been reading more books and engaging better with my bosses. I learned to do the minimum and then do more. I couldn’t be a high-performer unless I did the minimum that was required of me.

Now, you want to shoot for gratefulness. Your boss loves high-performers because it makes their jobs easier. That’s where you want to be.

If anything, just do your job and you’ll be alright.


All your boss wants you to do is to do your job, help your peers, and support decisions. Even a mediocre worker can do that. I firmly believe it takes more effort to be a low-performer than it does to be a mediocre performer.

Why? Because you have to cover your tracks, make more excuses, and attract more attention. In contrast, it takes the most work to be a high-performer. If you’re not there, no problem.

Please, please, please just do your job! That’s it. Nothing else.

What expectations does your boss have for you? Let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!

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