Get a raise: 10 steps to getting your boss to think you're the best

The unwritten item on every job description: "Make me look good"

People always want to know how to ask for a raise. Ninety-nine percent of whether you get a raise has nothing to do with wording.

The vast majority of the time the result of that negotiation is determined long before you enter the room. And it's usually up to your immediate boss.

When I asked Stanford MBA school professor Jeffrey Pfeffer for the single most important career tip, what did he say? Please your boss.

Keep your boss happy. If your boss is happy with you, everybody will be happy. If your boss isn't happy with you, I don't care what else you're doing, you're going to have trouble.

So how do you do that? Here's how to become great in your boss's eyes:

1) Take 100 percent responsibility for the relationship

Don't expect your boss to change. You adapt to them; they're not going to adapt to you.

If there's a problem between you two, you need to fix it. Always.

Business guru Pete Drucker explains:

The subordinate's job is not to reform the boss, not to reeducate the boss, not to make the boss confirm to what the business schools and the management books say bosses should be like… Does this individual need the information to be there when he gets to the office in the morning, or does this boss (as do a good many operating people) want it at the end of the day, say around 3:30 on Friday afternoon? [Managing for the Future]

2) Have regular interaction

You can't impress people who don't know who you are and what you do all day.

Have regular meetings with your boss.

Don't stay away. If you have a boss who doesn't reach out to you, or with whom you have uncomfortable interactions, you will have to reach out yourself… Get on your boss's calendar regularly. [The First 90 Days, Updated and Expanded: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter]

3) Find out what your boss cares about — and do that

Don't do what you think is important, do what they think is important.

This is how you make a boss happy.

From my interview with Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of Power:

First of all you need to figure out what your boss actually wants. Many people assume they know how they're going to be evaluated and the criteria that other people in their organization are going to use, but unless you're a mind reader you probably would be well served to actually check that out.

4) Make your accomplishments known

You're doing what your boss feels is most important. Great. Now make sure they know about your fantastic progress.

Figure out what matters to your boss, and your boss's boss, and make that stuff matter to you, too, because you can only impress your boss with your management skill if you are accomplishing things she cares about. And be loud about your accomplishments. Set measurable goals for yourself and let people above you know that you're meeting them. [Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success]

Best way to do that? A weekly sum-up email.

5) Make your boss look good

This should always be on your mind. It's just human nature for everyone to want to look good — and to like others who help them achieve it.

Making your boss look good is never listed on a job description but it's something every supervisor wants and is lavishly rewarded.

In the cutthroat world of work, appearances are reality.

Many people think "that shouldn't be important"… until they become the boss and don't want to look stupid.

6) Make your boss's life easier

This is your real job description. Hold this as your highest goal and even the most self-absorbed of supervisors will warm to you.

The first Do is to realize that it is both the subordinate's duty and in the subordinate's self-interest to make the boss as effective and as achieving as possible. The best prescription for one's own success is to work for a boss who is going places. Thus the first Do is to go to the boss — at least once a year — and ask: "What do I do and what do my people do that helps you do your job? And what do we do that hampers you and makes life more difficult for you?" [Managing for the Future]

7) Manage expectations

Wondering how you're going to do all this? Wondering how it's even possible? It's not.

Which is why you need to manage expectations.

Make sure when you're telling the boss about your accomplishments you're setting realistic timelines and goals.

Half of success is shaping what defines success.

Make sure the boss understands what can be expected of you, what the objectives and goals are on which your own energies and those of your people will be concentrated, what your priorities are, and, equally important, what they are not. [Managing for the Future]

8) Have things in common with your boss

This is just human nature: We all like people who are similar to us.

Why does everyone take up golf when the boss takes up golf? Because that works.

In general, people most easily partner with people who they feel are like them… You always want to look for anything that you might have in common with the powerful person — whether it's related to your organization's positions, issues, or even personal interests. [Influencing Up]

9) No surprises

Not knowing what is going on is lethal to a person in a position of power. Even appearing to be unaware makes a leader lose face.

Have your boss's back by keeping them clued in. This builds trust and a reliance upon you. And those are very good things.

Never expose the boss to surprises. It is the job of the subordinate to protect the boss against surprises — even pleasant ones (if any such exist). To be exposed to a surprise in the organization one is responsible for is humiliation, and usually public humiliation. [Managing for the Future]

10) Complain… twice a year

If you do a great job and don't complain, a boss will love you. Why? Because a boss hears complainers all day long.

If you've done all the other things on this list for 6 months to a year, a good boss will be eager to help you with problems.

Ask for nothing and they'll fear you're preparing to leave. Say what's causing you trouble and watch the Red Sea part.

The biggest thing that prevents people from moving forward in their career is not accomplishment, it's attitude.

And nobody likes a complainer. Companies pick attitude over hard work every day of the week.

The closer you bring yourself into the appearance of alignment through your daily actions and choices, the more favorable the company's opinions of you will be, and the more secure your job will be… employees are being promoted who don't have the best skills and may even have to be taught how to do the job, at great expense and time, because they appear to be in alignment and the company feels they can be trusted over others. [Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You to Know—and What to Do About Them]

Oh, and there is one more thing, actually:

11) If it's not working, move on

You did all of this and nothing happened? You may just be working for a jerk. Or a company that is in bad shape.

Doubling your efforts at an employer that cannot or will not give you what you need is wasted time and energy.

Better to move on where your hard work will be rewarded.

Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of Power, explains:

… if bosses and colleagues have formed some unfavorable impression of you in your current setting, then find another one. Many people want to "prove" that others are wrong about them — and they may be. But it's a waste of precious time to fight that uphill battle. Why make heroic efforts to dig out of a hole when the same energy spent elsewhere could make you a star?

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