A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

10 Subtle Things that Will Get You Noticed at Work, According to Managers

Ever wish you could tell what your boss is thinking? Join the club. That's why we got real employers to spill what really matters—and what could get you the raise you've been wanting.


When you take ownership

From stepping up and taking the lead to accepting the faceplant when things go wrong, taking ownership is vital to bosses. “Does the employee understand what it means to ‘own’ something—a process, a piece of equipment, a customer relationship?” asks Matthew DiGeronimo, the vice president of operations for Veolia Energy North America and co-author of Extreme Operational Excellence. “It is a rare quality with invaluable worth when an employee takes responsibility for every aspect of a business process. This allows the boss to focus her attention elsewhere because she knows that the employee will take the necessary action, even if it’s outside their defined duties and responsibilities, to ensure success.”


When you ask ‘why?’

Managers are often at the helm of the company’s pivots, making them keenly aware of the why, when, how, and where of the success metrics. But when bosses relay this information to their teams, sometimes the justification for new goals, timelines, or projects doesn’t get communicated effectively. DiGeronimio says an employee who has a questioning attitude is an asset. “Innovative solutions and creative ideas stem from a solid understand of ‘why’ the company is doing something. Too many employees are happy to keep their head down and do as they’re told,” he says. “But bosses notice when an employee is willing to raise her head above the fray and ask, ‘Why?’ This takes courage and determination, but a wise boss will hold onto employees who are willing to do it.”


When you admit you don’t know something

Putting on a fake smile and nodding along to a task you don’t full understand might feel like the best move in the moment, but bosses are actually more appreciative—and could respect you more—when you ask for help. “Many employees are afraid to say, ‘I don’t know.’ This is because many corporate cultures do not demand intellectual integrity and accept half-baked or shoddy answers in lieu of ‘I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you,'” DiGeronimio says. “Some employees feel, perhaps unconsciously, that saying ‘I don’t know’ is a reflection of a weakness and is frowned upon. Whereas, a wise boss recognizes that an employee that she can trust is more important than an employee who always has an answer.”


When you are personally driven

While a boss will usually set monthly or quarterly goals for you, what matters more than crunching numbers and working hard with your head down is your personal, intrinsic drive to be better. In fact, Eric Hobbs, the CEO of Technology Associates, says he doesn’t hire good people—he hires ‘awesome’ people. “I look for people who have the internal drive to not settle for ‘good.’ We don’t want people to just go through the motions,” he explains. “Either you have the internal drive to be great at whatever you do or you are always settling for ‘just OK.’ Staff attitudes simply must align with the service you are offering, so that the service is delivered properly.”


How you spend your breaks

Jake Tully, the head of the creative department for truckdrivingjobs.com says that employees who invest in their personal happiness are often better performers. While you might think your boss wants to see you typing away and eating small bites of a half-baked lunch, they might actually prefer you take the hour to breathe, recharge, and come back ready to work through the afternoon’s tasks. “I certainly don’t tell them what to do or how to spend their time in these instances, but I usually take note of how their time off is spent. Generally speaking, my best performing employees tend to get away from a screen and read during their breaks. Some do some light writing or take a short phone call, but I always think it’s nice when they detach themselves from their computers,” he says. Don’t miss what healthy people do on their lunch breaks.


How your body language changes

Without intentionally broadcasting your current mood, vibe, or opinion, you’re sending signals to your boss all the time through your body language. From how you sit in meetings to a slight raise of your eyebrow when you disagree, these movements rarely go unnoticed by your employer. “I always notice the body language and level of eye contact that my employees maintain while speaking to one another, myself, and other, sometimes older employees in the office. For many younger people, the ability to demonstrate professional body language and to be able to maintain eye contact when speaking to someone is a challenge,” Tully says. “I have never called anyone out on the inability to master those skills, but I notice that there are wildly different levels of differentiation in demonstrating them.”


How forward-thinking you are

Even if you’re not in your dream job—and perhaps, applying elsewhere—your employer is noticing the goals you set for yourself and for your role at the company. Auston Bunsen, lead instructor at wyncode.co, says being able to visualize an employee’s path is something all employers think of. “I really take notice of a person’s vision: Are they thinking short-term or long-term?” he says. “This really helps me figure out what their priorities are and allows me to help them achieve their goals as well as coach them into taking a longer term view of their work.”


When you put the company’s interest above your own

Most companies work hard to earn the loyalty and the trust of their customers, but employers need to know from the get-go how committed you are to helping your company grow. “You can’t pay for loyalty. It is earned, and it is rare. Your company can rise or fall on the loyalty of your team,” says Adam Hergenrother, CEO of Hergenrother Enterprises. But loyalty has nothing to do with the length of time an employee is with you. “Are they just as committed to the success of the company as you are? Do they often put the company’s interest before their own? Are they willing to disagree and challenge you? Do they make sure to disagree with you in private? Do they have your back and support you in public? Do they want what is best not just the company, but for you too?” Here are smart ways to build trust with your boss.


When you show that you want to learn

There’s a common trait among the most successful—and respected—professionals out there, and it’s a constant hunger for knowledge. That’s why Hergenrother says he singles out people who are looking to learn and grow. “If you are not growing, you’re dying. I can’t have people in my organization who are not growth-minded. We move fast, we’re disrupting multiple industries, and we’re failing forward. If I didn’t have a team who was constantly moving and constantly on a quest for more and more growth, then I would never be able to accomplish my goals. I look for life-long learners and people who are fueled by progress,” he says.


When you use victim language

Remember the importance of taking ownership? Hergenrother goes a step further and calls out one of his greatest pet peeves in employees: victim language. Instead of being responsible for your role and your goals, you blame others for your mistakes. That’s a big red flag for most employers. “It becomes very clear when someone starts to use victim language, blames others or circumstances for not hitting their goals, or generally complains and has a negative attitude. Those employees are a downer on the high octane, productive culture of teamwork and collaboration that we have cultivated,” he says. “They don’t last long at my companies.” Here’s what optimistic people do to always see the glass half-full.