You can go along thinking you’re doing well in your job and suddenly discover–maybe in your performance review!–that your boss doesn’t agree. This can happen for many reasons, and you need to be on top of it before things get so bad you can’t “fix” them.
You should have had a clear indication from your boss when you started as to his/her performance expectations. If you didn’t, it would be a good idea to correct that situation ASAP. How can you hit a target you can’t see?
On the other hand, if you did have well-defined performance expectations laid out for you, that doesn’t mean you can just coast along. Circumstances might have altered since you took the job. Priorities could have shifted, conditions within the company could have changed, and so on. Even if your boss neglected to keep you up to date on that, it doesn’t let you off the hook. As a presumably responsible adult, you need to pay attention to changes and how those might affect your job requirements.
At some point you might spend a lot of time and energy on a project that you really enjoy and feel great about. However, if you haven’t double-checked how it fits with your boss’s current priorities for your job performance, you might be in for a shock. Misinterpreting or overlooking signs as to what your boss currently considers critical could mean that you’re putting a lot of effort into something he/she doesn’t consider as significant as something else that you’re not doing.
Basically, fixating on work that you think is valuable without comparing it with how your boss views the situation can–in a worst-case scenario–actually jeopardize your job. You might, for instance, have overlooked a project that either would have saved the company money or helped it bring in more money. That could have serious repercussions for your job security!
There are other ways to make your boss unhappy, of course. Some might not be job-threatening, but it wouldn’t hurt to acquaint yourself with them and make sure you’re not guilty of any of them. You could begin by reading an article titled “10 Ways to Tick Off Your Boss Without Even Knowing It” by Jay Steinfeld, CEO of Blinds.com.
Here are some of the things Steinfeld advises you not to do:
I have to say that the one about being late to meetings was one of my pet peeves back in the days when I was the administrative assistant to a vice president. One of his senior staff members was habitually late to meetings and had to be almost dragged away from his phone or computer to get him to the meeting. His attitude appeared to be that no one else’s time was as valuable as his or as important as whatever he decided he should be doing. As a result, he ended up wasting the time of a lot of other people, who definitely didn’t appreciate it!
Probably the big point to remember about “doing what your boss wants” is that you need to make sure you know what that is and check periodically to find out whether something else has superseded it; then put your energy and focus into achieving it as early and as well as you possibly can.