Quietly Professional

The conventional wisdom tends to hold that you should trumpet your accomplishments to your boss, though in a way that seems both graceful and humble, a hard combination to achieve at best. There’s a lot of merit to the approach, because many managers don’t know what you do on a daily basis. At a high level they know that you’re the DBA or the developer or the whatever, but they tend to only hear about things that go wrong or go very well. All the stuff in the middle, well, they expect it to get done.

Different managers require different approaches. Some may appreciate you dropping in for a once a week recap of some of the minor stuff you’ve gotten done and a look towards the next week, others might find a short email useful. Some may find both of those approaches just plain aggravating. I tend to fall into that category myself; I want to hear right away about things going awry, things that need my attention, or something that has caught the attention of someone higher up or external, and save the rest for the annual review (you do keep track, right?).

You might not agree with a manager looking at the world in any of those ways, but you’re stuck with it. Change “manager” to “customer” and it’s a lot easier to understand that they will decide what they consider valuable, and from that you can find ways to satisfy the needs of your customer.

But why wouldn’t they care? Mostly they do, but they tend to judge by reflection. When you solve interesting problems or do a great job at serving customers (internal or external) the people you helped will talk about it, and the manager will hear about it. Think about it. Rather than valuing you based on your evaluation, they look to see how well you’re satisfying customers.

It’s tough to find the right approach, you have to watch for the cues, and realize that even the best managers send out conflicting signals at times, and they have different needs and expectations for different employees. There’s no one technique fits all here. Observe, try to get some feedback on what they want, and then watch for the cues. When in doubt, go light and have the notes for the review.