Do bosses really care about what time you start work?
I spoke with a Senior Vice President of Human Resources at a Fortune 100 company who said, “Start and end times… is there such a thing nowadays?” In a world where we check our email before we get out of bed in the morning and right before we go to sleep, that’s a fair question.
The short answer is, yes. The longer answer ties into many surprising factors that vary from each company, department, boss and job. And the reasons why can determine whether or not you build relationships that help you get bigger, more visible projects that lead to a promotion.
To get a sense of best practices, I spoke with five bosses from five different industries: technology, health care supply management, fashion, animation and consulting. The one thing they all had in common: don’t assume anything!
Here are five tips from five bosses:
1. Watch and learn.
Transitioning into a new company or job comes with a million unspoken rules. Until you understand the culture, play it safe. The best person to watch and learn from is your boss. Bosses who start early naturally favor those who do the same, even when they say they don’t care. If Your boss might say she doesn’t care when you come in but if she is at the office or online every single day by 9 a.m., she probably cares more than she’s willing to admit.
The bottom line: Pay attention to what others are doing (especially your boss) and follow suit.
2. Ask questions.
If you aren’t completely sure, your boss would rather you ask a silly question than assume you know the answer. If you don’t feel comfortable asking your boss, ask a colleague. Or better yet, ask several colleagues to be sure you’re getting the full picture and not just one opinion.
The bottom line: Ask rather than assume.
3. Be responsive.
The murkiness of start times comes from our instant and constant access to email. Does your day start when you roll over in bed and check your work email before you even get dressed? Or does it start when you physically show up (in the days where you did physically show up)? All bosses I spoke with agreed that they want to see your answers in a timely way. Not sure what timely means? Ask! Some companies have a guideline for what responsive means for them, typically within 24 hours.
The bottom line: Many bosses don’t care when you start work as long as you are responsive.
4. Show you care.
All the bosses I spoke with agreed that you can’t fake a good attitude. They care more that you’re responsive, inquisitive and willing to do whatever it takes to get your job done rather than sitting at your desk, or in front of your laptop at home, at 9 a.m. Answer your emails in a timely manner and let your boss know if you’re overwhelmed. If you let things slide, it’s easy for your boss to interpret that as not caring about your job.
The bottom line: Your boss cares about your attitude, enthusiasm, and pride in your work.
5. Make your boss look good.
Everyone wants to get ahead and look good to her boss, including your own boss. If you buck the trends in 1 - 4 above and other people start complaining about you, your boss will look bad. It doesn’t matter how good your work is when your boss has to spend time defending you— or defending her decision to keep you on. Make your boss into your ally.
The bottom line: Your boss will be more apt to promote you when you’re allies.