How to Impress Your Boss or Professor

Getting to your employer's bottom line

Posted Aug 27, 2010

During my very first job evaluation years ago, my boss said flatly, "Anita, it's the products that count."

"Oh." I had spent countless hours at the office preparing lectures and training my research team and writing up documents. But all of that didn't matter because I had not yet produced a publication at that job site. The result was that I got a .2 % raise that year (yes, that's a fifth of one percent).

In today's tough economy, employers are "trimming the fat" out of their companies, firing the people who aren't efficiently advancing the company's objectives. Are you providing the bottom line to your employer, or are you working hard on many things that don't really count? For example, are you the person who brings in the most sales quarter after quarter? Or are you the one who organizes the company outings and sets up the college basketball pool (i.e., doing time-consuming, but otherwise useless stuff)?

If you're a student, are you spending time in classes taking notes but not really listening? Working hard on papers that don't really address the assignment?

What is important to realize is that your bosses and professors put tons of weight on noteworthy events when deciding what kind of an employee or student you are. For instance, if you are caught surfing the Internet during business hours or class time, even just once, your employer or professor might decide that you are a slacker.  

A famous personality researcher named Walter Mischel discovered about 30 years ago that indeed people weigh too heavily these “prototypical behaviors” that squarely represent the broader class of a given trait when judging others to have certain personality traits. This means that based on just one or two noteworthy events, you can get a certain label. You can use this kind of information to help you make a great impression on your boss or professor (or your friends for that matter). For example, you can be the one employee who reaches out to a particularly difficult potential client and lands his business. Or you can be the one student who turns in her midterm paper early. You may become labeled as a "go-getter."

A combination of focusing on doing those key, protoypical behaviors that represent your boss's idea of a productive employee, plus avoiding those prototypical behaviors of a bad employee (like showing up late for work) is just the ticket for you. Just think of all the time you'll be saving once you focus on the bottom line and dump all the useless activities you currently do at work.

If you are interested in following up on these ideas, you can check out my blog at

or you can order my paperback book at