Unless you're in business for yourself, chances are that you and your colleagues are all working to keep a good impression of yourselves somewhere near the front of your boss's mind.
Especially in a workplace that's more competitive than collaborative, that desire can lead to a lot of unhealthy behavior as people jockey for high-visibility assignments--sometimes even to the point of subverting their co-workers.
The good news is it doesn't have to be so hard or so ethically challenging to be known and thought well of by those above you on the org chart.
Here are five things you can say that will endear you to any boss:
1. "I have a solution."
Bosses hear lots of problems all day, and they're usually the ones who have to come up with all the solutions. The next time there's an issue that you need to bring to your boss's attention, come prepared with a solution in hand. Whether it's implemented or not, finding a solution on your own shows initiative, thoughtful engagement, and creativity.
2. "I took care of it."
When you make a mistake--and we all do make mistakes, even the best of us--find a way to come to your boss and say, I made a mistake and I took care of it. If possible, also share what you're doing to prevent it from happening again. That way what's most memorable is not the mistake, but rather your responsibility and accountability.
3. "I'll do it."
Especially when you're already in a high-pressure position, nobody wants to take on more responsibility. But if you look at it from a different perspective, it's really an opportunity to show your boss that you're proactive, willing to pitch in, a team player, and reliable--establishing you as a natural "go-to" person. Sure, it's a little extra work, but the payoff is huge.
4. "I can help."
Offering to help a colleague who's stuck, overburdened, or unexpectedly called away shows interest and a willingness to do more. It also demonstrates your focus on the big picture rather than your own role, and it casts you as an agent of camaraderie and collaboration.
5. "I have an idea."
It's great for your boss to know you can fix things and that you're willing to go beyond expectations--but it's when you bring new ideas to the table that you really shine. It shows that you put your heart into what you do and that you're committed to being truly valuable to the team and organization.
Of course, all of this is part of the overall job of building and maintaining a good relationship with your boss. The words don't have to be close to be effective.
The first step is always to be seen for who you are and what you can do. Say the things your boss loves to hear--not because they'll advance your career, but because you're a smart, resourceful, responsible, and valuable member of the team.