One of the things that all bosses singularly and collectively hate is to be surprised by their juniors. In fact, some bosses even go to the extent of getting rid of or running away from staff that repeatedly pull surprises for them.
Of course, surprises can be either positive or negative. In this case, we are mostly talking about negative surprises. But even for positive events, bosses want calm and risk-free relationships with their juniors. They don’t like to wake up to something they never expected.
It can be argued that if they expect something to happen, managers or bosses would have better prepared for the event and so, if negative, they would have greatly controlled the damage. If positive, they would have put in measures which would proactively exploit to the maximum the positive benefits of the event. Therefore, either way, bosses feel they are better off not to be surprised.
To be very clear here, it is not bad to promise to your boss a little less than you expect to achieve and then show him a little surprise in terms of producing greater results than he or she had expected. In fact, that trick works very well. But, we are discouraging serous surprises here. To be clear again, we do not mean that you should be pre-warning your boss on every little small risk, including those unlikely to occur or those that have very minimal impact or marginal surprise. We are talking of events that would be significant.
Bosses like and enjoy being in control of their affairs. When you surprise them, you make them feel that they are not in control—they think that they no longer have grip on their affairs and that is a dangerous position for you to be in when you make your boss feel that way. Avoid causing despair, fear or restlessness in your boss.
But alerting the boss to potential risks and dangers is not always easy—in fact, it is rarely simple. You need to gather enough courage to brief your boss on potential risks. But when you do so, you must demonstrate to the boss that you are putting in measures and working very hard to control the negative events or potential risks and failures.
Meet your boss while prepared. Present the background, the potential risk including an estimated measure of its probability of occurrence. Be clear to state whether the risk is very unlikely to happen, whether it on 50 percent level or whether is highly probable. Then share with the boss the list of all possible implications if the negative event happens, clearly stating the measure and timing of the possible implications.
You can now move on to share with the boss your thoughts on the mitigation measures that you will deploy to stop the negative event from happening. This is where you can directly involve the boss by requesting any support that you might need from your boss to control the risks. Your boss will feel very nice when you look up to him or help to help you fill the small gaps—gaps only.
The boss will not be amused when you come to him or her just to handover problems without having clearly thought about them and without suggesting any solutions at all. Bosses do not like to solve your problems—they already have enough of their own problems or from other juniors. Do not be the member that regularly exposes your boss to unsolvable issues.
Once you have briefed your boss on the major risk or risks, make sure that you get clear thoughts and inputs from your boss. Seek his or her guidance and committed support. But when your meeting is finished, that should not be the end of the engagement with your boss on the risks in question. You need to constantly and regularly brief and update the boss on the progress and status of the risks.
If you follow this simple principle of not surprising your boss, your boss will like you and you will rise and shine! Good luck!