What your boss never told you they need from you to get recognized at the job


Three tips on how to jumpstart your career just by communicating more clearly

Ten years ago, I graduated from the University and started to look for a full-time job. As most people who studied IT-related fields can find a decent job quickly, so did I. I was learning a lot about what it’s like to be employed, what is the company dynamics, and how to cooperate with my colleagues most effectively.

That’s me, graduating. Image courtesy of the author.

I was part of a team of 3 people but the other two left soon after I started. So, it was just me doing the amount of job done by 3 people before. We needed to hire someone to help. I was lucky to be part of the interview process just a few months after finishing school and it was a great experience.

Fast forward 10 years — I’m still working for the same company, having a great team of people, helping them to grow and overgrow me. “Let others shine” is great improv advice and as it makes or breaks a good improv show, it also makes or breaks a good team.

By the way, that person who I was helping to hire is still at the company, running a great team himself, and is a good friend of mine.

Pineapple on pizza and the importance of relevancy

When I started leading people, I started to realize what it feels like to be a boss. At first, you might want to know everything, all the details about all the things happening around you. To have it under the control. But trust me that’s one of the worst approaches to being a manager. Soon you would be flooded with irrelevant tasks and will not be able to show the way, lead the team and take care of your people.

The boss never knows everything, and it would be counterproductive if he did. But how could he or she make decisions if they don’t know everything? Well, they need to know all the relevant information to be able to make the decision. I cannot stress enough that the relevancy of the information is the key.

Imagine you are ordering a pizza for a person you don’t know. In the end, the restaurant asks you:

“How much pineapple would you like to have on your pizza, sir?”

AI-generated image of pineapple on pizza via DALL-E by the author

I know I’m entering thin ice with this but bear with me. You might want to play it safe and don’t put any but what if that person does not eat pizza if there’s no pineapple on it? What information do you need to be able to make a well-informed decision about the pineapple case?

The restaurant will start telling you that they have their own homemade pineapple grown in their backyard, no fertilizers, all bio, fair trade, negative carbon footprint and they plant a tree and save a kitten for every single pineapple piece ordered. Sold! Except it’s not. If the person hates pineapple and you give them Hawaii with extra pineapple, he might start hating you as well. The single relevant information you need is — does this person like pineapple or not?

And it’s the same if a manager asks you for some information they need for their decision. If you can distill the relevant information, I’m sure your contribution will be noticed and awarded.

Less is more

It’s usually quite challenging to get rid of what’s relevant, simplify things and get to the root, to the essence. To me, there are some similarities with how art is created. Some artists say that their piece is finished when there is nothing else that could be removed. When this point is reached, the piece is filled with the meaning or idea or a statement and there is no noise or anything irrelevant left.

So, be the artist, craft the information until there is no noise left and communicate it in a clear way not only to your boss but also to your colleagues, friends, and everyone.

Define your expectations

Before you send the information over to your manager or another person, think about the expected outcome. Don’t say just “I’m ordering a pizza”, expecting the other person will tell you automatically if they want one as well and what pizza that should be. You need to tell what you expect from the other person as a response. Is it just a confirmation that the message was received? Is it a decision that needs to be made or do you need a second opinion?

“I’m ordering a pizza, please let me know your thoughts.”

“Pizza is not good for your health.”

Probably not the response you expected.

Homemade pizza. Pizza and photo by the author.

“I’m ordering a pizza; do you want one? Pepperoni, Margherita, Prosciutto, or something else?”

“I will take Pepperoni, thank you”

Boom, here you go. And there is one more thing to keep in mind that helps a lot.

Make the decision easier

You’ve probably heard of the paradox of choice. When you have too many options to choose from, you are paralyzed and it’s more difficult for you to choose one of the options. Further to that, if you finally made the decision, you will be less happy with that in the hindsight compared to if you had just a few options.

Rafting with my colleagues after deciding which route to take. Image courtesy of the author

In these cases, it pays off to knowingly reduce the number of choices. I apply it in my daily life as well. If there are too many options to choose from, I fixate on one brand or one color, or one specific feature. That usually limits the number of options nicely and it’s easier to select.

In the last pizza example above, you might wonder why there are just 3 pizzas. The restaurant probably has tens of them. That’s possible but consider that the person for whom you are ordering it has a ton of other things to decide in their life and they don’t want to spend too much mental energy on deciding which pizza to take.

If those 3 suggested options would not suit them, they can still ask for the full menu but if they are more or less OK with one of the suggested options, the communication is more effective and you saved some of the mental energy they can use to make other decisions.

Remember Steve Jobs, the guy in the black turtleneck who removed buttons from phones? I guess he wore a turtleneck because he didn’t like buttons on his clothes either. But another reason he wore the same clothes was so that he won't have to spend his energy deciding what to wear on a particular day.

When you need someone to make a decision, make it easier for them. Imagine you were at their place, what information you would need to be able to decide? Try to draft 2 or 3 possible options, add all the relevant information, and ask the person to decide which option works for them.


Be the artist, distill the relevant information, define the type of response you expect, and make it as easy as possible for the other person to provide you with that response.

Now I need to order that pizza.

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