Have you ever had a colleague who seemed to just intuitively know what the boss wanted and, as a result, rose rapidly while you were stuck taking notes and making coffee? Sure, sometimes it’s just luck because their personality matches the boss’s, but chances are it’s because your successful coworker has these five great habits:

1. Pay Attention to Company Culture

Some company leaders praise the out-of-the-box thinker, while others are like, “Get back in the box, right now!” Which type of company do you work for? If you’re always introducing new ideas but the company is content doing things the same way since 1972, your new ideas won’t be welcome.

On the other hand, if your company is innovative and always looking for the next best thing, resisting change will be a strike against you. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you always need to come up with new ideas or that you can’t push a stodgy company to change, but it does mean that you should act carefully. Pay attention to that culture and plan accordingly.

2. Take Cues From What the Boss Does (Not Says)

HotAirBallon-UnsplashYour boss may say, “Sure, work a flexible schedule! No problem.” But if she’s in the office from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, and your coworkers who are getting ahead have matched her schedule, that’s a sign.

Another sign: Your boss says, “No big deal if that project is two days late,” but you notice her anxiety levels rising as she asks for updates ever 10 minutes.

These situations can be hard to navigate because you asked the right questions and received an answer. The problem? The answer was wrong. The solution is to ask even more questions next time. Instead of asking only about the company’s flexible work schedule, also ask if other employees work them successfully. The answers will give you better insight into what really pleases the boss.

3. Don’t Wait to be Asked

When you see something that needs attention, either do it proactively or ask your boss if you should tackle that task. (How you proceed depends on company culture and your level in the hierarchy.) If you wait to be assigned new tasks, your coworkers will get the best ones and you’ll be left behind. Show a little initiative and you’ll get the tasks that highlight your skills.

4. Say ‘No’

This may be the weirdest habit on this list, but yes-men don’t always rise to the top. Sure, some bosses like that, but good bosses hire (and respect) smart people with opinions and boundaries. Speak up. Set your boundaries. Push back on stupid ideas. Here are some ways to push back without sounding whiny.

  • Can you tell me what problem you’re trying to solve by making this change?
  • That won’t be possible. I’m already booked solid.
  • I’m booked solid but can re-prioritize X and Z if you need Z done immediately.

5. Get to Know Everybody

Get to know ask many employees as possible, from the cleaning lady to the CEO. Always be nice. Say “good morning” and ask about their weekend plans. The goal here is to build relationships.

Some of us are naturally good at that type of thing. Some of us (raises hand!) are introverts who have to force ourselves to talk to strangers. An introverted personality can be great for productivity, but it doesn’t always set you up for a promotion. Force yourself to take an interest in your coworkers (without prying into their private lives), and it will soon become natural.

Develop these habits to put your career on the fast track. It’s not practical to change everything overnight, but today’s a great day to start chipping away.

ABOUT Suzanne Lucas

Avatar photoSuzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about Human Resources and Business for a number of different publications.