The Best Career Advice I Ever Received From a Boss

By Robert Half on October 14, 2014 at 7:00am

When you think of a great boss, many words come to mind. Leader, mentor, manager and supervisor are just a few. Perhaps one of the most common words associated with a respected boss is “teacher.”

OfficeTeam surveyed workers to find out the most valuable lesson they ever learned from their bosses. The answers varied from the sincere to the humorous. The best career advice fell into one of six categories: character, communication, personal commitment, work tips, people skills and teamwork, and management tips.


These lessons dealt with developing and maintaining personal integrity and character while on the job. Words of wisdom that survey respondents received from bosses included:

• “Always be ethical. Always do what’s right.”
• “Be dependable; someone people can rely on.”
• “Be honest. Operate with integrity and only take an action that you’re willing to let your boss know about.”
• “Don’t give up.”
• “Never say ‘never.’”
• “Don’t be so concerned about what other people think of you. Do the right thing.”
• “Admit your mistakes."


Many of the professionals interviewed stressed the importance of open communication. Other lessons relating to the art of communication included:

• “Ask a lot of questions.”
• “Listen to other people’s opinions.”
• “Always be direct.”
• “Learn to speak clearly and precisely in front of a group.”

Personal commitment

Closely related to character lessons, takeaways about personal commitment stayed with employees long after they moved on from a job. Survey respondents said their bosses shared the following advice:

• “Always know why you're making the decision you're making.”
• “Be on time, punctual and productive.”
• “Patience. Sometimes you need to sit and listen and think about your answers.”
• “There will always be people better than you are, but you just have to try twice as hard.”

Work tips

Work smarter, not harder. These lessons may seem elementary, but helping employees succeed in their job is one of a boss’s most important tasks. Bosses shared the following words of wisdom:

• “Do what you love and you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life.”
• “Hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.”
• “Don’t wait for work to be assigned to you.
• “Always do what’s right when it comes to the customer.”
• “If you have a problem with something, you should also have a solution.”
• “Never say, ‘That’s not my job.’”

People skills and teamwork

Getting ahead in the workplace takes more than just technical skills. Learning how to relate to people can be one of the most important lessons a boss teaches. Survey respondents said their bosses taught them:

• “Be flexible and a team player.”
• “Everyone contributes to the whole.”
• “Never forget somebody’s name.”
• “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
• “Learn about all the departments in the company so that you can relate to them.”


Many bosses share their best career advice with the hope that their employees will use it when they, too, become bosses. The following are some sample survey responses related to leadership:

• “Lead by example — don’t say one thing and do another.”
• “Be fair to your employees.”
• “Allow people the freedom to do things their own way.”
• “Always hire people smarter than you.”
• “Create positive environments.”
• “Value your people.”
• “Lead through a relationship and not through authority.”

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received from a boss? Share below.

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