I am a management assistant and my manager keeps telling me I need to
do this and I need to do that; I do exactly as he says, but then it's
still not what he wants. And he says I have to use common sense.
When you say "you do exactly as he says", is that to denote that you blindly follow orders and follow things to the letter? As an example, if someone told me to take care of their cat for a couple of weeks, would you think this meant:
Observe the cat and if it looks ill, bring the cat to a vet to have it examined.
Feed the cat with the proper cat food, make sure it has access to water, clean the litter box every 2-3 days, brush the cat's fur, clip the cat's nails and on top of that if the cat looks ill, take the cat to the vet.
The first could be one's interpretation that presumes to do only what is told while the other is likely what is meant by "take care" that has to be understood to mean more than a few other things that if you've never had a cat then you may not know about the litter box and other steps in how to ensure the cat stays healthy for those weeks.
How can I understand what I am doing wrong, especially when my boss
tells me to use common sense? (which, apparently, I don't have)
My suggestion would be to consider if this is in specific areas or all parts of your work along with probably having a private meeting with your boss to say, "I would like some help to know what I'm missing here. Could I come to you with questions that while they may seem basic, I want you to correct me if I'm going down the wrong path please?" or something similar so that it is clear you want to remedy this and it is clear that you want to ask questions to get clarity about things.
Well, if common sense is what I don't have, how can I develop it?
Based on the comment, I would have a few suggestions:
"How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie would note these suggestions as a starting point:
Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
- Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.
- Give honest and sincere appreciation.
- Arouse in the other person an eager want.
Six Ways to Make People Like You
1.Become genuinely interested in other people.
3. Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
5. Talk in terms of the other person's interest.
6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
- The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
- Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say "You're Wrong."
- If you're wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
- Begin in a friendly way.
- Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes.
- Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
- Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.
- Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
- Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
- Appeal to the nobler motives.
- Dramatize your ideas.
- Throw down a challenge.
Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing
- Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
- Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.
- Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
- Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
- Let the other person save face.
- Praise every improvement.
- Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
- Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
- Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.
In addition, you may want to consider reading books on "Emotional Intelligence" that may provide clues on how to understand people as it may be that you have different expectations from others that has to be resolved here.