I am in a situation where my boss has, on more than one occasion, "gone to bat" for me and personally duked it out with superiors, HR, and the customer to argue in favor of keeping me employed with the company. He was successful. I am completely convinced that my job was in real jeopardy in at least one of the situations, but the second situation was perhaps not as severe. This was not a disciplinary or performance issue, but an "HR" issue related to my ability to meet the job's hiring requirements, which are stringently defined by the customer (a government entity).
Given that my boss has put his own reputation on the line and successfully saved my job, I feel like I need to return the favor. Aside from working on my assigned work with vigor, attention to detail and a strong sense of ethics and pride, is there anything I can do to repay my boss without looking like I'm sucking up to them?
It gets even worse. My company is one that periodically gives out "token" awards (some of them come with no gift and no money; others come with a small gift; very few come with a substantial monetary award). The number of awards they give out is fixed and it happens on a quarterly basis. I recently received two awards in the same quarter -- one involving a nice gift and one with just a printed award on nice paper. I learned later that my boss was directly responsible for nominating me.
It could be that my boss feels very strongly that I am just a perfect fit for the job and am exceeding expectations, but in my merit increase (raise) review, I was parked at what was essentially a solid "B" rating (on a scale of A+ through F). So that on its own didn't give me the sense that I am a top 5% employee, only just above average.
I often hear my boss having stressed phone conversations and they seem extremely busy and overloaded with burdens -- moreso lately than any other time, and I've been working the same job full time for almost a year and a half. Is it appropriate to ask to take something off the boss's plate, even if I'm already fairly busy, and maybe work on it during off hours (after the normal 8 hours have passed)? It is safe to assume that some of the tasks the boss undertakes directly are ones that I could help with in some significant way, which would alleviate a significant time investment from the boss and is unlikely to require considerable review or re-work.
If my work output on the routine assignments (which are doled out to me by lower-level senior employees, not directly by my boss) is only of "B" quality, I don't think I'm repaying my boss enough to make them think that going to bat for me was the right thing to do. I don't anticipate them being placed in that situation again, but I want to answer accordingly for all the confidence that's been placed in me.
Ancillary information: My situation is in the United States public sector, with the nature of the work being, essentially, software development and testing. However, the answers probably shouldn't be greatly impacted by this info; don't answer the question with specifics about the US public sector or software development.