Being prior military, whether or not you do a task you’ve been asked to do – no matter how trivial it may appear – isn’t a question. It’s an assumption that you will do what is asked. My suggestion is to take initiative above and beyond a given task.
As a supervisor of many people and organizations over the years, I’ve had people working for me that I just didn’t know what to do with. Sometimes, they didn’t have the foundation they needed to take on additional responsibility. Sometimes I didn’t have a project in my portfolio that lent itself to an individual’s talent. Employees or managers who repeatedly showed up asking me what they should do next were frankly a drag – though I would do what I had to to not let them know that.
I’m not a fan of micro-management. I tried not to hire people who needed that level of supervision, but as a government employee, we don’t always get the luxury of choosing who works for us.
I’d rather have an employee show up with a problem, a solution, and a desire to take point, than an employee who simply showed up with a willingness to do more. The former shows that a person has thought through an issue and understands context. The latter shows a happy camper who may not have any idea where they are or what the organization is doing. Often, they wanted to please me – which misses the point of their employment.
Don’t do things just to please someone in the hope that they will bestow something great upon you. Just get the job done, communicate, and be part of the team moving the ball forward. When necessary, don’t be afraid to step up and take the lead.