Originally Posted by Piobaire
Key point here on how to piss off your direct supervisor: go above him/her and try to impress someone several rungs up the org chart.
True, getting along with everyone is important. But waiting for your supervisor to tell you "what you need to do" won't work either. If you are in a hurry and ambitious, you will want to be their boss soon, and they are not going to tell you how to do that, because they probably don't know, and of course they have their own agenda.
You will need to find ways to make yourself widely indispensable by grabbing responsibilities as they become available. Three notional examples to give the general idea:
1) You've heard a new proposal/technology marketing effort is starting soon and key roles have not been assigned. Think about a key role you would like to occupy (and think you could do a good job with) and start campaigning for the job.
2) Senior management is flying in to get a brief on your local organization's ongoing projects and technologies. Volunteer with your local organization to build a briefing summarizing those projects and technologies you are familiar with, and volunteer to give it to senior management when they visit.
3) The yearly research budget needs planning but everyone is busy: volunteer to organize and implement the planning process, defining research goals, budgets, schedules, and connecting it to the hoped-for business results.
These may not be directly relevant to your current organization, but hopefully help illuminate the idea.