Look For These Signs
Ever had a coworker you just couldn't stand? Your dislike probably biased you when it came to judging their work, right? Well, imagine what happens when it's the boss who dislikes someone.
If your boss has a bias against you (whether it’s conscious or not), it can color all her interactions with you — whether it's not giving you the same amount of coaching and development that she puts in with more favored team members, or giving you less interesting or lower-profile assignments, or not recognizing what you’re doing well. It can even affect how you're compensated and whether you ultimately keep your job. But it can be tricky to figure out whether your boss has legitimate beef with your work — or just a beef with you.
Here are seven revealing signs that your boss just isn’t that into you and what to do about it.
You’re Being Micromanaged
She’s checking up on your work before it’s due, dictating details that she should trust you to figure out, and generally displaying a lack of confidence that you’ll do your job well.
What to do about it: First, make sure your boss doesn’t treat everyone else this way too. While that would still be a problem (because micromanagement is unpleasant to experience and will generally make you less productive), that would indicate it’s not about you at all, but just an example of poor management skills.
If the behavior seems isolated to her relationship with you, ask yourself whether you’ve done anything to warrant the lack of confidence. Have you been dropping the ball on tasks or making significant errors? If so, then realize that a good manager should get more closely involved — because ultimately her job is to ensure that the work is done well and you’ve given her reason not to take that on faith. If not, then it’s time to ask her if there’s anything you’re doing that makes her feel she can’t trust you and how you can work with more autonomy.
Try suggesting other ways to keep her in the loop, such as weekly reports or weekly meetings, so that she doesn’t feel she needs to check in as much. And if she’s resistant to that, ask if she’d be willing to experiment with giving you more autonomy on one specific project to see how it goes.
You Never Get Feedback
Some managers are just bad at giving positive feedback, but if he praises others and leaves you unrecognized, that’s a sign that it reflects something about his assessment of you.
What to do about it: Try asking for feedback directly, saying something like, “I’d love to hear about what you think is going well and where I could focus on doing better.” Or, if that feels too daunting, try asking for feedback on a smaller scale; for instance, ask to debrief a recent project, share your assessment of what went well and what could have gone better, and ask for your manager’s thoughts. Then, listen to what he says. His response will give you more insight on how he sees you — which is helpful information for you to have, whether or not you agree with his assessment.
You Get Turned Down for a Raise Without Much Explanation
Turning down your raise request isn’t the sign of a problem on its own, since there can be reasons that have nothing to do with you, like budget constraints. But if your manager values you, she’ll explain why she can’t grant the raise, and often explain when you can expect an increase in the future or how to earn one.
What to do about it: Ask something like, “What would it take for me to earn a raise in the future?” A manager who’s invested in retaining you and who believes in your value should be willing to talk with you specifically about what you'd need to do to hear “yes” next time. If that doesn’t happen, then as with some other flags on this list, this is a data point for you to factor into your overall thinking about whether you should stay in this job.
You Can’t Get Your Manager’s Attention
She regularly cancels your meetings, forgets to return your calls and emails, and generally doesn’t seem to have you anywhere on her priority list.
What to do about it: Does she treat everyone like this or primarily you? If it’s the former, she may just be flighty (or overwhelmed). But if you’re a particularly low priority, talk to her. Tell her that getting a chance to talk at least once a week is important to you, and ask if there’s a way to have the meetings happen more reliably.
Would it help to change the day they’re scheduled for? Or would she be more able to make them happen if you both committed to a particular day without nailing down a specific time period, so that she has a larger window of time to make them happen? Or something else?
You can also be more assertive about following up when the meeting doesn’t happen. The day after a missed meeting, go back to her: “We didn’t get a chance to meet yesterday. Do you have a few minutes to talk this morning?”
You’re Left Out of Important Meetings
Does your manager meet with your colleagues to discuss key updates or projects that you’re a part of when you’re not there? Do you hear after the fact about decisions that were made that you should have had input on.
What to do about it: Approach your manager directly to address the problem. But don’t be accusatory; you’ll get better results if you work from the assumption that it was an oversight to be corrected, rather than an intentional exclusion. For example, you could say, “I would have liked to have been included in the meeting this morning on the Smith account, since I’m working closely with them. I noticed I haven’t been included in several account meetings recently. What can I do to ensure that I’m part of those discussions in the future?”
Your Boss Continuously Criticizes Your Work
Everyone hears criticism sometimes. But if your manager regularly and harshly takes issue with your work and nothing you do seems to please her, that’s a big red flag for the relationship.
What to do about it: In the short-term, you might try putting extra energy into getting aligned about expectations at the start of a project. Try talking through exactly what a successful outcome would look like, and afterwards email her a summary of what you both agreed to with a note like, "Just want to make sure we're on the same page." That type of up-front alignment can boost your chances of a project going smoothly.
It might also be worth having a direct conversation about what you're noticing to try and understand what’s going on. Say something like: “I want to have a strong working relationship with you, and I hoped you could give me some feedback. I have the sense that you might not be happy with my work, and I wonder if we can talk about where I’m going wrong?” This might bring to the surface issues that you can work on changing.
But in the long-term, if your boss truly dislikes you or your work, you’re probably better off going somewhere where you’re valued.
Your Boss Doesn’t Seem to Care if You Leave
Smart bosses will go to great lengths to keep an employee they really value — but they won’t object when an employee they don’t much care for considers leaving.
What to do about it: If your boss doesn’t value you much, you’re less likely to get the kinds of mentoring, raises, professional development opportunities, and high-profile or interesting projects that a boss who is firmly in your corner might offer. It can also make you more likely to end up at the top of the list if your company has layoffs. However it manifests, working for a boss who doesn’t care if you stay or go isn’t great for your career, so factor it into your thinking as you consider your timeline for your next career move.