Getting the Signal From Your Boss

10 Signs Your Boss Doesn’t Like Your Work—And How to Change Things!

Natalie looked distraught as she waited at the end of the line for me to finish shaking hands with other audience members. “I know you’ve got to catch a plane, but this is almost an emergency. Can we talk?”

I followed her outside to a private area. “I’ll get right to it: I have a meeting in a few hours with my boss. And I’m wondering if I should call his hand on something. I’ve been in the job just a few months, but I don’t think he likes me. In fact, he’s started to ignore me.”

She went on to tell me that the boss had hired her shortly after bringing on another person in a similar role—and how he had started to treat her differently. “For example, this conference. I found out that he told Tim to stop by several specific booths to talk to some people. He didn’t give me any instruction at all. And I found out that he and Tim had dinner together Monday night. I wasn’t invited. Was that because they just happened to be together at dinner time and it was a casual ‘let’s grab a bite’? It’s just several things like that.”

“Has he said anything at all to you about the quality of your work?”

“Nothing…. That’s why I’m thinking that when we meet in a couple of hours, I’m just going to have to force the conversation.”

Everybody’s Awesome, Cool, Fantastic, Super, Great

Since it’s out of vogue for managers to give negative feedback these days, it’s often difficult for employees to determine exactly where they stand, how to improve, and how to deal with the stress of not knowing.

Training programs offered by HR practitioners and outside consulting firms coach managers to focus on strengths and developmental plans for the future and put aside discussions of poor performance. All well and good.  Until there’s a need for cost-cutting, a layoff, a restructure, a merger, or a lost contract.  When that happens, you may be startled to find yourself the first one out the door.

Then there are those people doing excellent work, but whose boss just isn’t pleased—no matter what. Call it envy, ego, or emotional problems, the boss wants you gone.  Or is it your imagination?

10 Signs Your Boss Isn’t Happy With Your Work

Look for these 10 signs to determine what the boss is communicating to you:

  1. The boss delays in responding to your emails or voicemails.
  2. Your recommendations languish on the boss’s desk for an exorbitantly long time before you get a response.
  3. When you make suggestions in a meeting, your boss shrugs them aside without an explanation about their viability.
  4. No new projects come your way. You’re primarily kept in “maintenance mode.”
  5. The boss doesn’t spend any time explaining things to you (even things you may have done wrong), nor giving you insights on larger concerns, projects, or opportunities outside your current responsibilities.
  6. No formal learning opportunities come your way (invitations to conferences, nominations for training, attendance at client events).
  7. Your boss never asks what you’re working on.
  8. Your boss seldom, if ever, introduces you to clients, partners, or suppliers.
  9. Your boss avoids making eye contact with you unless forced to do so.
  10. Your boss rarely takes the opportunity for small talk with you (but does chat often with your peers).

Clear, straightforward communication always trumps vague generalities that produce uncertainty, low morale, and lower productivity. Managers should focus on strengths, sure, to put people in the right roles and motivate them to engage.

How to Open the Communication

So what did I tell Natalie? “You need clear, straightforward communication to perform at your best. If your boss isn’t leader enough to have such a conversation, start the discussion yourself. ‘Lately, I’ve noticed that X. Is this my imagination, or should we talk about something that I’m not aware of and that I need to change?’”

Let me know if what I told Natalie works for you.

To download a grid of the “9 Reasons Communication Fails Vs 9 Reasons Communication Succeeds,” see