10 signs your boss just isn’t that into you

One of the biggest determinants of your quality of life at work is the relationship you have with your boss. Your boss’s opinion of you matters enormously; it affects everything from what kind of work you’re assigned to whether you get a raise to whether you ultimately keep your job.

But people often miss the signs that their boss just doesn’t think that highly of them, and then become confused or frustrated when they can’t get promoted or their ideas go nowhere or they’re not being recognized for their work.

Of course, a good manager will address concerns head-on. But there are plenty of poor managers out there who never bother to have direct conversations with their staff when they’re dissatisfied. So in recognition of bad bosses who don’t communicate, here are 10 signs that your boss just isn’t that into you.

1. You ask for more feedback and don’t get it. A boss who cares about your development will be glad to share her perspective on what you’re doing well and how you could do better.

2. He doesn’t introduce you to important contacts. Others might get invited to meet important clients or the board chair, but you never seem to be asked. And he seems to be making a deliberate effort to keep you away from his own boss.

3. She turns your raise request down without much explanation. Bosses who love your work may need to turn down your raise request, but because they care about your morale, they’ll usually accompany it with an explanation of why, as well as when you might be able to expect a future increase.

4. He doesn’t trust you to get your work done. If your boss is asking where your work is before it’s due, dictating details that a reasonable person wouldn’t need to be told, and generally displaying a lack of trust that you’ll do a good job, and – and this next part is key – if he doesn’t treat most other people this way, he probably thinks you need this kind of oversight. (And be honest with yourself here: Could his assessment be at all reasonable? People often complain of being micromanaged without thinking about whether they might be provoking the scrutiny.)

5. You imply you’re looking at other jobs and she doesn’t seem to care. Smart bosses will try to move heaven and earth to keep a great employee – but they won’t object when a mediocre employee is thinking of leaving.

6. You hear little positive feedback.A boss who cares about retaining you will make sure that you feel valued and that your work is appreciated. If your boss never praises the quality of your work or the contributions you make, it might be because he doesn’t think you’re excelling.

7. She never asks for your advice. When your manager asks for your opinion, advice, or buy-in, it’s a sign that she respects and values your opinion. If she’s soliciting advice from others but not from you, that might be a danger sign.

8. You have trouble getting his attention. He cancels your meetings, forgets to return your calls and emails, and generally doesn’t seem to have you anywhere on his priority list.

9. She shows no interest in trying to solve your problems. You approach her about your concern about not having enough resources to tackle that new project or about butting heads with the department down the hall, and she’s unmoved. She may be signaling, “I’m not willing to change anything for you. If you want to make a change, it should be to a new job.”

10. He tells you. If you hear words like “I need to see significant improvement,” take them at face value. For some reason, many people block out these messages and then are blindsided when they’re let go later on.  If your boss tells you you’re not meeting expectations, he’s not kidding.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 16 comments… read them below }

  1. Redante*

    As an employee I would much rather have a boss who communicates clearly and directly when he/she is not happy and explains why in clear, umambiguous terms. And of course, doing it with time enough in advance so I am given a chance to improve. If given this type of feedback I will do my best to improve.

    The type of boss communication styles I do not find useful at all:

    – dropping hints and subtle inferences and expecting me to decipher and understand exactly what he or she means

    – springing surprises about displeasure about your performance — you think you are doing well all year and suddenly come review time you get blindsided by a completely unexpected negative review

    – communicating problems and preceived problems in overly positive terms in an attempt to spare my feelings. This does me a disservice because I will tend to say “phew it’s not a big deal after all” — when in fact it is

    – a boss who speaks in code. By that I mean someone who doesn’t say what they mean directly and clearly but instead relies on communicating using subtle cues which I may or may not understand or have the proper cultural references to get what they mean

    – a boss who acts as if they are doing you a big favor by providng direction. Isn’t providing direction part of the boss’s job?

    – a boss who gets all huffy or offended when I ask for clarification, more detailed instructions or ask probing questions when I don’t understand something

    1. anonymous*

      “- springing surprises about displeasure about your performance — you think you are doing well all year and suddenly come review time you get blindsided by a completely unexpected negative review

      – a boss who acts as if they are doing you a big favor by providng direction. Isn’t providing direction part of the boss’s job?

      – a boss who gets all huffy or offended when I ask for clarification, more detailed instructions or ask probing questions when I don’t understand something”

      This is my boss. To a T. Imagine my surprise when, just six months after I started in my current area, I was hit with all negative feedback! No one had given me the slightest clue, in all that time, that anything was wrong.

      I’ve been looking for another job ever since.

  2. SpinDoc5*

    I totally agree, I think it makes all the difference in the world if you and your boss connect and have a mutual professional interest in one another. I have experienced the good, bad and the ugly and know that it impacted my performance everytime, in a good way with a good relationship and in a toxic way with a bad one. I also think its good to feel out the kind of manager you have and not to “force” a closeness if it doesn’t seem that they have taken interest in you. Much like dating, its good not to force some sort of connection that isn’t there and gravitate towards those that seem interested in you. Great read, thanks for posting! i’m a faithful reader, first time poster.

  3. Anonymous*

    There is also the point where you and your boss don’t click personality-wise. I am living that right now. I do everything I’m supposed to do and get the blaise boss. My co-worker, who apparently has her own set of rules in which I know I and everyone else would get fired for at any company, gets the jovial boss (yes, same person). He doesn’t hide it – doesn’t even try. Now is that me? Could I have done something to have pissed him off? I don’t recall, but he hasn’t reprimanded me for anything.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      I have a boss who’s hard to read, too. I have no work to do, and almost no interaction with him. For a while, I was thinking that he moved me into this job hoping that I would quit, but we’ve had 2 layoffs and I’m still here. As Yul Brynner said in The King and I, “it’s a puzzlement”. I just keep coming in and collecting my paycheck.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m the same Anonymous you replied to…

        Puzzlement – good word. I try to prove myself everyday, but with some of the things AAM wrote about, he fits it to a T. But like I said, I haven’t been reprimanded for anything, and I attribute it to a personality clash. Therefore, I cringe when working with him on projects. I don’t know if I’m misreading him and don’t know what triggers the “jovial” boss, but I most certainly missed the memo. So instead, I go to work, do my work, and go home…oh and like you, get my paycheck.

  4. jack*

    You know what can help put an overzealous and power-drunk management team in it’s place and quickly? A collective bargaining agreement! UNIONIZE!!!!

  5. Planner*

    I graduated college in 2006 and my first boss, GREAT! Her replacement… wasn’t into me. Next job, boss- GREAT! Her replacement… wasn’t into me. Now at my current job, my boss isn’t that into me AT ALL.

    Is it possible that (almost) every boss you’ve had isn’t that into you?

    1. Sweet and Petite*

      The same thing happened to me. My first boss was great. He made sure that I was learning what he was teaching me and was very patient. His replacement was not into me at first, she liked me for a while, and now she’s not into me. She provides no feedback even when asked for it(Perhaps I haven’t made myself clear or made my request sound urgent enough. I’ll take partial blame for that.). Now, I’m suffering because of it. She doesn’t realize I need feedback so I know what I can improve at and add tools to my belt that I may have missed. Also, I prefer to have all of the rules up front, so I can review them and ask questions from the get-go, instead of finding them out as I go. Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to be there much longer on account that I’ve been suspended until further notice over something small(I have been told to call back in two weeks.). I have already began a new job search in case she decides not to keep me. If she decides to keep me, I’ll have to be more clear about what I need to know to be an awesome employee. I don’t like performing poorly nor like getting in trouble. BTW: I have already told her boss about what led to the suspension and asked if it was justified. I am waiting for them to reply. Hopefully, they’ll tell me what I need to know. They do make the rules, after all.

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