7 signs that your manager just doesn’t like you

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.

Your boss’s assessment of you carries significant weight and impacts everything from what projects you’re assigned to what development opportunities you get to whether you ultimately keep your job.

Too often, though, people miss signs that their boss doesn’t think highly of them – and then are frustrated when they can’t get high-profile assignments or aren’t recognized for their work.

Here are seven revealing signs that your boss just isn’t that into you – and what you should do in response.

Your boss doesn’t trust you to get your work done. 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 that 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 rather rooted in poor management skills from your boss.

But 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 balls 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. But if not, then it’s time to ask her if there’sanything 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’sresistant 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 imply you’re looking at other jobs and your boss doesn’t seem to care. 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 was 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 this is something that you should factor into your thinking as you consider your timeline for your next career move.

Your boss gives positive feedback to your coworkers, but not to you. Some bosses are just bad at giving positive feedback, but if she praises others and leaves you unrecognized, that’s a sign that it reflects something about her assessment of you. 

What to do about it: Try asking for feedback directly, saying something like, “I’d love to hear where you think things are going well and where I could focus on doing better.” Or, if that feels too daunting, try a smaller version; 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 she says. Her response will give you more insight on how she sees you – which is helpful information for you to have, whether or not you agree with her assessment.

You ask for a raise and get turned down without much explanation. Turning down your raise request isn’t the sign of a problem on its own, since there can be reasons for that 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 about specifically 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 your tenure at this job.

You have trouble getting 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 the former, she’s probably simply flighty. But if you’re a particularly low priority, talk to her. Tell her that getting a chance to talk every each 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: “Jane, we didn’t get a chance to meet yesterday. Do you have a few minute to talk this morning?” 

You’re left out of important meetings. When your manager meets with your colleagues to discuss key updates or projects that you’re a part of, you’re not there. You might even 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 manager finds fault with everything you do. 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 can try a direct conversation to try to understand what’s going on. Say something like this: “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.

{ 108 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Drama*

    I can add a few more to this list, based on what I’ve seen happening to someone else lately:
    (a) you get your vacation requests denied
    (b) you are always “in trouble,” especially for the slightest thing or things that others have done with impunity
    (c) there’s a lot of notes going in your file, private meetings, and general sense of shitstorm going on.

      1. Shanel*

        I’m struggling with coping with my manager who once was my friend and now is my boss. I’ve been in my company for 14 years and out of the 14, 4 years (coming back from maturity leave)has been very stressful..

        I try my best to communicate with her. She will call me at home after work to complain and I would suggest a thing or two, or she would call me and I would tell her what I’ve heard and she would then the next day tell the employees what I say and make the staff turn against me. I’ve never have to go through this. My boss before 4 she did not like and would always say the boss is going to fire her because she don’t listen and always want to argue.

        It’s been 4 months I’m trying to move past the incident and focus on my work but I feel she has the upper hand on me based off of what I told her is going on and I’m getting no respect from her and employees.

        I’ve even caught her watching me and I confronted her about it what she is doing is not nice and she lied to my face and called upper management and said I’m causing trouble when she was the one who rings down my cellphone after work. We have new comers and that she would ask me to train them and they will come back to me asking me why boss lady is saying to stay away from you your a nice person. People come and complain to me about her and I tell them I do not what to hear it.  I really like my job and me and the boss lady has been in the company for 14 years.

        Please let me understand why she is doing this to me? What to do? So I can get peace and closure. I’ve been seeing a counselor a few months back and I was doing good but I feel shes back at me again using the new employees as her advantage and trying to find something om me to walk out or get fired..

        Please help I want to be a better person for myself and kids when they get older I can teach them a thing or two. I go to work to work and be acquaintance and be corrdilal for I do not want to make the friendship I make in the past…

    1. Brett*

      (a) by itself can also be a sign that your manager thinks you are really valuable (but manages poorly).

    2. EvaR*

      If you are hourly, your hours keep getting cut for no reason, and whenever someone has to fill in on short notice, you’re always the one who is asked to do so.

      I’ve noticed I’ve had a lot of bad bosses who behaved like this towards two or three people on their staff- all the receptionists under 30, all the non parents, all the people who didn’t have a certain “look,” etc. Although I know that could be considered a culture thing, I don’t get why you hire someone who didn’t fit your criteria for a position if that’s what you really wanted.

      1. EAA*

        Had a boss at fast food (first job) who did the cut hours. He liked the girl who shorted her uniform best.

      2. Elsajeni*

        Interesting, I had the opposite experience as far as being asked to fill in — it was a strong sign that you were on the manager’s good side, both because it meant they thought of you as someone reliable and because (at our store, at least) everyone was always hungry for more hours, even on short notice.

  2. Bend & Snap*

    I mean…let’s be real. If your manager doesn’t like you, you probably need a new job. At minimum, you’re not going to be rewarded and incented the way another employee would be.

    1. Ruffingit*

      That’s been my experience and that of others I know as well. Very few people I’ve known (myself included) were able to respectfully carry on relationships with bosses who did not like them and that was mostly because the boss was unable to separate the personal from the professional. If the boss doesn’t like you, mitigate as much as possible, but put most of your energy toward finding something else.

      1. Prickly Pear*

        I started a job where the boss didn’t seem to like me at all. Nothing I said or did was right, and I only realized after weeks of coming home and having torrents of words pour out that I never spoke at work unless it was business related. She got fired before I could, but it set me back raises (and kept me behind my pay grade for a long while) because I couldn’t get a formal review (the only way to get raises at my company). I spoke with her way after the fact, and I think it was an issue with both culture clash and inexperience on my side.

  3. James M*

    As most of the signs involve a sub-optimal level of communication with Boss, wouldn’t it make sense to first address the need to open an honest discourse with h(im|er)? The idea being that Employee convinces Boss to set aside any prejudices for the duration of the conversation. I think that would be a better basis for addressing Employee’s concerns.

  4. anon for this*

    I am pretty confident my manager doesn’t like me. We’re really different people with really different outlooks on almost everything. I’ve also heard her say negative things about people who are like me in various respects, and when I hear those things I can’t help thinking, “Yeah, that shoe fits.” (These aren’t usually work-related things. They’re things like making fun of people who work out a lot, or don’t go out on the weekends, or don’t enjoy particular kinds of books or TV shows. I don’t think she’s saying these things to make me uncomfortable, but it has that effect.)

    At this point some of the issues she undoubtedly has with me probably are performance- or attitude-related, because it’s challenging to be productive and positive when you can feel the waves of dislike from clear across the room. I’m doing my best to be positive, productive, and good at my job.

    Everything on this list is true except for #1. She definitely doesn’t micromanage me. She barely speaks to me.

    I really like the suggestions Alison makes. Given the fact that I’ll need to address almost all the issues on the list, where’s the best place to start? There’s significant thawing that needs to happen here.

    For what it’s worth, one thing my manager and I HAVE talked openly about is my desire to leave our group but stay with the company. She recognizes that I have valuable skills and I know she’d support my move to another team because she’s said so. I think she generally wishes me well and respects me, but just doesn’t care to interact with me on a day-to-day basis. Also, for what it’s worth, that’s mutual.

    1. anon for this*

      Actually, I take back the comment about all these things being true. We’ve never had a conversation about raises, either.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Just a note not related to your posting, but your user name is anon for this while you included your picture. It’s pretty easy to figure out who you are with the avatar so if you want to be anon, you might not want to include that. I also know where you work because you mentioned it in another posting sometime back so it’s easy to connect your picture with your actual workplace. I read all your stuff because you have good comments so I thought I would point out that for those of us who do read your stuff, your photo is a giveaway to where you work. If you want to be anon, don’t include the pic. :)

  5. MR*

    The comments on the article at DailyWorth should be noteworthy for Alison…

    Clicking through each point on an article is dumb and is just click bait. Buzzfeed doesn’t even make people do that…yet ;)

      1. MR*

        I agree…but your work is of very high quality.

        It may not be a bad idea to shy away from low brow websites… ;)

      2. Dan*

        Do you have any pull? The commenter above me is right, your work is too good for a website that drives traffic like that.

        In fact, when I see those kinds of “click through” slide shows, I tend not to read them.

    1. Proxy Doxie*

      And some of us can’t click through. My company restricts all non https traffic so they only way I can see AskAManager is via an anonymous proxy that utilizes https. This means that I can’t even get to any but slide 1 of 8 of the slideshow.

      Using my https proxy also means that when I post things (under my normal pseudonym) that Alison’s logs probably show me coming in from an IP address in England one time, Germany another, Western US another, Australia, China, etc.

        1. De Minimis*

          This site I have no problem with at work, the Intuit one is blocked as a blog.

        2. nyxalinth*

          Do you have any kind of ad blocker? Usually the slides or whatever that don’t show are ads put in by the website itself. I use Adblock except on select sites like this one, because in 2011 I had three malware attacks that piggybacked in through ads.

    2. Vicki*

      Why do people always assume this is “click bait”.
      Why not just figure it’s like “turning a page”. They wanted a slide show. They built one.

        1. Proxy Doxie*

          It’s click-bait because they show the reader 8 sets of advertisements instead of a single set. So that’s 8x the possibilities that a reader will click on something. Click-bait.

        2. Dan*

          On a desktop, I don’t mind, but on mobile I hate these things. I tend to skim quickly and these things always load slower on mobile (and chew up data).

          I actually dread slideshows. When you’re in sales, you have to remember something — you don’t get sales by giving the market what you want, you get sales by giving the market what *they* want. And I don’t want slide shows…

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I don’t mind the ones like this, where the slide actually slides through in its own area and the rest of the page stays the same. What I hate is when a whole new page loads for each number and then it jumps back up to the top. That’s NOT a slideshow.

            1. Kelly L.*

              YESSSSS. If it doesn’t slide, it’s not a slideshow. At least this one slid.

      1. Clicky*

        Because there is no value added to the content by presenting it in that format. The obvious reason to do it is click-baiting, and it’s common enough that sites do so that I have no problem assuming that motive where there is no obvious alternative. If it’s not for that purpose, they should be smart enough to get that people will think it anyway, and choose a different approach. If they’re not, I don’t feel I’m really missing anything.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Again, I hear you, but I’d appreciate y’all directing some good will toward the sites that hire me to do paid work, since it’s what allows me to do this one for free. (Or at least not complaining about them here.)

      1. BritCred*

        Fair comment and although I do hate slideshow website formats that one wasn’t too bad to work with for me.

        And yeah, one of those things…. the “bosses” who sign the paycheck occasionally get to do things their way!

  6. Katie the Fed*

    Somebody here once posted an interesting article on this phenomenon where a boss loses trust in an employee, and starts managing in such a way that the employee performs worse, and it basically becomes a death spiral that usually ends with an employee getting fired or moving on.

    It was a really interesting idea and one I try to be REALLY conscious if I’m involved in any disciplinary issues – to not lot my views of the person on that issue impact how to treat them otherwise. And that can be hard – one of my employees did something that demonstrated a total lack of integrity, and that’s not something you can easily restore.

        1. LJL*

          I know. I’ve been there too. I have also made it through, and I”m sure you will as well.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        I have to say that although my last boss was a HORRIBLE boss and human being, he did not do this. After a huge issue he stepped back and let me run business as usual.

        I recovered from the issue and stayed through 3 more years and 2 more promotions.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Yeah I feel like a mistake I’ll look past. But something that indicates a total lack of character or integrity – that’s a lot harder. My employee who did that did a few things that just really called into question his ethics and integrity – that’s hard to move past.

      2. A Non*

        Oh. Oh my. So that’s what happened. Crap.

        Anyone have advice for not getting into that situation and/or getting out of it once it starts? I did try to address some of the issues directly with my boss and ask him to give me feedback differently, but it just became more fuel for the cycle. Trying to pull myself up by sheer force of will didn’t work so well either.

    1. Sharon*

      I was in a situation like that once as the employee. My manager got promoted and asked me to take charge of a large, high-visibility project with a difficult client. I told him I was up to the job, and I was, until…. only a few weeks later I had to go onsite to said customer and another coworker came also and told the client that he was the new project manager – and then he disappeared on the project after that. It snowballed from there, but to make a long story short I made the mistake of not confronting my manager early on about what was going on with the project. I just stewed in my puzzlement, meanwhile he was forwarding my emails asking for clarification to my supervisor with snide comments like “is this how a lead behaves?”

      I’m pretty sure it wasn’t his intention to drive me out, but he was clearly in over his head. New job, plus he never got a back-fill for his old job so he kept trying to do both and he got madder and madder that I wasn’t reading his mind. When he yanked the one and only promotion that I was JUST about to get (after 9 years working there with consistently excellent reviews), and put me on a PIP, I solved the problem for myself by finding a new job.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Wow, that stinks. So sorry. I bet your boss was even more steamed when you quit. Good for you for moving on, sounds like a tough situation.

    2. Usually Not Anon*

      I am just getting out of this cycle. Five more weeks to go . . .

      Fortunately, I think my boss and I are so relieved to be done with each other that we’re being surprisingly civil and almost friendly.

  7. Vicki*

    Sometimes the manager-employee dissolving relationship is due to something going on between the manager and his boss, or his job.

    I had a manager who went from sensible to difficult with no warning. Suddenly, minor, resolved questions from 6 months ago appeared on my review as Big Issues, I was being Told What To Do, and my manager was micromanaging heavily.

    Then, one day, I had a meeting in which he apologized, told me I’d been doing fine and that what I was doing was good all along… and a few days later he transferred to a different department.

    Apparently he’d been taking whatever stress he was having in his job and spreading it out to his direct reports.

    1. One with Disgruntled Boss*

      My boss I know is disgruntled with his job. He is unhappy as he hasn’t received a bonus in nearly a decade now, just making the same amount year in and year out. But I have noticed an attitude change in him. He micromanages me and my coworkers and he pretty much has no patience for our clientele. I even see him cut corners in the work we do.

      In one respect, I feel sorry that he and his equivalent counterparts in the company have not gotten their (formerly) annual bonuses. But on the other hand I don’t feel sorry for him because he is starting to become noticeable in his being fed up and it is seeping to the workplace. I wonder if he has taken the initiative to find a new job.

      Yes, I agree it’s outside circumstances that can hurt the relationship.

  8. LadyTL*

    My manager at my last job did all of these things and yet people kept insisting that she totally like me because she said good things about me behind my back. Except she wouldn’t ever say them to my face and would rather write me up for things she created and put in the handbook then ever give me any feedback about anything.

    1. A Non*

      It’s possible she was trying to be diplomatic by saying nice things to other people, but I’ve seen some bosses with a really alarming split between their public and private behavior. They want to look like the nicest person ever to outsiders, so they praise their team highly and give them all the credit. Then in private, they take out their anger and frustration on their employees, who get only criticism on that same project.

      Of all the ‘here be a bad person’ warning signs I’ve seen, the nice in public/nasty in private dichotomy is the one that makes me run away the fastest.

  9. Esra*

    I had a manager who didn’t like me, but needed me. I’m not sure whether it was better or worse than a boss who doesn’t like you and wants you gone. Your job is more secure, but every action, every decision, is like pulling teeth.

    1. Prickly Pear*

      So this. I’ve worked under a lot of bosses (nature of the job) and one of them came in with something to prove, and I was the inherited 3rd in command (way under the 2nd). We got along okay for the most part, until we both reached out for the same project- I got selected, and they did not.
      Fortunately, we didn’t work together for long after that.

  10. Brett*

    This makes me interested in seeing a corresponding “7 signs that your employee just doesn’t like you” or “7 signs that you just don’t like your boss”

      1. Snarcus Aurelius*

        Here are two: no eye contact and you stop sharing any information beyond the bare minimum, including pleasantries.

        With a former boss of mine, I couldn’t share anything with him because he never handled it well or he wanted to start an argument about how I was wrong. By the time I left, I couldn’t even ask him about the traffic or the day of the week because he’d argue with me. “Today is NOT Monday! Check your calendar!”

        When I gave my two weeks, he was blindsided. (Seriously?)

      2. Anonie*

        I would like to see that one or I should say I would like my boss to see that one!

      3. A Non*

        How about body language – with one boss, I realized any time I was sitting next to him in meetings, I would be leaning as far away as comfortably possible in those chairs. Or if it was just the two of us, I’d have my arms and legs crossed, while also leaning forward and perching on the edge of the chair. It was the same attitude as a cornered cat. I tried to make myself stop it, because it was important to play nice in that situation, but ten seconds later I’d be back in the same pose again. It was physically difficult to uncross my arms. I’ve never heard my gut instincts speak so clearly!

      4. My Scintillating Pseudonym*

        Here’s one I found myself doing: You lie about personal stuff just to shut down the conversation. I had one boss who I’m pretty sure meant well, but she just sucked the life out of me with every new topic. “So have you found a new apartment yet? But don’t you have to be out by the end of the month? But how are you going to find a place? Okay…but you need to find a place. Where will you live otherwise?” Every. Damn. Day. And when am I going to start dating again, have I tried going online, what about joining a club or taking a class, etc.

        So finally I just told her I found a place up in [Town] and dropped the subject. It worked, so I made up a casual boyfriend. Then I said I was taking a certain class as a prerequisite for grad school (another thing she’d been pushing me on). I would have needed to take another class after that, so it bought me a school year reprieve. My stress level went WAY down. But when you start lying about inconsequential things just to not talk to someone, that’s a bad relationship.

        1. Anon for this*

          Yes. Looking back, I’m realizing that I probably alienated my boss by shutting down personal conversations. Her oversharing, and her transparent attempts to prompt me to overshare too, made me really uncomfortable, as did her obvious need for not just approval but enthusiasm.

          I’ve never before had a boss who so clearly wanted to be my friend. I went along with it initially because I didn’t really think through the effect of not having some boundaries in place. Now I’m trying to put up some boundaries–because the attempts at friendship started to feel intrusive–and she’s likely reading that distancing as dislike. Which it kind of is, honestly. If not for the work relationship, I’d never choose to spend time with her. We’re just very, very different people.

      5. LJL*

        Oh, please do! That would be great. BE sure to include the sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when working in close proximity with the boss. That was my first clue.

    1. Esra*

      This is a great idea. Some people you know you don’t like right off the bat, but with others it takes time. When it’s a work relationship, there are even more factors in play.

  11. Tammy*

    I know all about this situation first hand. I worked for a boss that didn’t like me and I didn’t really like her. It started within the first couple weeks of working for her. I ended up staying for 3 years, but it was miserable and very stressful to go to work each day. I did look for a different position outside the company since it was a small office. Finally after finding all the small mistakes I made, some were a stretch, I was fired. It was a big relief for me and my health has improved tremendously since then. So, what I’m saying is that it can’t always be fixed and sometimes it’s best to just move on to a new position away from that boss if personalities don’t mesh.

  12. Snarkus Ariellius*

    But before you do any of this, shouldn’t you suss out whether your boss just plain hates you?  Because if that’s the case, then nothing you do will remedy the situation.

    I recommend my standard strategy of switching names on work.  For example, I asked a coworker, who was in good with the boss, if we could switch names on our work.  She happily agreed.  The boss continued to publicly rip “my” work apart will coworker’s needed little to no edits.

    And everyone else in our small office knew we’d switched names so the boss didn’t look the best.

    That’s when I knew there was literally nothing I could have done.  I wish I hadn’t exhausted all other options before.  Waste of time.

    1. LQ*

      I accidentally did something like this once in college. A friend wrote an exam answer about something I’d mentioned many times in class. The teacher graded the exam with a D, and then crossed out the D and put a note to the effect of “Whoops, thought you were someone else.” And then gave it an A. We did go in and complain to his boss (there was a whole lot of harassment going on in that class for what the class was supposed to be about!). But I’m not sure I’d advocate for intentionally doing it in business environment. What do you have to gain?

      1. Snarkus Ariellius*

        Clarity and relief. Comfort in knowing it was a game I was never going to win. I could stop trying and find another job because it was my only option. Plus her comments obviously weren’t about my or my coworker’s work. It was about whoever she liked at the time.

        1. LQ*

          Figuring out that means it is time to move on does make a lot of sense. (Especially after you explained how it came about.)

        1. LQ*

          His boss pretty much just said hm a lot and listened and then the teacher was not invited back for the next year. (I know that wasn’t the only problem but it was certainly a part of an established pattern.)

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I deliberately did something like this in high school. I could not figure out why I kept getting D minus on my labs.
        So I deliberately copied my friend’s work and passed it in. Her teacher gave her an A. My teacher gave me a D minus. It was the exact same thing- even the same diagrams.
        I went to my guidance counselor and told him what I had done. I got transferred out of that lab and to a different teacher. I even went as far as saying I would redo the lab and write it in my own words. Neither the next teacher nor my guidance counselor made me redo the lab work. I got Bs on all my labs for the rest of the year.

        I had to find the answer to what was going on.

    2. Snarkus Ariellius*

      I also want to add that my approach didn’t start out that way.  My favored coworker wrote something for me to give to the boss to review.  I did.  The boss assumed I’d written it, and she began laying into me.  When I said, “I’ll pass that feedback to Favored Coworker,” she looked startled.  “Whaaa…?  WHAT?” was all she said.  Then she glared at me, threw the paper at me, and stomped off.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Dang, she sounds like a total biatch. Did you ever figure out what her problem was with you?

        1. Snarcus Aurelius*

          Nope. I just gave up trying because I was never going to know the answer. She could like a worker for one minute, one day, one year or one decade and then BOOM turn on them. Suddenly whatever it is you were doing before is now wrong and has been wrong all along.

          I haven’t talked to my Favored Coworker in awhile. I wonder if she is now the redheaded stepchild.

          1. GCL*

            Wow. You sound like you worked at my old job. That sounds like my old manager to a T. The situation was so bad I would either have vomiting or panic attacks when I got a few blocks from the workplace every morning. And this woman personally recruited me. I think as time went on, we both lost respect for each other.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Oh, to be a fly on the wall to see that one. The truth always bubbles to the surface.
        I am sorry this happened to you, SA, but I am glad you got to clearly see that your boss was behaving like an idiot.

  13. LQ*

    Can your boss not like you and you still do fine at work?

    I think I’ve worked in that situation. My boss didn’t like me much, but my work was always good and there was no legit reason to complain and when it was time for raises and promotions there was only reason to put me forward.

    We never would have (never did) hang out or say anything beyond very formal pleasantries but it wasn’t a problem.

    1. anon for this*

      When you worked for a boss who didn’t much like you, was there disparity between how she related to others and how she related to you? In other words, could you tell that she liked other people but didn’t like you, or did it feel like she didn’t like anybody?

      1. LQ*

        The boss was super friendly with a couple of coworkers, endlessly chatting and being …personable? I guess with them about personal things, what I’d think of as a friend more than a boss, but clearly liked them. Bought them holiday gifts etc. But overall they didn’t get better projects or more raises than I did.

        Honestly for me it was a great work relationship. But I also think that the boss didn’t like me much.

        1. A Non*

          There is a middle ground between liking someone and disliking them. I have (and have had) quite a few coworkers that I work with quite effectively, but didn’t make friends with. I’d be fine with a boss falling in that category.

        2. LJL*

          It’s possible to not care for a person on an individual basis, but to respect that person and work well with her. I think it’s a very professional way to conduct things.

    2. Ruffingit*

      I would agree that never hanging out or saying anything beyond formal pleasantries is not a bad thing when it comes to boss/subordinate relationships.

      That said, it is helpful to have something of a more friendly (not friends, but friendly) relationship with the boss. I’ve just found there are some people who have walls up emotionally and you’re never getting past the formal stage with them. That’s just how they are. And then you have people who don’t like you personally, but respect your work so you have a surface relationship that is distant, but respectful. That works OK too.

      1. LQ*

        I totally agree, and I liked the distance/formality of our relationship.

        It might also be that this boss was responding to me in the manner I came off (but that’s much more emotionally complex than the boss ever was) so since I was formal and polite, boss was as well. But the boss wasn’t that nuanced in interactions.

    3. Jennifer*

      It probably depends on the boss. I’ve been lucky to have good bosses. I had one that was kind of so-so on me (and vice versa, to be honest–he was a nice enough dude but he got thrown into a management role and that might just not have suited him), but it wasn’t personal–I just wasn’t his cup of tea for whatever reason. And he treated me neutrally, which was fine.

      On the other hand, there are some folks who will take it out on others. And as the other poster said, was there a disparity in treatment?

      And yeah, some bosses just don’t like anybody. I know someone who works for someone who is just cranky at everyone most of the time and I keep telling them it’s not personal–she just hates all humans!

    4. Snarcus Aurelius*

      Your boss doesn’t need to like you. You’re there to do work not happy hour.

      Here’s my take: my boss is my boss not my friend. I prefer that we act in accordance with our relationship. Makes life easier.

      Like has nothing to do with it, although it’s ideal if we like each other.

        1. Snarcus Aurelius*

          That’s a much better distinction. I think that’s what I was trying to say.

  14. Matteus*

    Heh, I wonder if Allison would have a blog at all in the world of Gervais’s “The Invention of Lying” ?

    Boss: Hey, Smith!
    Employee: Yes?
    Boss: I don’t like you.
    Employee: Ok.

    That world may actually be a bit refreshing.

  15. Ruffingit*

    The thing that used to bother me about my old boss was how passive aggressive she was. She could never come right out and say what she wanted principally because what she wanted was not an option. I was a contractor so she could not tell me she wanted me on-site every single day at a particular time. But she hated that I could control my own schedule so she got incredibly passive aggressive with me. It was ridiculous. I didn’t like her personally and it was clear she wasn’t my greatest fan either. Was so glad to get out of that job.

  16. Rat Racer*

    What do good managers of integrity do when they “just don’t like” a direct report, but there is no performance issue per se? I imagine that it would take a lot of self-awareness to push past negative feelings about someone’s personality and be unbiased in evaluative their work. I wonder how many managers do that well?

    Would a manager of integrity try to coach her employee about specific behaviors that are annoying/irksome even though they are not directly work related?

    This isn’t an issue I’ve experienced first hand, but I’m still relatively new to management…

    1. Rayner*

      I’d say if they’re ‘annoying/irksome’ in the way that they affect morale or productivity, then it’s a manager’s job to take care of them, even if they’re not tied to, say, writing reports or whatever.

      If they’re personality quirks – this person is very perky and peppy and the rest of the team is less so, for example – then eh. I’d struggle to see why you could intervene or how you could put it without sounding weird and controlling.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Any time I have supervised people, I have felt that developing a personal opinion of them was not what I was being paid for. Of course you do over time, it’s not avoidable. I would question myself – “This impacts the work, how?” My job was to make sure that everyone a) knew their jobs, b) had what they needed and c) were productive and contributing employees. I tried my best to remain focused on those three areas.

      There were a few times where I might comment about something in their personal lives, but it would have to be over the top. For example: I had one individual bragging about doing X. Where X is an illegal activity. Others were complaining and finally she got the best of me, I was annoyed. (This went on for a while. ) So, I told her “We are here to work. X is an at home activity and discussion of X needs to remain at home.” (No, it wasn’t pot or any drugs. It was something else.)

      For the most part, having made up my mind to focus on the work itself really helped me. If I screwed up, I would go an apologize.
      There is something about apologizing that makes you think sharper and grow yourself. Even after the apology was over, I would still be thinking, “How could I handle a similar situation better the next time?”

  17. Lowmantotempole*

    Here’s a big red flag- everyone praises your work but your manager. In my case, I heard the Executive Team LOVED IT, my manager acted as if I had done something wrong. He warned me of my poor performance. I was shocked, so I verified the actual response- he was lying. A manager above him said: “well, he’s obviously jealous.” Still an a-hole no one will manage.

  18. nep*

    Someone might have already touched on this — An important point Alison makes with ‘Does she treat everyone like this or primarily you?’ Often one can get caught up in just reacting to what feels like a pattern of slights, when perhaps the manager behaves similarly with other employees and it’s not about disliking one individual. It’s quite helpful — in many ways, not only in this kind of situation — to observe the manager closely and see how she/he is with others.

  19. J-nonymous*

    What if you’re the boss and you don’t like one of your employees? What should you do?

    I ask because this happened to me. I feel like I had very good justification (employee continually failed to demonstrate empathy, was very negative about any vendors brought into the extended team–and would yell at them(!!), and would frequently behave petulantly with certain teams and certain people in our department).

    I did my best to address and manage the behaviors I wanted to see change, but I always felt like there was an internal tug in me between trying to manage those behaviors and thinking “This is just a person I do not like and do not want on this team.”

    I left that company before having to escalate the employee’s behavior to the point of termination. Among the many reasons I felt ecstatic for leaving that job, I remember thinking, “I don’t have to pretend to like [this employee] anymore.”

    I kinda feel bad about that. Kinda.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That doesn’t sound like it was about personal dislike; it was about you taking issue quite rightly with his performance. Those are appropriate concerns to have as a manager. Ideally you would have addressed those forthrightly with him and required him to change his behavior in order to remain in the role.

      1. J-nonymous*

        I did. Unfortunately, I was undermined my by manager (who was also this employee’s previous manager). I guess it wasn’t about personal dislike, but the employee’s behavior certainly affected my personal opinion.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, there’s a difference between disliking someone because they bring the group down and disliking someone because they wear purple shirts and cut their hair too short.
      The former has everything to do with work. The latter is personal.

  20. Aunt Snow*

    Boy, I had a very toxic boss relationship not too long ago, but it’s not represented here. My department was merged with another, with my manager becoming subordinate to the new manager. The relationship between the two was terrible, and my manager controlled my access to the new manager.

    I didn’t even KNOW this woman, and it became evident that she hated me. It was like I was a proxy for the manager I directly reported to. After she retired, and I reported to the new manager, it was clear that she hated me, even though I hardly ever came into contact with her. It was really weird.

  21. Anonymous*

    My boss in my first professional job didn’t like me. I couldn’t get meetings with her, she wouldn’t give feedback, she made veiled snarky comments, and she was always ‘too busy’ to go over questions I had about my work (which made me look bad to the big boss) but she had time to go to lunch with her other report a couple times a week. Never went to lunch with me the whole 2 years I worked for her. Made me feel like I sucked because ‘everyone loves her.’ Found out later not everyone did.

  22. Anonymous K*

    I have issues with my boss’ wife and I’m stuck in a position where I can’t complain to the boss because again, it’s his wife and I might end up out of job. Also my bosses do drugs while on the job and I seriously don’t appreciate that. They also love to talk about seniority but when it comes down to asking for more hours, I get turned down in some round about way, but then this new girl gets 40+ hours easy. I’m at my wits end and just want to flat out quit in the most inconveniencing way possible. Also about 4 of their most valued employees all quit so that’s huge red flags to me. When I asked them about it before they quit, they all complained about the same general things.

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