I manage someone who’s upset that his employees don’t give him praise and validation

A reader writes:

I’m an executive. One of my direct reports (a manager) is frustrated that his team doesn’t acknowledge his input/skills/expertise. It’s as though he wants his team to give him positive feedback and validation.

My feeling is that it’s very unlikely to happen. Even great managers wouldn’t hear their team say “thanks for the great job you do managing me.”

I provide consistent positive, specific feedback on his work. I really feel like I’m missing something. I don’t understand his motivation, or how to help him see his expectations aren’t realistic.

I wrote back and asked, “What is he saying/doing exactly that has brought this complaint to your attention?”

We had an open discussion. I could see he was troubled by something, and it’s not the first time he’s raised it. He said things like:

* “My team are negative. I want them to focus on the positive work we’ve done.” (referring to when they suggest improvements)

* “I work up an idea, delegate the implementation, then they take the credit as though it was their own idea.”

* “They never say anything nice to me about my management, even though I constantly give them positive feedback, opportunities, etc.”

I reiterated that his team, and the organization, have a huge amount of respect for him and his skill set, and that as his line manager, I see all those things he feels his team miss. His team are high performing.

Yeah, this is weird — and some of this raises red flags about him as a manager.

It’s one thing to feel like the job of managing can be pretty thankless at times. It can be. Sometimes managers spend a lot of time, energy, and political capital doing things that benefit their staff, and people seem to take it as their due rather than something to appreciate — which can be understandably frustrating.

But that’s part of the job. The reward is supposed to be that by being a good manager, you and your team get more impressive results in the realm you’re responsible for, and you can then parlay those results into recognition from the management above you. It’s unrealistic, though, to expect your staff to provide that recognition for you. It’s nice if they do — but that’s a bonus, not something a manager should be upset if they don’t get.

It’s even more worrisome that when his employees suggest improvements, he thinks they’re being negative. He should want employees who think about how to improve things and are willing to speak up. And sure, that can go too far if it becomes disruptive and keeps people from focusing on bigger priorities, but that doesn’t sound like the case here. It sounds like he just wants them talking more about what they like, rather what they think could be done better … which is unrealistic. That’s just not how people work.

About his complaints that his team implements his ideas and then takes credit — that’s exactly what he should want to see. They’re taking credit because they feel ownership over their work (which is good) and they’re invested in it (also good) and because they did the work of implementing (which is usually much more intensive than coming up with the idea). Good managers give their team credit when things go well, and it’s troubling that he’s feeling territorial about that.

How is he as a manager generally? I’m skeptical that someone who thinks this way is managing really effectively, particularly given that he seems to resent his team for behaving normally. I’d take all of this as a flag to dig into how he’s actually managing people.

Also, how experienced of a manager is he? If he’s been managing for a while, what you’re seeing might be signs that he’s burned out on it. Or if he’s a newer manager, these may be signs that he needs serious coaching about what the job is and how he needs to approach the role.

If nothing else, though, it sounds like you need to give him a pretty blunt reality check. You’ve told him that people respect him and his skills. But instead of continuing to reassure him, I’d lay out the points above very explicitly. Tell him–  without sugarcoating — that he needs to welcome it when his staff suggests improvements. Tell him that part of being a manager is giving his team credit for work they implement. And tell him to stop looking to his team for feedback on his performance, because that’s going to come from above him and he can’t put that kind of pressure on his team; even if his expectations of them are unspoken, it’s pretty likely that they can sense how he feels.

You might even say directly, “You know, this is what the job is. You’re not going to get much thanks from your team most of the time, you need to let them take credit for work they do, and you need to encourage them to raise problems. If you’re looking for them to praise you or give you credit for the team’s work, you may never get that. To thrive in a management role, you have to be okay with those things. If you don’t think you can live reasonably happily with that reality, it might be that the role will never be a comfortable match.”

Right now I think you might be coddling him a bit; you’re focused on trying to make him feel better. Instead, focus on what he’s revealing about his mindset with these complaints and what’s really going on with his management, and get to the crux of it: Knowing that this is the job and it’s not likely to work the way he wishes it would, can he do it happily and effectively?

{ 175 comments… read them below }

  1. Ellex*

    This got me thinking about what, when, and to whom I talk about my manager (who is great). I don’t generally tell my manager that I think she’s great – I tell new people starting in my department, people in other departments, family, people I worked with elsewhere that I’m still in contact with, and so on.

    I have, a couple of times, told my manager explicitly and to her face that I think she’s great. I’ve told her a few times that I think a particular idea she wants to implement is a great idea that should solve problems. But most of my feedback isn’t explicit. She asks me to take on an extra task and I tell her “no problem” and “I’m happy to help out”. I leave the occasional piece of candy on her desk. I try to do good work because I like this job and I like this manager, and I know that the best way to make both of us look good is by getting stuff done, and done well.

    But a manager that asks for, and complains about the lack of, explicit praise from their subordinates? That really rubs me wrong. That’s a lack of self-confidence that’s concerning in a manager, and a lack of understanding of how the manager/subordinate relationship works that makes me wonder what else this manager doesn’t understand about work relationships.

    1. Castawidenets*

      Completely agree. Being a good manager is its own reward, as far as your own direct reports are concerned – ideally, it leads to happy, productive employees who do excellent work and want to stay on your team.

      1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

        Leading to praise and recognition from you own manager. Praise, like gifts, should generally only flow downwards

        1. uranus wars*

          Right! My employees doing their jobs very well with limited feedback IS leading to direct feedback from my boss that my department is doing well and meeting goals. It’s also them reinforcing I am doing a good job as a manager without the works; the less they complain and the more they come to me with problem solving or general new ideas tells me I make them feel like they are a part of the team and that I appreciate their work!

        2. CMart*

          It’s just so weird for praise to flow upwards, too. Thanks, sure. I’ve thanked my managers for securing me opportunities to do things, for putting in a good word for me, for being flexible and generous with work/life balance stuff. But never “wow you’re such a great manager, you’re doing a great job”.

          Coming from a subordinate to me that would feel almost condescending? Like when my toddler praises me for washing my hands. Thanks kid, I’ve been doing this for a while and am the expert in the room, but I’m glad you approve.

          Upon reflection I suppose I have given positive feedback about managers’ styles in annual review settings. At my current company they’re designed both for manager feedback to the employee but also for employee feedback about the working relationship. But even then it wasn’t, as OP framed it “saying nice things” about their management really, it was “this and that are working well, the other thing less so but I know where you’re coming from.”

          1. Artemesia*

            You have the nail on the head for me here; I was trying to think why the OP’s letter was so oofy. And it is this. It is condescending for a subordinate to validate the work of the boss. It is of course nice to thank them for good things they do for you, but day in and day out, if you are having to tell them are doing a good job, it IS precisely like that toddler praising Mommy for washing her hands. The subordinate is not the judge of the boss’s performance and giving routine approval will come across as presumptuous and condescending, because it IS.

            1. Harvey 6-3.5*

              I agree in most cases. In my specific type of work, my manager and his managers (up the line until near the top) are really both managers and colleagues, so I can give them specific praise without it being condescending. But in the normal workplace, absolutely.

            2. Jordijojo*

              I do think managers should value employees’ opinions of their performance and I don’t think it’s presumptuous for an employee to share feedback (within reason). I’m not a manager, but I know what a good manager does because I’ve been managed by both fantastic ones and terribles ones. I’ve shared feedback with my manager at the end of projects and I don’t think anyone felt it was condescending or presumptuous. Obviously I’m not doing it every week though, so it depends what you mean by “routine approval”.

              1. SarahTheEntwife*

                I think it’s less condescending when it’s something very specific rather than just essentially thanking them for being competent. Saying that a project went well because of X or that you appreciate Y system gives them actual data in terms of what would be good to continue going forward.

          2. alphabet soup*

            Agreed. I think giving praise to a manager either comes off as condescending or like you’re sucking up. Neither is a good look.

            I try to remind myself to let my manager know when their guidance was helpful, but that’s the closest to praise I’d feel comfortable giving.

          3. dumblewald*

            Exactly this. I was so confused as to why this manager wants this type of praise in the first place. I would either feel insulted or suspect that the employee was trying to suck up to me.

          4. Rumbakalao*

            The toddler comparison is a really great one, and it makes sense as to why the manager in this letter is rubbing me the wrong way.

            The only time I’ve given feedback to a supervisor is when they specifically asked me to, on their way out in their last week at the company. Day to day though, general feedback like “oh yeah that’s a good idea” or “thanks for thinking of that/me/her/etc.” is pretty much the extent. Managers shouldn’t be looking for that from their reports- they need to take that to their own boss just like their reports do.

        3. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          I disagree. I think it can be really helpful in a company to have feedback from employees to managers. Sometimes that feedback will be praise like “hey, that X process we implemented with the team is really working out great, and is preventing the staff from having to work on Saturdays”. Other times it will be more constructive like “Can we talk a little more about the roll-out of Y. It’s had a pretty big impact on my workload that I don’t think the team anticipated. How can we alleviate that?”

          1. Mimi Me*

            But to be fair, that doesn’t sound like the kind of feedback the manager is looking for. The fact that he’s not open to suggestions makes me think he’s looking for praise and pats on the backs. I worked with a version of this guy – he was a very needy manager and was always looking for praise. It ended up getting to the point that one of my teammates literally bought gold star stickers so that when he’d come buy fishing for compliments on what an amazing manager he was, she’d say “Guess it’s a gold star day, huh?” and would put it on his shirt. He seemed to think it was praise but it was actually a way to communicate to the rest of the team that he was feeling particularly needy that day and to try to avoid engaging further. Dude would wear it all day too.

            1. dumblewald*

              This reminds me of The Office where the new interns learned that Andy really liked “enthusiasm”, and learned to clap at anything he said or did!

          2. CJM*

            I don’t think this manager would,be satisfied unless his employee says “the idea *you* had was great”. He doesn’t seem to be looking you “the process *we* implemented.”

        4. Mimi Me*

          As I read the letter I actually wondered what this guy is like around holidays and birthdays. If he’s expecting praise to flow upward on a regular basis, what else does he expect?

        5. Doglover*

          I agree that managers should expect praise from their subordinates but I disagree that it’s never appropriate to “praise” your boss. I find myself occasionally saying things like “I really appreciate the way you’ve changed the way we do X during our department meetings because I find they run much smoother now” or “thank you for being so patient and helpful while working with me as I’m learning Y, it’s really helped me feel more confident in this new part of my role.” I hope these types of comments don’t come off as condescending, that’s not my intent. I just think there’s value in explicitly naming things people do that work well and make your life easier, even if they’re your manager. (Though I do think you could over do it, as you could with pretty much anything).

          1. uranus wars*

            I think this praise is fine and I do not find it condescending from a direct report. I also see this more as feedback.

            It sounds like the manager wants praise for routine things, not processes he might have improved. I’m thinking things like “I really appreciate you running that daily report (that we need from you daily)”

    2. Kuododi*

      This manager puts me in mind of elementary school children who are squabbling on the playground. “I don’t want to play with him anymore. He’s being mean to me!”. (Either that or he’s mad that he didn’t get his “participation trophy!”).
      ;)

      1. MommyMD*

        Exactly. And it’s kind of creepy his wittle feelings are hurt because his underlings don’t sing his praises. His attitude is entitled and arrogant. Of course the team will take credit for their own work. He bristles at suggestions. He is looking for validation from subordinates. It’s very strange. As a higher up, it would cause me concern.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          This!

          He’s being ridiculous, and if he can’t learn to adjust his expectations to be more in line with reality, I would have to seriously question whether the role of manager is the right fit for him.

        2. Burned Out Supervisor*

          Makes me think of “Queen Bee” syndrome or he’s trying to cultivate a cult of personality in his department.

    3. Clisby*

      Yes, why would employees give explicit praise/commendations to managers? It’s not like employees get to set expectations for managers, and then regularly give them feedback on how they’re measuring up. If that were the case, employees should regularly be telling managers where they’re coming up short, and banding together to put them on a PIP. That’s not how it works.

      1. Artemesia*

        LOL. Given the sorry statement of management this is funny; most subordinates could profitably be putting their bosses on PIPs.

    4. Bubbleon*

      I don’t even know what I would do if my team started praising me for things that were just a regular part of my job. They’re great employees and I’ve seen the improvements they’ve made based on my training and feedback, so when they get praise from someone else I think to myself “I’m so glad they’re getting recognition for a job well done, and glad I could help them do that”. If my reports then tried to give me credit it would be super weird and uncomfortable.

        1. I Took A Mint*

          This is exactly what I thought. How often does he praise OP? Never? It doesn’t occur to him because he’s not in the mindset of evaluating his own boss’s work (as he should be)? So why would his subordinates do that?

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Well, I could sorta see it.

        “Great work on the Baratheon report, Mary!” (from someone lateral or senior to you)

        “Thanks! I’ve actually learned a lot from Bubbleon–things are going a lot more smoothly than before.”

    5. facepalm*

      It didn’t sound like lack of self confidence, but rather an excess of egotism and self importance

    6. Susan K*

      I was actually planning to ask about this in the open thread this week (and I probably still will) — I really like my boss and I want him to know that I think he’s great, but I’m not sure how to say it in a way that doesn’t make me sound like an ass-kisser.

      1. top secret name*

        thank him for specific things – when he’s gone to bat for you, when you’ve been given a perk or an opportunity – and work at a high level, performing well should be the sign that you respect him and are channeling the positive energy in a work-appropriate way

      2. Midlife Tattoos*

        If you’re specific about the feedback, then it doesn’t sound like ass-kissing. So, for example, “I appreciate the way you are always available to help me troubleshoot issues” rather than, “You are so awesome!”

    7. last_codon*

      The thing is, overpraising might reasonably be perceived as brown nosing. A few sincere expressions of appreciations now and then are great, but a manager can’t rely on their employees for that.

    8. Sleepytime Tea*

      Praise and validation, like gifts, should generally flow downward.

      I’m not a manager, but I can say that the person/people I hope to get praise and validation from are my coworkers and my boss. If it comes from someone outside of that group, it honestly feels extra special, because someone has taken the time to recognize my work, but it’s just that, extra special. They really only see me doing my “regular” job in a lot of ways. I don’t need to get boundless appreciation and have love-fests over the fact that I did my job.

      I will say that I make a point of letting my manager know how great I think he is, because I do believe he goes above and beyond, and I’m just the type of person who will make sure to say thank you when I see someone going above and beyond. But I don’t say “hey, thanks for having that idea that I spent the last 2 months working on implementing.” (That wasn’t meant to sound snarky, but it does just because it’s ridiculous.) I mean… I might say, “thank you for all your extra support while I was working on that project, it made things go a lot smoother.” But again, that’s a going above and beyond thing.

      At the end of the day, while my opinion of my manager’s performance is all nice and good, it’s his boss and his peer’s who see all the behind the curtain stuff.

    9. Works in IT*

      Yeah, my manager praises us, and the other people in charge of departments praise him for how much we are able to do with our shoestring budget department. I can’t think of anything he’s done that would make me give him effusive praise of the sort that he gives us (why are you saying how awesome I am and not praising my coworker when he did just as much work as me, I’m just the one who sent the emails out? And both of us were only doing our jobs, no more or less). Maybe the time when he got the lady who was literally breathing down my neck asking me what she needed to get her last minute thing approved when it had already been approved and we were just trying to figure out a way to get it done to stop doing that and leave me alone so I could do the thing. She was starting to scare me.

    10. Burned Out Supervisor*

      I get positive feedback every once in a while (“I think you’re really great at training” etc) and it always throws me off and makes me feel weird. Part of this is because I have a really hard time accepting compliments and praise (stoic german family) and part of it is that I’m expected to be good at training, etc as part of my job. It’s nice to hear, but I’d prefer my team just show their appreciation by continuing to be their awesome selves.

  2. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’ve seen many complaints in my career, my own included, where one boss takes credit for the efforts of many people, but I’ve never seen a manager complain that his direct reports take credit for his idea.

    Anyway…

    OP, you also have to understand that your reports aren’t responsible for your performance, your recognition or your encouragement. That’s your job for them. When you signed up to be a manager, it’s widely understood that these elements are part of the manager/employee relationship. That’s why you take home a bigger paycheck and/or vacation time. That’s why you get those raises. That’s why you get the plum experience to put on your resume. That’s why you’re higher up on the food chain.

    Finally, I’m confused as to why it’s so important? I work in politics and government, and most of the big bosses I’ve had were truly incompetent. I acknowledge that’s a fact of life in my world because bosses are usually appointed for non-work related reasons. So I don’t give our praise or appreciation because I don’t think it’s warranted. Yet these guys are bothered by my lack of praise or compliments. I don’t get why? I’m a peon. It shouldn’t matter what I think even if it was positive. My feedback changes nothing.

    I don’t understand personality types who need external validation from everyone.

    1. fposte*

      Whereas I understand them, because I love praise. But I also love ice cream, and neither of these things figure prominently in how I manage.

      Some people (and I’ve definitely been in this category) start out in management thinking that the proof of your good management is how much your staff likes and approves of you–as you say, external validation, but a particularly awkward external validation from people who really shouldn’t be looked to for it. It can be a reaction to experience with really hateful managers, or it can just come up on its own, but either way, it’s a red herring that will distract you from actual management. You really have to do your best according to the rules and principles and let the emotions of your staff fall where they may, otherwise you keep chasing approval and end up making effectiveness secondary.

      1. Reba*

        Though I would be interested in learning more about ice cream-based management strategies…

        1. Genny*

          Doug Pederson, head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, apparently uses ice cream as motivation/a reward for the team.

          To the larger point, it can be hard transitioning from action officer to management. There are higher expectations, more ways to upset people (deservedly or undeservedly), less immediate external validation, stricter boundaries between you and lower-level reports, etc. The managers who don’t make the transition become a nightmare to work for. I appreciated Allison pointing out the need to either coach this guy through the transition or recognize the signs of a dysfunctional manager in the making.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Raises would consist of number of gallons of ice cream per month you could eat. A PIP would require consumption of 1 gallon of plain vanilla (no french vanilla/vanilla bean/Madagascar vanilla etc…) per week.

        3. Media Monkey*

          we used to have an ice cream van (do the rest of the world have these or is it just in the UK? like a mobile ice cream seller) that came round near my old work. they have a loud jingle that plays so you know they are there. oldboss used to send someone down to buy ice cream for us on hot days as our aircon was crappy.

          1. CMart*

            We do have those in the US, though we say “ice cream truck” and back in my childhood “the Ice Cream Man”. They sell ice cream/frozen novelties (treats on sticks, mostly, or prepackaged cones) and not scoopable ice creams and also play incredibly loud music. Though the one that came through the neighborhood I grew up in had an old-timey horn and bell.

    2. Kella*

      Just clarifying, the OP is not the manager who’s looking for validation, the OP is the manager of the manager who’s looking for validation.

      1. John B Public*

        Indeed.

        OP, I’m wondering how often this manager you manage has complimented and/or validated you, in or out of the context of complaining about the lack of validation from them?

        In other words, is he also guilty of the “crime” his directs are committing?

        Sometimes flipping the paradigm can help someone see that their problem… isn’t a problem.

  3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    You don’t get into any line of work to be thanked, even people who are in charge of our safety and well beings aren’t given the level of praise and validation. You simply cannot survive this world happily if you expect others to build you up, he sounds like he needs to rethink his career choices if this is bumming him out so hard. It’s only going to lead to resentment and bitterness on his side, which will trickle into his team and they will feel it, it causes tears in the fabric of the department/team.

    It reminds me of the dude on 90 Day Fiance who was mad his fiance didn’t thank him for essentially just being a dad, doing very basic things like holding the baby while she took a shower or something else entirely insanely mundane that doesn’t require a “thank you”.

  4. Stephanie*

    I will say, I wrote my boss a thank-you note for writing me a letter of recommendation for business school, but that was more a “thanks for doing this extra thing you didn’t have to do.'” He seemed genuinely touched. I don’t think he expected it or expects us to thank him for his brilliance, which is what sounds like is the case with OP’s employee.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve thanked my bosses on multiple occasions as well. I’ll fight for my best bosses to this very day and use them as examples of who I want to be as my career evolves.

      They always are humble and happy to hear the praise of course but they always counter act with “it’s because we’re a good team”, we just have each others backs like that.

      Good bosses don’t need praise but do appreciate it, that’s for sure.

      I had one of my old reports write me a birthday card and put a chocolate bar on my desk years ago. It was heartwarming and I appreciated it a lot. I thanked her and we still talk to this day.

      It boils down to “it’s wonderful when someone sincerely wants to go out of their way to thank you and show you appreciation” but “you cannot ever expect that kind of reaction, in the end it’s all a business relationship, all they owe you is to do their job well.”

      1. Life Is Beautiful*

        I will thank my managers often – when they go to bat for me with higher ups, when they bend the rules to accommodate life happens stuff, when they give me an opportunity for a high visibility or stretch assignment. They play an important role in my career and I value what they do for me.
        That said, I never expect the same from my direct reports. It’s my job to help them develop and grow, and I take pride in the good work they do and give them all the kudos/credit when it comes to upper management.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah, I’m guessing you didn’t write him a thank you note for like, posting the schedule on time or approving your timecard this week :D

      1. Stephanie*

        Lollllllll. When I interned in this same department, I was non-exempt, so my then-boss did have to go in and approve my time card. The managers usually never use this system (because the full-time employees are all exempt), so mine would forget. Problem is, we didn’t paid until the managers went in and approved it. Some of the other interns had problems with their bosses going in and approving timecards in time. I almost did want to write him a thank-you note for being on top of that…

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          That’s an awful system and a great way to get sued if you are regularly missing people’s paychecks on their scheduled days! Yikes yikes yikes.

          1. Stephanie*

            Oh, it was terrible. One of the other interns said she didn’t get paid for like six weeks or something.

        2. Someone Else*

          Wow that sounds horrible…it’s also really improbable every single full time employee were both exempt and classified correctly…

      2. Alex the Alchemist*

        I’ll send a quick thank-you whenever my boss fixes my timesheet because our system sucks and always does updates when I’m working the late shift for some reason. He always goes back and makes sure our timesheets line up with what we’ve written down anyway, but I figure it must be time-consuming and a special pain in the neck when the system updates and doesn’t allow employees to clock in/out.

  5. Zona the Great*

    I had this from a professor once. He lost control and admonished us for not recognizing all he did and how little he was paid. Here’s the thing: I didn’t ask him to teach me. I took a class offered to me. I can’t control his pay.

    The manager here needs to know that his team will never recognize him for showing up and doing great work. It’s the minimum expectation most have of their managers.

    1. buttrue???*

      A teacher at my kids’ middle school lectured her class one year on how hard her job was and how they didn’t appreciate her. Just help solidify the fact that she was not one of their favorite teachers.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Never let them see you sweat, gurl! I’m sure that all those pre-teens really felt bad…[sarcasm, middle school aged students are dealing with so many hormones and the such, I’m certain that did her worse than just continuing to be everyone’s least favorite teacher!]

      2. Just Employed Here*

        …and that none of those kids ever plan on becoming a teacher when they grow up, I guess.

      3. Orbit*

        Oh my goodness, there’s more of them. Lol

        My oldest is in jr high last year they had an opportunity for a field trip through gym class (a trip that from what my daughter said no one really wanted to go on). After it was done one of the teachers lectured them on how unappreciative they all were, because none of them had thanked the teacher who organized the trip.

        I’m sure it was extra work for that teacher but expecting seventh graders to thank you for doing you job seems like a stretch.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Oh dear…

          In 9th grade you’re getting to an age when you can start to appreciate how much work goes into planning something like that, but unless their school is some sort of radically transparent model, from their perspective I’m guessing the field trip just sort of happened and might have been arranged by the school administration or been a long-standing thing where the teacher just called up the relevant people and confirmed this year’s date.

    2. Nicelutherangirl*

      Wow. I hope you noted Professor Tantrum’s lack of professionalism on a course evaluation.

    3. M&M's fix lots of Problems*

      So wish I didn’t have this story, but here it is.
      When I was doing my student teaching assignment the professor from the university crossed just about every professional norm that I knew of. He while watching me teach turned to one of the third graders and asked “are you stupid or just incapable of sitting still?” TO A THIRD GRADER!!!!! The student didn’t tell either me or the classroom teacher, but understandably did tell his mom, who was also understandably PISSED. The university professor did admit to the school principal what he had said when confronted about it (because mom was threatening to sue me and the school for what HE said to her son). I suspect that he knocked down my grade because I heard from the College of Ed dean that he wanted to fail me – by this time there was a formal complaint letter from the school I had been teaching at about that professor.
      For anybody who is wondering, yeah, he also “misbehaved” in the other three rooms he was observing a student teacher in that semester, but mine was the worst. He was fired by the university just short of being eligible for a university pension. And that was the only reason that the elementary school in question was willing to take student teachers again (after a one year break, and can anybody really blame them?).

  6. Jamie*

    I sent a thank you note to an old boss once, thanking him very specifically for everything he’d taught me. It was after I became upper management years after I’d last worked for him.

    He was a great manager and taught me so much, but those kind of thanks are never going to come contemporaneously.

    1. serenity*

      This isn’t really fair. This manager’s expectations may be off but he may be a supportive, good manager in other ways we can’t see.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I think it is fair, if you look at Michael Scott over the course of his participation in the series. The first season was a direct copy of the British version, the next season the show grew. Over the seasons, he proved to be multilayered. Particularly if you stick to the issue of this letter. Michael wanted his team to do well, he was happy when they did well. But he wanted them to thank him for it. He thought of himself as a dad, like he’d “parented” them to success, not managed them successfully.

      2. Triplestep*

        I’m going to say that’s unlikely. My last boss needed constant validation about how great a manager she was, and that was only ONE of the things that made her a terrible manager. (Lacked self awareness, talked constantly about having our backs and making us feel valued but never actually did it. Hyper-focused on hierarchy and making her boss out to be an ogre from whom she protected us [he wasn’t], interested in our slip-ups way more than our successes. Lied habitually about stupid, ridiculously inconsequential things … I could go on.)

        I tend to think something like a manager whining that he doesn’t get praise from his staff is not a “bad manager trait” that stands alone. It is ripe for being one of many.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          This sounds like our corporate manager. She talks about transparency and support while she tries to take our work away and do it herself – she mishandles our professionals so badly they’re starting to resign – there’s no logic to her actions that I can see. Her bosses are apparently ok with this since they haven’t stopped her.

      3. dumblewald*

        No this manager sounds EXACTLY like Michael Scott! I thought the same thing. The character’s defining trait was he wanted people to love and admire him. He routinely threw his employees under the bus if his image was threatened in any way.

      4. I Took A Mint*

        And so was Michael Scott! Let’s not forget that his branch performed the best in the region, and the friendly office environment had multiple weddings. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t failing in other areas though.

  7. Prince Humperdink*

    This is definitely weird. I could understand it more if this were a volunteer position of some kind, where praise from the group could be considered a form of currency that helps keep everyone – manager AND managed folks – going on a positive note. But if you’re a manager at a company where that is your JOB for which you are being PAID, well… suck it up, buttercup!

  8. Rose*

    It’s a very human frustration to feel like you’re working hard and no one notices or cares, so I get it somewhat but “praise” (however you interpret that, which is different for everyone is what they value) comes from the top down usually. So Allison’s script that begins ““You know, this is what the job is…” is good. You should emphasize that whatever HIS boss/manager thinks is key.

  9. AnonEMoose*

    I don’t manage people at my paid job. I do manage volunteers as part of my volunteer work. And my initial reaction to him wanting his staff to praise and validate him was: BWAAAHAAHAAAHAAAAAAA…oh…what…he’s SERIOUS?!

    I mean, people do offer thanks and compliments sometimes, but I never expect it.

    And the thing is…I see a lot of my job in this capacity as being a shield for the volunteers I manage. Advocating for them, making sure they have the resources they need to do what they need to, helping them figure out how to proceed when they’re confused, all of that stuff.

    They know what they and some of their direct peers are doing, at least up to a point. But they don’t know everything I’m doing, and they don’t have all the information I have or need to make the decisions I do. And that, to my way of thinking, is how it should be. It’s a tough balance between being transparent, and over-sharing…some things really do need to be confidential.

    Sometimes, yes, it is a thankless job…but I knew that going in, even with no previous management experience. I’m surprised this guy doesn’t know that. It’s not his team’s job to validate him on a regular basis.

  10. Hardcore parkour*

    I’m curious, OP, does this manager ever give you praise for the job you’re doing as his manager? It doesn’t sound like he offers you much validation, nor does he focus on the positive work you’ve done.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      This was exactly what I came here to post. I would love to know how often he gives his own manager the kind of validation he wants from his subordinates. My guess is “never,” and that kind of hypocrisy and lack of self-awareness speaks volumes.

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I think this is good point for OP to use in his discussion with this manager. Ask him what his expectations are for himself. Does he feel the need to praise OP and if so, why? Because he’s a good manager, because he went above, because it’s his duty?

    3. Eskymojo*

      Weirdly enough, he is complimentary about my style and approach. He is also sometimes critical of my style and approach.

  11. DCompliance*

    I am curious as to what made this manager think it is the norm to get this type of praise from employees.

    1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      I came here to raise that issue as well. It might be worth asking the manager why he has these expectations. Did he see some other team work this way? Is that what a former job was like? Maybe having context would be useful in providing a response, e.g., “I understand that that was the atmosphere at your old job, but that isn’t the norm, and it’s not what we do here.”

  12. Legal Beagle*

    If it’s possible to do discreetly, I would check in with some of the manager’s direct reports to see what is actually happening on their team and how effective they feel he is as a manger. This attitude is SO off-base, and I’d bet they already sense it, even if he doesn’t articulate these complaints to them.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, this. I’m skeptical about a lot of stuff here, not least the “they take credit for my work” part.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, that’s weird. I mean, I can conceive of a situation where that would be true, but it sounds like he really isn’t grasping that credit and production are intermingled on a team, and that just because you did some work toward a project doesn’t mean your staffer can’t get credit for it. In fact, one of the managerial challenges is to make sure as much as possible that people outside the team understand who the key contributors are that *aren’t* the manager.

    2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Yes, this.

      That said, in a lot of the places I worked, the good performers could tell when they had a good boss, and at least acknowledged that their boss was expending collateral above and beyond the minimum to advocate for their employees, and the poor performers tended to be the ones who threw snitfits that their birthday giftcard was to Starbucks when they don’t like Starbucks ugh when the boss was under no obligation to give them a giftcard at all for their birthday.

    3. Contracts Killer*

      I agree. And if he was a stellar boss, even if his subordinates didn’t praise him directly, they would be telling other managers and teams and that feedback would have worked its way back to him. Personally, I always hesitate to compliment my boss because it feels borderline condescending.

      A boss that wants to take credit for something where he only supplied the idea, not the implementation, AND doesn’t want feedback on improving processes sounds like a narcissistic jerk. If his team is successful, it’s likely despite him, not because of him.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        We’re heads-down trying to get a new feature out the door. Implementing this thing has been a ton of work. If my manager indicated he was hurt that we weren’t giving him enough credit for HAVING THE IDEA, I don’t think my response would be very polite.

      2. TootsNYC*

        they would be telling other managers and teams and that feedback would have worked its way back to him.

        Yes–this is how I get feedback from my team. And it’s often how I give feedback to my boss.

  13. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    In addition to what others have said, it could be that he doesn’t get praise because his employees feel his praise isn’t genuine and he’s only saying nice things to get them in turn. People can pick up on insincerity or a need to be liked, and it makes them less likely to be positive in response. I’m not saying this is definitely the case, only that it’s something for him to consider.

    He could be a generally nice person who’s just going through a bit of an emotional slump. If so, he’ll be much happier looking elsewhere for emotional fulfilment and keeping work separate from that.

  14. Dust Bunny*

    I’ve never told my supervisor he’s great. but if he asks me to do something extra for him, I’ll do it right now (or at least very soon, depending on time sensitivity), and I’ll do it no matter how tedious and boring it is, and if I have questions about it (or any of my other tasks) I don’t hesitate to ask him for advice because I know he won’t belittle me or play mind games. The reward is that our department will do basically anything for each other, gets along well, and is making big positive changes in our procedures and output.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      As a manager, that’s all I ever want. Is just people to do their jobs, do them well and step up when the time calls for it.

      The thank you is implied by us working as a team and towards our goal of being a highly productive and well oiled business. Everyone shows up, everyone does their part, sometimes you do more if it’s necessary, we all get paid, it’s all good.

    2. Lana Kane*

      I’m a supervisor and this is exactly how I know I’ve made a positive impact. When my staff works with me and each other well. When someone I supervise willingly drops everything to help me with something, that’s all I need in order to know that they appreciate me. Or when they feel comfortable asking questions, or bringing up issues. All of that tells me that there is trust.

    3. Eskymojo*

      That’s a really good point. I think that attitude is lacking in his team at the moment and could be a contributing factor to the need for the kind of validation he’s seeking.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        However, I do wonder if the attitude is lacking because he’s trying to force it, which is really not a good way to cultivate that attitude (and mutual respect) throughout a team/department.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          yeah, that, or it doesn’t look like it “should” look. My department is a pack of massive introverts and we look like we never talk to each other, but we do, sometimes, and we actually all get along very well. But if this manager is expecting something more sparkly, he might be either imagining problems where there aren’t any, or trying to force a bunch of people who don’t naturally act a certain way.

  15. MsMaryMary*

    One of my early managers told me that as you become more senior, and especially as you move into management, you receive less feedback overall and a lot less positive feedback. I have found this to be very true. It’s the nature of the role. You’re expected to do more with less supervision, and it’s natural to recieve less feedback as well. It was helpful to have someone set expectations with me early on.

    That being said, I do make it a point to give positive feedback to good managers, both directly and to their bosses. When I left my last job, I was crystal clear in my exit interview that my direct manager had gone above and beyond to support me and the reasons I for my leaving were beyond his control.

    1. Burned Out Supervisor*

      Absolutely. Even when you try and do nice things for your team, you’re far more likely to get grousing than compliments.

  16. ThePinkLady*

    I was wondering if he was feeling that no-one at all gives him positive feedback, and it was a roundabout way of trying to elicit praise from the OP as his manager – but she’s clear early on that she does exactly that, so it does seem that he simply wants something from his team that managers wouldn’t usually expect.

    OP, have you tried explaining to him that his role in leading a team is to get results, and that their great performance is what he’s judged by as a manager? If he’s recently entered a leadership role, he might not yet have made the mental transition fully, and still be thinking like an individual contributor – in which case he could be looking for feedback specifically about his own performance in that way.

    But if he’s an experienced manager – well, he just sounds like a sulky, insecure and naive individual, and probably not cut out for the sort of role he’s currently fulfilling. I don’t understand why he wouldn’t be proud of leading a team of independent thinking, high performing contributors who *make him look good* by doing what they’re doing, and are probably the kind of people you want to manage, who’ll pull together in a crisis, work smart, and go over and above for the team. I’d be fascinated to know how they view him and the situation. If they’re performing as well as the OP describes, it’s probably despite, rather than because of, him.

  17. Steve C.*

    Praise, like gifts, ought to flow only downhill. It doesn’t take much for appreciating the boss’s hard work to turn into currying favour through flattery, and would be tough to not treat those who provide you with this kind of ego boost with a certain amount of preferentiality. It creates a very problematic power dynamic.

    You can praise your boss at their retirement party. Before that, there needs to be a workplace norm where appropriate scorn is heaped on brownnosers.

  18. GreenDoor*

    I’m a manager and I live by the general idea that I take the heat for the team when things don’t go well but give my team all the credit when things go great. If this person got into management thinking everyone will be bowing to the king, he’s in the wrong position. I agree with AAM, OP needs to more firmly shut down this line of thinking and provide some more coaching. I would be worried that the manager may be showing bias in favor of those who suck up to him and bias against those who don’t. Another sign of bad management…

    1. Lana Kane*

      Absolutely. When I interviewed for my current management position (which is my first), I told my now-manager that my success was dependent on how my teams were doing. If they succeed, then by extension I did as well. If they failed, I had to look to myself first before I looked to them. I’ve been at this a year and I’ve managed to turn around all the teams I supervise, and I think it’s precisely because of this mindset. And guess what – I actually have had direct reports thank me. Not many of them, but even one thank you was a big surprise for me.

  19. Dinopigeon*

    It really sounds like his vision or understanding of management is churning out brilliant ideas, having his team congratulate him on their brilliance, and then implement the idea. Like a sitcom caricature of a manager.

    He’s annoyed that they take ownership of the work instead of carefully crediting it back to him. He’s also annoyed when they come up with their own ideas instead of waiting for his. And he hates that he’s not getting praise for his ideas and decisions.

    Needless to say this is extremely toxic in the long term. It needs to be nipped in the bud.

    1. Marthooh*

      This has been a trope in the USA ever since Thomas Edison: lone genius has brilliant ideas, admiring peons sweat over the nitty-gritty details.

      God is down there in the details, though, as OP seems to realize: “they did the work of implementing (which is usually much more intensive than coming up with the idea).”

  20. Ama*

    Something else that worries me about this manager is the OP’s note that he calls his team “too negative” for suggesting improvements. We don’t necessarily have enough info here to know if those suggestions are realistic or not, but if his team is coming to him with suggestions, they *are* giving him feedback — they’re telling him things could be going better. If he’s not listening because it isn’t what he wants to hear that’s it’s own problem.

    1. fposte*

      Or that they’re invested enough that they’ve found new possibilities. Either way, it’s a good thing, not a cause for complaint.

    2. Lana Kane*

      Like Allison said, this person is either very new to management, or burned out.

      When I was learning the management ropes, the amount of “suggestions” got overwhelming. It could have quickly devolved into me interpreting it as negativity if I hadn’t found a way to cope and prioritize. Some people can also take that stuff personally, like an indictment of their leadership or planning skills.

      Conversely, I’ve seen old timers feel the same way, and it’s a huge sign to me that they probably have put in their time and should be moving on to an individual contributor role.

  21. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

    My ex-boss was like this and it was exhausting. She used to make comments making it clear that she felt we didn’t praise her (extremely substandard) management enough, that the team only functioned because of her (it was despite of her), and generally took every conversation as an opportunity to talk about how wonderful and smart she was. She was so praise needy that she even programmed Alexa to praise her and then told us about it because, “If I can’t get my team to acknowledge my work I need to get it from somewhere and my dogs don’t talk”. It was one of the reasons that 3 out of 5 of her team quit in a 2 month period (and one only stayed because of her visa). There only so much of that you can take before you just get sick of it and if you have an option you leave.

    Your report doesn’t sound as bad as my ExBoss, but I would bet you anything that the feelings about not getting praised enough by the team are perfectly apparent to the team and not appreciated.

    1. Lana Kane*

      I would be willing to bet that your ex-boss knew very well that her team functioned in spite of her, not because of her, and that fueled her need for praise.

      Also – I adore your user name!

      1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

        Aw, thanks!

        That was always the eternal mystery: did she really think she was an unacknowledged superstar or did she recognize her rank incompetence? Then we realized it didn’t matter and quit, which was a shame because we loved the work, all the other employees, and the stakeholders and communities we worked with

      1. Anonymous 5*

        It’s the modern-day “mirror, mirror on the wall…” Hope boss doesn’t try feeding a poisoned apple to whatever other manager is recognized for excellence…

    2. Jennifer*

      ExBoss: Alexa, tell me I’m beautiful and the best manager in the world.

      Alexa: Playing Baby Shark

  22. Threat Level Middle Management*

    I wonder if the needy manager (NM) is confusing his team taking credit for his idea vs. them actually taking credit for execution of the idea. If that’s the case, OP should also explain that those employees did the actual work, so not only can and should they take credit for the work they did, NM should be looking for ways to give them that credit himself. Managers who share the wealth look stronger and more confident (as long as it doesn’t veer into false modesty), and people will want to work for them.

    In addition, ideas so often morph in the execution phase because of what the team brings to the project, so OP may consider bringing that up with NM if it’s applicable. You *want* a team that feels ownership of a project; it’s likely that’s when you’ll get their very best work.

  23. Noah*

    Wait, what? People think it’s okay not to ever express appreciation to your good manager? Apparently, I’ve been doing it wrong.

    Now, maybe this guy is a terrible manager, so that’s hwy he doesn’t get appreciation. But it seems Very Normal to express appreciation when your manager is doing a good job managing you.

    1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

      I don’t think people are saying that. What they are saying is that is isn’t right for a manager to expect praise and appreciation from their team. If you think of praise as gifts it makes it clear why it will be more occassional from employees to managers rather than vice versa

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      No, a lot of us acknowledge thanking our bosses when the time calls for it.

      But the letter seems like he needs more than what is normal to dish out as a staffer. There’s also a power balance issue, you don’t need to be constantly validating and praising the person who makes a higher salary than you who’s just doing their job.

    3. smoke tree*

      This guy seems to expect constant praise and validation from his team and no negative feedback, though. It’s weird enough that he seems to think feedback and support are a two-way street in a managerial relationship, but the fact that he only wants to hear positive feedback makes him sound very needy in general, and like someone who doesn’t understand what management is.

    4. Zona the Great*

      I’ve never thanked a boss, been thanked as a boss, or witnessed someone thank their boss for bossing. Thanks are generally delivered implicitly through action and behavior IME.

      1. Noah*

        So, like if your boss sits down and teaches you how to do something, you don’t say, “Thank you, that was very helpful” or something like that at the end? I try to always do that, and I find people who I manage do it as well. I guess I work at a place where people are extra nice.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Are we talking about the generalized “thank you” you send out to anyone who shows you something? That’s not the “thank you” that I’m seeing as requested in the letter itself but that makes sense why we’re not on the same page on this!

          I always say “thank you” to everyone, ever who hands me anything or instructs me in some way to complete a task. I say “thank you” to someone who sends me a forwarded message to do something as well because that’s just manners. However hearing “Thank you” in that situation doesn’t really convey “You’re an awesome manager and we love you, rah rah rah” that the letter seems to be leaning towards.

        2. Mrs. Fenris*

          I thank my bosses all the time. I once sent a boss an email thanking her for handling a difficult situation, saying that I knew it was hard for her. (The response I got, “I appreciate that more than you will ever know,” was one of the warm-fuzziest moments I’ve ever had at work.) Never have I ever told a boss “good job,” which is what this manager seems to be seeking out.

  24. Officious Intermeddler*

    When I read the first bit of OP’s letter, I had the same response as other commenters–wow, this manager doesn’t understand what it means to be a boss–but the follow up questions made me wonder if OP should think about whether there’s something going on with the subordinates. If you’re managing a team that is constantly sniping at one another, or just repeating the same criticisms about things that can’t be changed for good reasons ad nauseum, that can really wear on a person. Totally agree the manager might be burned out. I also read that second point (team taking credit for his ideas) as ambiguous. Maybe the complaining manager thinks that they’re trying to go over his head to someone higher up, or supplant him, or something else? Maybe OP should take the subordinates’ temperature too before having the very-much-needed meeting with the complaining manager.

  25. Camellia*

    Hmm, I know people that could have written this. There are two teams in my area whose managers send them emails excoriating them for not giving praise to the managers, not nominating the managers for the various (small) awards available, not ‘talking them up’ in front of other people, and so forth. You can bet that this affects the way we think of these managers.

    OP, please work with your manager to get this addressed and, if that proves impossible, manage him out of being a manager, in whatever way makes sense.

    1. Batgirl*

      I worked somewhere where an employee (to the rest of the team’s horror) nominated a manager for one of those awards and we all expected her to be shunned as a brown nose. Nope. He lapped. It. Up.
      So then it was no longer just one person who lost professional respect. I realise it’s lonely at the top, but you can’t expect extra money and then still to remain on the same level and wavelength as everyone else.

  26. Kella*

    I’ve worked in a lot of different kinds of leadership positions, and while some of the people that you’re leading/managing will recognize that you’re good at what you do and appreciate you for it, many aspects of leadership are totally invisible to the majority of people who aren’t doing it. Subordinates might not know enough about managing to recognize when something is being executed skillfully. That’s why your praise comes from those *above* you, the people who know enough about the work you do and how to do that well to accurately judge how you’re doing.

  27. Quickbeam*

    That’s a brilliant assessment. There are some fatal flaws in this guy’s management style if those are his issues.

  28. Work in Progress*

    It’s one thing when it’s a manager (who in this case has a manager above him who IS giving him feedback but wants feedback from his team). That’s bizarre and tone deaf enough. But what do you do when it’s the CEO/founder exhibiting this behavior?

    Such was the case at my old place of employment. CEO actually held a team meeting specifically saying he needed folks to tell him he’s doing a good job and if they don’t want to do it in public, affirmations via Slack would also be accepted. Mind was blown at the cluelessness of it all.

    If you want/need constant thanks and praise (from your overworked and underpaid team no less)… maybe don’t be an entrepreneur? I’ll tell you where that mindset got him… 6 people (out of a team of 6) giving their notice and leaving within 6months. There were lots of other red flags – but this was just the cherry on top of a mountain of incompetent leadership…

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Leaders should draw their validation and warm-fuzzies from their numbers, that’s real stuff. Why do you need someone you’re paying a fraction of your salary to to come at you with hugs and chocolate kisses for a “job well done” or whatever he’s expecting. I’m not going to sit there and text “Good job, good boy, keep it up!” to an executive and I’ll eat someone’s face if they were doing it to me at any level.

      I’m glad this is your former place of employment and others left his sorry butt for greener pastures. That guy sounds like a joke.

      1. Work in Progress*

        I just feel sorry for whatever new replacements he’s got coming in. They’ll figure it out soon enough. Rule 1: don’t ever work somewhere that likes to think of itself as a “manic pixie dream office” (you know… it’s about “culture” and we have free snacks, we’re like a “family”… but your pay is below market rate… “but I promise that’s temporary…”)

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Maybe he’ll luck out and the replacements will fawn all over him and think he’s awesome, just like he’s day dreaming about this entire time! You never know…I’ve seen some weird people fixate and lift up their boss like they’re some kind of God among men. Like those places that collect hundreds of dollars to send their rich bosses on fancy trips that they can afford without crowd-sourcing but “we have to show them we love them and worship at their feet!!!”

          I’ve worked for small businesses, both established and still in ‘start-up’ mode. I keep kicking my boss under the table every time he accidentally refers to us as a “family” despite it being true and not in a dysfunctional way that you’ve ran in to. We actually all really like working here and even outsiders come in and say “Dang, you guys are really prideful of the product and company and it shows.”

          Our benefits package could use some improvement but I can also point to how that’s coming along, instead of just saying “Well we’re working on it…kinda…maybe…possibly [nah it’s just the crap we feed you to get you to come on].”

        2. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

          I’m going to have nightmares about working in a manic-pixie dream office from now on

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      …..my eye twitched at ‘affirmations via Slack would also be accepted.’ Holy crap. I think I’d be tempted to set up an auto-email of “Hey CEO, you’re good at being you!” to be sent at some random time in the morning every so often.

  29. Free Meerkats*

    When I’ve had good things to say about my manager, I didn’t pat them on the head and give them a boss snack while saying, “Who’s the GOODEST Manager? You are, yes you are!”, I told their manager. And I’ve done it a few times.

    Feeling Unappreciated Manager really needs a reality check, as Alison said. No sugar coating, no weasely softening language, just simple, blunt language.

  30. Ferris*

    I would start doing regular skip one-on-ones to see how his employees feel about things. It can’t be fun working for somebody that wants you to kiss up to them.

  31. Jennifer*

    Really good managers are rare (in my experience) so when I have one I make sure they know they are appreciated, especially when I know they went above and beyond to advocate for me. Everyone needs commendation sometimes. I do think that the bulk of their commendation probably should come from those above you, though.

    This situation does seem over the top. I hope the advice helps.

  32. Reluctant Manager*

    I find it helpful to think of management as a service role. I’m there to advocate and clear the way for people who are working really hard and have less agency than they need. There are a lot of conversations where I think, “ It’s part of my job to be the bigger person here.” (If I worked in a less dysfunctional place, there might be more coaching, but for now we just try to get through the day.)

    1. TootsNYC*

      I also think of myself as the support team for the people who work for me.
      “What do they need to do their jobs well? That’s my job to provide it.”

    2. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      I still grieve losing the boss (she moved on and out of here) who sat down in my cube the first time we met, and said “grand boss said you are a rock star and I’m here to remove any and all hurdles you need me to, and stay out of your way otherwise… just let me know how I can help you” (paraphrased). So good.

  33. This one here*

    I wonder if this manager was a “golden boy” at home, or in school. If he was often praised, he may think that’s how it is everywhere and always.

  34. TootsNYC*

    Sometimes coddling people just reinforces the mistaken mindset they’re struggling with.
    In his c
    It reminds me of the epiphany I had when my kid attended an emergency day-care center. Little kids would say, “Mommy, I’m scared of the new place, stay with me!” So mom would stay.
    And I realized that this reaction told them, “You are right that this is a scary place; that’s why I’m staying.” That’s what’s behind the phenomenon of kids who settle in quickly when mom bustles off and leaves them behind (“if this was really a scary place, Mom would stay; she didn’t, so it must be fine”).

    And then there’s the whole “if you give someone reasons why you won’t do something, you are telling them that you AGREE they have a right to approve of disapprove. So don’t give reasons.”

    It’s time to start rejecting the idea that he should get validation from his team–pretty brusquely/amusedly and firmly, I would say.
    Help him start to accept it. And then to think about whether he can find a way to live with it.

    I will say, I have some sympathy for him–I often wish I could hear from my team that they like my management. I praise them a lot, but they don’t praise me (of course not!), but I do so MUCH of my job in ways that I hope will please them, make them glad to work here, make them feel vital and important and appreciated.
    I have to figure out for myself if I’m doing it, and sometimes I wistfully wish I’d get some praise. But I don’t expect it.

    My moom was really good at teaching people how to identify the evidence they were overlooking, so I have been able to say: “These people have stayed in this job when other people would have left; these people have come to me for support in ways they wouldn’t if they thought I was a jerk; these people have said things to other people that have gotten back to me.”

    And I admit, I do treasure the back-channel compliments I get through the grapevine.

    1. Batgirl*

      It’s just not done to go up to your boss and fangirl over the way they do their job.

      Sometimes my old boss (who was genuinely extremely good) would say things like “How is (policy) working out for everyone?” Or “I think we’re getting out of the office at a more sustainable hour. What do we think?” And he would get some feedback on morale that way but you have to be genuinely up for complaints and suggested improvements or that’s simply brown nosing bait.

      I don’t think this guy will hear any affirmations until he starts listening to people’s issues.

  35. ArtK*

    Reminds me a bit of a manager who, in his first team meeting, said “Make me look good and I’ll make you look good.” Sorry son; why don’t you try letting us do our jobs and then we’ll all look good.

    He didn’t last very long. I think that was mostly due to the fact that in the same meeting, he said “If anybody needs drugs, see me.”

  36. Batgirl*

    So…..he’s in it for the glory and adulation? For the amount of loyal, unconditional love people would feel for their boss? Because he occasionally does something positive?

    Good luck with that one, dude. God bless.

  37. StaceyIzMe*

    It almost sounds like he wants to be treated as an equal rather than as a manager: it’s good to extend courtesy and managers SHOULD be thanked for their efforts, skills, insights and contributions. But- if his focus is on “poor me, nobody tells me what a good job I’m doing”, then he’s definitely gone headfirst down the wrong rabbit hole. I’d also be curious to see whether he’s got some “problem people” who are consistently negative in their dealings with him and causing some fatigue in that respect or whether he’s just unable to accept that a lot of his validation is going to be internal or from his own manager. Since he’s been given feedback that he’s not listening to or hearing, I’m betting on the second. If that’s the case, then he needs a course correction or he’s not going to retain either the respect of his team or the objectivity needed to manage well.

  38. pcake*

    Regarding this – * “I work up an idea, delegate the implementation, then they take the credit as though it was their own idea.” I’m wondering if they are his ideas or if, perhaps, everyone worked on them and he’s taking credit.

    In any event, if he’s not an inexperienced manager, he doesn’t seem to have a clue what’s involved in managing or working with people. That would be a big concern to me, not whether he has hurt feelings. The OP said that the team is high performing; were they equally high performing with the previous manager? I guess what I’m getting at is whether his management has anything to do with their performance or whether the team knows their stuff and would work well with any manager who wasn’t actively holding them back.

  39. Former minion of a martyr*

    I’d rather have OP’s manager than the boss I endured who had a festering martyr complex. He wouldn’t coach, he would take tasks away from people while complaining about all the work he had to put in, and then he would criticize them openly and behind their backs for not doing the tasks he told them to stop doing and for not appreciating him for getting shit done. Eventually, he drove off an entire critical team and from what I hear he’s leaning on high performers from other teams to get that work done because it turns out actually he can’t do it all, now those people aren’t getting their real jobs done because they’re picking up slack from Martyr Boss.

    I keep advising several of them to GTFO but the work is fun when it’s not totally toxic and they don’t want to leave.

  40. Anon this time*

    If I were a manager, I would actually *worry* if people were constantly telling me I was great…because those people are suckups!

    In life in general, the most genuine compliments are behind your back. Conversely, the more someone compliments you to your face, the more likely they are saying something else behind your back, in my experience!

  41. LQ*

    I can thank my boss for being nice to me, or doing something I want, or for offering to get the door when my arms are full. But I think I can’t praise my boss for doing his job because I don’t fully understand my boss’s job. This is sort of the other side of the guy asking why why why why why and trying to get someone else to report to him. This is a boss wanting other people to behave as if he reports to them. It’s not ok. It’s not their job. It’s literally above their pay grade to do this.

    1. Cedrus Libani*

      Yep. I can (and do) thank my boss for making my job easier – whether trusting me / having my back on something, having a good idea that helped me get unstuck, or whatever it is. But it would be really weird for me to thank him for just…doing his job. It’s the manager’s job to set priorities, to keep an eye on progress, and to adapt as needed when Murphy’s Law strikes. That’s why he gets paid. It’s not a personal favor that he’s doing on my behalf.

  42. Hiring Mgr*

    This might be a more extreme case, but in general there is very little managerial training out there for a first timer. Far too many companies promote people to supervisory or managerial roles with no training.. I was lucky to have a great mentor that I could learn from, but I don’t blame people for needing time to get their manager sea legs, many of them are going in blind.

  43. msk*

    So how much is this manager praising his own boss? There is no mention in the letter. But if he’s not giving his own boss a lot of upwards positive feedback, then why would he expect his reports to heap praise on him.

    I’ve had direct reports, and frankly, I was thrilled if they didn’t outright hate me! Cooperation was like gold. I would never have expected praise. I have the most wonderful management, but I’ve never praised them. I show that appreciation in doing my best to lighten their load, try to operate as independently as possible and be as forthcoming about project status as I can be.

  44. LGC*

    Okay, so, two disclaimers:

    1) I have my own baggage – the team I supervise excels (as in, for their size they produce a TON of deliverables and revenue), but can get pretty argumentative at times about issues. (Namely, they will alert me of an issue, I will instruct them on how to solve it…and then they’ll continue complaining about it until they don’t have to deal with the issue anymore. Usually, this takes the form of me talking to one employee, and then multiple people chiming in. I’ve had to shut that down more than once.)
    2) That said, I am not winning any Supervisor Of The Year awards, and I own up to that. There are very good reasons Alison wrote the response and I’m being a sassy jerk in the comments section.

    But I’m…actually not entirely sure that the manager’s feelings are totally invalid, which is what it seems like the majority assumption is. More to the point, I’m not sure whether the LW is describing the issue accurately – is it that the manager feels threatened by any criticism, or is it the way that he’s being criticized?

    The manager says he provides positive encouragement, but do his actions back it up? Does he treat his team as if they’re competent?

    Finally, are they actually taking credit for “his own ideas?” Like, does he suggest X verbatim and then Cersei on his team takes credit for it?

    I think that in a vacuum – assuming that the team is “good” – I’d definitely take a deep hard look at his management style. (Frankly, even if there are problems with his team, I still would take a deep hard look at his management style! A lot of times, you can have a dysfunctional team and a dysfunctional manager.) My initial response to this was, “well, yeah, it’s his job to be underappreciated” – I mean, I like it when my team sings my praises, but I’m not expecting them to thank me effusively. (To be quite honest, that makes me feel awkward because it’s not like I’m out here saving lives.) But on a second read…something about LW’s writing style (and I’m not sure whether this was intentional, whether they’re just absent-minded, or something else) struck me as if they were leaving out some relevant information.

    I think that – as presented – yeah, the manager needs to get over himself. But…if I’m not entirely off base, the letter writer might want to circle back to see if their assumption of what the manager said is accurate! To use myself as an example – my team is demanding, but they’re not often wrong. It’s just usually, “LGC THERE’S A PROBLEM,” and then I respond, “this is how you fix it – but if it’s like X then send it back” and then it quiets down for a second and then they encounter it again and the cycle repeats until I’m at the end of my rope.

    (I have tried actually documenting these issues in writing. This does not help.)

  45. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    Recently a friend and I, who work in different disciplines, talked for an hour about how our managers *say* they want ideas, but blow them all off. My boss Sansa even dinged my last evaluation because she said I haven’t offered any improvements. I rebutted truthfully that her response to every suggestion is “That won’t work” or “We do it this way.” A while back I asked for guidance on developing new skills that would be most valuable to the company and was essentially told there’s no point in my case because [insert highly ageist remark here]. But the ones who kiss up to her get a boost from her as she preens. People who don’t have her butt marks on your lips are going nowhere except out the door. We’ve had so much turnover that being there is depressing and demotivating.

  46. Bridget*

    I’ve only told a manager positive things about their managing style if I feel they deserve it. When they actually try to help us, the people they manage be better at our jobs in positive constructive way rather than just try to make themselves look good all the time.

  47. designbot*

    Cue Don Draper saying, “That’s what the **money’s** for!”
    This is why managers get paid more, get the parking space, the bonuses, whatever perks their company offers. That’s the form their thanks takes.

  48. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    Praise and validation at work, like gifts, should generally flow downward. It’s cool to tell your boss that you appreciate them and think they’re awesome, but it’s not the norm and shouldn’t be expected. You show them you appreciate them by working hard, and being willing to go the extra mile when needed. I 100% agree with Alison – dude needs a reality check, and it shouldn’t be sugarcoated at all.

  49. Anon, a moose!*

    I’ve explicitly told my manager they’re great a few times, but that’s because they advocate much more for me than my last manager did– and a) that’s a huge relief to me personally, and b) it feels important to me to flag that I recognize that, because it’s a bit of a subtlety? I’m young in my career but not totally angry level, and I’m only now starting to recognize where stressful parts were really soothed or exacerbated by management choices, where I used to always just blame myself for things going wrong or being unhappy. (Not that it’s productive to blame management all the time, either, but getting a little perspective has helped me cope with stress and advocate for practical change instead of assuming it’s just that I personally am not working hard enough.)

    For me the red flag is expecting *praise* specifically– because I’m not sure that’s really the same as positive feedback. “You’re great!” feels nice to hear, but I think “the way you handled x made it possible for your team to do y” has more impact, and that’s something you’re probably likelier to get from above than from the people on the ground floor.

  50. Okay, great!*

    I had a boss like this. She was the owner (had bought the business and had never managed before) and I was the newly appointed back of house manager. She complained one day that no one was thanking her for the work she was putting in to bring the business back up to speed. I chuckled and said, “I understand since I haven’t been thanked either, but I don’t think that’s how it goes. As long as they are doing the work, communicating with me and with each other, and moral is going up I’m happy. I thought this would help, but no. What she really wanted was for me to start dropping hints to the staff to make sure to thank her. It was apparently a sore spot that came up later.

  51. OrigCassandra*

    In academia, there is a very specific situation in which praise may flow upward: letters of support for promotion/tenure dossiers and award applications. (Possibly grant applications, if the letter of support is speaking to “how well will the grant applicant do the job?”) I’ve written a few of these, and I’ve always been happy to — the people who asked me chose me deliberately and for good reason.

    That aside, though? Same as elsewhere. Thanks flow upward, but not really praise as such.

    (I’m changing my AAM handle a bit; another Cassandra has turned up in the comments who is not me.)

  52. M&M's fix lots of Problems*

    Upfront, I know we are not supposed to diagnose people, but this manager and some of what the OP mentions remind me very strongly of a former co-worker of mine who was battling depression. Could this be a possiblity?
    My former co-worker also claimed that nobody ever said anything positive about her or her work. Nobody would ever give her credit for ideas she came up with. All she ever heard were complaints about what things could be improved. It was hard to work with her and around her because of the negative cloud that followed her around.

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