I used to get feedback on 360° assessments that I was unreadable. I didn’t do much about it because I really didn’t see it as a problem. I knew what was going on inside my head and I wasn’t thinking anything bad about any of the people who found me difficult to read. I knew that if something was wrong, I was crystal clear with the person who did whatever it was. I’m a direct person and I was direct with those who made me unhappy. If I wasn’t unhappy, then, despite the fact that I was “unreadable,” everything was OK.
Unfortunately, no one but me had access to what was in my head. My employees created versions of what was going on in my head. Most of those versions not only weren’t correct, they were really way off. I know this because they told me later. After I learned to be more obvious about what was going on in my head. After I learned to be direct to people who were doing things right. People stop being scared of what is going on in your head when they know that you’ll tell them.
This post is about signs that your boss really DOES have a problem with you. How do you know what is going on in your bosses head when it isn’t obvious? You have to look for the more subtle signs. The first thing you have to do, though, is to give your boss the benefit of the doubt. Assume that your boss is happy with your performance if you don’t see signs otherwise. Some signs to watch out for and to take seriously are:
- If your boss doesn’t meet your eyes. Unless your boss does this with everyone, it isn’t a good sign.
- If your boss avoids you. This one isn’t as straight-forward. Sometimes bosses have cliques or favorites. If s/he spends more time with others than with you, then that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although it’s not necessarily good boss behavior. Pay attention to whether you are the only one on the out. If not, give your boss the benefit of the doubt (we’ll talk another time about how to deal with bosses who have favorites). Assume that things are ok, maybe could be better, but are ok. If, however, your boss really obviously avoids you, then you have a problem.
- If your boss constantly finds fault. Again, is it just you or is s/he this way with everyone? If s/he is like this across the board, then I’d go get another boss, but it isn’t specifically bad for you. If, however, the boss nit picks everything you do, you are in trouble. This could be a style or a communication problem, but whatever it is, it is a problem.
- If your boss gives you worse assignments than anyone else. Sometimes you get harder assignments because your boss thinks you can tackle harder issues than others. If, however, your boss is giving you easier assignments or impossible assignments, then try to figure out why. Are you new at your job,or to the group? Have you not lived up to expectations on previous assignments? On the other hand, do you feel like the assignments that you’re getting are designed to make you fail? The assignments you get should be at least as hard as those given to everyone else or harder if you’re more experienced or trying to get a promotion, but not impossible.
- If your boss always takes someone else’s side. You don’t have a problem if you boss occasionally takes someone else’s side (in fact, that is actually better than if s/he always takes your side). If, however, you are always on the short end of the stick, then you’re got a problem.
- If your boss doesn’t seem comfortable with you. Try not to assume things that aren’t here, but if your boss seems uncomfortable in dealing with you, doesn’t have small social conversations with you, never sits near you when the occasion arises, then you mayhave a problem. (You’ll note that I’m not as clear about this one–bosses are regular people–they can be socially dysfunctional just like the rest of us.)
I hope that you’ve read this list and decided that despite appearances, your boss is just fine with you. That is most likely the case. If you recognize your situation here, then you need to do something about it. Over time, I’ll write about what to do about each one of these situations. If you have a specific situation that you’d like to have my suggestions on, let me know and I’ll give it a go.