How to figure out what your reticent boss really thinks of you

18th Aug 2017
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Appreciation is an important part of employee engagement. But so is making space for individual traits, even in bosses. I have seen a lot of introverted bosses, bosses with incredibly high standards, or just plain reticent ones. They know a good job when they see it, but expecting them to spell it out for you frequently? That’s a rare quality, and most young professionals must learn to make peace with that. External approval and appreciation is all very well – all of us need it once in a while – but I can’t overstate the importance of finding it within you to know you are doing a good job, or being able to read subtle signs of appreciation.

Do you have a boss who doesn’t frequently tell you you’re great? Maybe he or she is doing things differently, and you need to read between the lines. Keep an eye out for the following behaviours.

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

They give you more work

I am often surprised when employees say they are overloaded or given more responsibility because “the boss hates them”. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Most bosses care about their jobs and reputation, and if they didn’t think you were capable of taking on more, they would not come to you. It is in fact often a sign of appreciation.

That being said, if your responsibilities are increasing but your income is not, you might want to bring it up in a one-on-one conversation. More often than not, you will get what you deserve, as long as you are assertive enough to spell it out.

They ask how things are going

Not all managers are forthcoming with compliments, but if they check in with you on how things are going work-wise, chances are they are making an effort to retain you.

They take your input

If a project in your area of expertise comes in and your boss takes your input on the way forward, rest assured that he or she values your input. Bosses are not known to waste their time on inputs from low-performers or people they don’t appreciate very much.

They expect better from you

Let’s say the boss gives you tough love about slacking off. In our rush to judge authoritative figures, we often seem to attribute this behaviour to bias. In fact, chances are that your boss expects more from you because you have raised the bar for yourself. Hardly something to complain about, is it?

They ask you to train others

This is yet another responsibility that often falsely falls in the category of “he is asking me because he hates me”. Hardly. Your boss probably thinks there are good things to learn from you. It is really up to you how you showcase your leadership and coaching skills and shine when given this opportunity.

You’re the one they give the least number of compliments and thank-you notes

Several old-school bosses consider appreciation as a tool for encouragement. They expect the high-performers to know they are doing well and don’t feel the need to spell it out all the time. While this is not an ideal scenario, because everyone likes a little external validation now and then, evaluate if you get appreciation in things that matter, such as when you deliver impactful work or during appraisal. High-performers should not ideally need thank-you notes every other day.

They are hands-off as far as your work is concerned

I know this from personal experience. One of my bosses from a few years ago and I just couldn’t see eye to eye on anything. We disagreed on most things, from people management to flexibility right down to our industry expertise and work styles. So we rarely crossed paths. It would have been a lot more challenging if she was not completely hands-off as far as my clients and practice group were concerned. A micro-manager for the most part, it came as a pleasant surprise when she chose to let me lead completely independently, even as a mid-level manager. I understood that she knew I could handle things on my own, and didn’t feel the need for any more validation or appreciation from her, apart from the appraisal discussions of course.

Often, a hands-off manager is a sign of trust. You don’t always need to think of it as being hung out to dry, especially if you get help when you ask for it.

Often, workplace conflict reeks of our own insecurities as much as it does of the other party’s. It takes a positive mindset to make things work for yourself instead of seeking external validation for every small task. Try it – it can be very rewarding.

Read Also: Seven signs of having an exceptional boss

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