I’m grateful to have had many great bosses in the past, and I know from experience how important a good manager is to your career satisfaction and growth. Early on in your working life, this support is especially crucial. Unfortunately, terrible bosses are a dime a dozen, and we’ve all heard horror stories about them. If your boss only looks out for him or herself, how will you know? It can be difficult to tell if your boss is interested in helping you progress within the company or getting their own name out there. Here are eight questions that may help give you some clarity:
1. Does your boss give feedback that helps you improve?
No job is perfect, and part of that reality includes working under different types of managers. Here are some of the most difficult bosses you might encounter during your career: The three types of bosses are those who provide no feedback, only dish out negative comments, and incessantly give false compliments. To be a good manager, you must be able to deliver feedback that is both accurate and helpful.
Workplace strategist Laurie Battaglia discussed how not receiving feedback from a boss can be hindering to an employee. “You have no idea whether you are doing things right, wrong, or have any chance of promotion,” she says. “When you ask, they put you off or just say, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing!’ ‘Keep doing what you’re doing’ is great only if you know what that is.” A boss who never provides positive feedback can be just as detrimental.“All you hear is what you’re doing wrong, never what you’re doing right,” Battaglia says. “This leaves you with an ‘I can’t do anything right’ point of view.”
There is no difference between a boss who gives endless praise and the other two bosses. “I used to work for a non-profit and had a boss who would always praise us, kept telling us what a great staff we were,” writer Mickey Gast tells me. “The thing is, this praising machine would not listen to our feedback, dismissed our carefully worded complaints, and basically buried his head in the sand when it came to suggestions. It felt great for a couple of months, until I realized that praising loud and often was his way of saying ‘I hope this makes you happy, because I sure won’t follow up with anything else.’” A manager who feels the need to constantly praise his or her staff is not only ineffective but will also hinder your development as an employee.
2. Does your boss take the time to get to know you and what your goals are?
“A boss who doesn’t care about your interests won’t take the time to get to know you on a personal level,” business coach Jennifer Reitmeyer says. “She won’t concern herself with learning about your background beyond what’s included on your resume, your goals, or your vision for your career and your life. A caring boss will take time to learn about what you’re trying to accomplish in your career, both short-term and long-term.” If you’re looking to get promoted at your job, it’s important that you have a conversation early on with your boss about your goals for this current position as well as future positions. If they refuse to talk about it with you, that should be considered a red flag.
3. Does your boss listen, and follow up on good ideas?
“The best clues to whether your boss is an advocate in your career, or an antagonist, is her execution on your good ideas,” tech entrepreneur Felicite Moorman says. “Does she prioritize your ideas? Does she offer meaningful, well-thought feedback? Does she forward those good ideas in serious ways? Does she credit you to your peers, her peers, and superiors? And finally, execution. Do you see your good ideas come to fruition, accomplishments you can point to in the future?”
4. Does your boss provide you with chances to progress outside of your normal work hours?
A good boss thinks about your professional development, whether it’s inviting you to a networking event or letting you know about a company fund for taking classes. “A caring boss will provide opportunities for skill-sharpening, like seminars, workshops, or online resources,” Reitmeyer says. “A boss who isn’t interested in your career development won’t offer opportunities for you to ‘spread your wings’ and learn new skills, especially if those skills won’t directly benefit your boss.”
5. Is your boss willing to take responsibility for the errors of his or her subordinates?
A great boss understands that it is their responsibility to own up to the team’s mistakes and will not try to pass the blame. “A boss who doesn’t care about you won’t hesitate to blame you for his or her own shortcomings—disorganization, poor communication skills, or lack of productivity,” Reitmeyer says. “Watch out, the bus will be coming for you at every opportunity!” A great boss understands the importance of teamwork and will always give credit to his or her employees for their accomplishments, no matter how big or small.
6. Does your boss often put you in charge of special projects?
As small business coach, Lisa Baker-King explains, “Special projects are reserved for those who are ‘high-potential’ employees.’” If your boss does assign you special tasks, she says, “this is a test that your boss believes you will pass.” If your boss only wants you to stick to the basics of your job, he or she may not be letting you reach your potential.
7. Does your boss know how to utilize each of their employee’s strengths?
“Good leaders are always looking for ways to move their people forward,” management consultant Gerry Seymour says. “They understand the strengths and interests of each player on their team and give them tasks and opportunities that build on those. A bad manager, on the other hand, doesn’t bother with leadership. He pushes people to do what he wants done, without regard to their strengths. This results in poorer performance, higher job stress, and usually longer hours for everyone on the team. A good warning sign to watch for: your boss is ‘helping’ you advance toward a promotion you don’t want. A good leader would already know your goals and would be leading you toward those. A bad manager just picks a direction for you, without regard for your personal inclination.”