Does your boss like you? And what if he or she doesn’t? What could that mean for you and your career? Simply put – really bad stuff could be in store for you. The horror stories I have heard from those whose bosses didn’t like him or her are astounding. Devastating performance reviews with no basis, demotions, transfers, being undermined at every turn, long-hours, you name it. Imagine your worst nightmare and like a bad horror flick on the Syfy channel, I’ve seen it made a reality. So, what are the signs that your boss doesn’t like you?

Consider these tell tale signs:

  • “The vague performance review”– A good friend of mine is a rock star at what she does. She routinely posts the highest sales figures every year for her role and has done so for nearly ten years straight. Every sales contest, she wins. And to top it all off, her co-workers love her. She routinely hosts conference calls with all of her colleagues where they share best practices, coordinate their efforts, etc… The problem – her boss doesn’t like her. So, when she recently got her annual performance review, she received “below expectations” scores throughout with no concrete evidence to support his evaluation. His only rationale was “she needs to show more enthusiasm.” As one of the most enthusiastic people I know, this absolutely set her off.The TakeawayIf you are getting vague poor reviews with the only rationale being “your attitude” or “your approach” needs to change, while there is the possibility that those are true, there is also a good chance that your boss simply doesn’t like you.
  • “The demotion”– Another common sign that your boss doesn’t like you is the dreaded demotion. For political reasons or perhaps because of a lack of evidence, your boss may not be willing to fire you even though he or she may not like you. Instead, they may choose to make your life miserable by demoting you significantly below your role. This happened to Brad. Brad was second in command at his office. His boss had promised to take care of him… until he left for a better gig. The new boss decided right away that anyone who was part of the past regime must be “bad.” Brad had always been a loyal and committed employee and had only worked for that company his entire career (25+ years) so the new boss didn’t want to cause a political uproar by firing him. Instead, he chose to reorganize the office and moved Brad from second in command to sales support manager – a role Brad had held 20 years earlier in his career.The Takeaway – If you were associated with someone your boss doesn’t like, he / she may likely decide you too must not be likeable. Watch out for snap judgments based on who you are associated with.
  • “The cold shoulder”– This is a tricky one. Sometimes when we don’t hear from our boss, it’s a sign that things are o.k. However, if you go weeks at a time not seeing or hearing from your boss this could be a sign that they simply don’t want to spend any time with you. Beth had that situation. She had a regularly scheduled call with her boss every Monday morning when they began working together. As it became clearer and clearer to both of them that they did not see eye-to-eye, the calls started getting postponed by her boss. One day, Beth realized it had been nearly two months since they had talked. The next call from her boss was to talk about her outplacement package.The Takeaway – If you can’t get any time with your boss despite your best efforts, be worried – very worried. Even the most insensitive bosses will show a minimum level of effort to meet with their employees upon request. Consider 30 minutes every two weeks as a minimum level of contact – anything under that and your boss may be avoiding you on purpose.
  • “Not being asked to prom / rejection”– From not being invited to significant meetings / events to being humiliated in public, this form of visible rejection is clear to everyone in the office.  Think of it as your worst high school nightmare. Miguel got the unfortunate opportunity to enjoy this first hand. It was clear to Miguel that his new manager immediately clicked with one of Miguel’s direct reports from day one. Not only had his new boss and his direct report both attended the same university, but they even came from the same home town. Despite those initial commonalities, Miguel had no idea how bad it was going to get. Miguel was repeatedly “left back at the office” as his boss opted to take his direct report over Miguel to every senior meeting, conference and “career accelerating” event. In the end, Miguel’s boss was promoted and guess who took his place? Yep, Miguel’s direct report became Miguel’s boss overnight.The Takeaway – If your boss starts to play favorites and it’s not you, be concerned. Research shows that when a boss has a favorite, they pick them to fill an open position 98% of the time. Notice if you aren’t getting the invitations and opportunities that someone in your position “should” be getting. This may be a big red flag that you could end up home permanently on Friday nights.

There you have it.  Those are the big warning signs that your boss isn’t into you. Watch out. If any of those have happened or are currently happening to you, the first step is to name them for what they are – possible threats to you and your career. Next up, we’ll tackle what you can do if you think your boss is playing favorites… and you’re not the favorite. Always a tricky place to be in…