It’s natural to want to be liked. It starts in childhood. As we become more self-aware, we also become aware of others. We begin to crave attention and approval from our parents, teachers and friends.
This same need follows us into adulthood and the workplace. We naturally hope that our superiors see us in a favourable light. Sometimes, though, we get the distinct feeling that something isn’t right.
Sometimes feeling unsure or uncomfortable at work is due to feeling left out or disliked in the workplace. In previous blog posts, I have explored toxic workplace issues including bullying and harassment, which are common reasons behind employee resignations.
“I swear, my boss hates me.” It can feel that way sometimes. Not everyone will get along at work, but the uncomfortable sense of not being liked by a boss can be a matter of perception. If you feel like your boss just doesn’t like you, there may be more going on than you realize.
1. Pessimism, Negativity, or an Inability to Give Positive Feedback
If you ask a pessimistic person if he or she is a pessimist, most often the answer you’ll get “No, I’m a realist.” Unfortunately, when it comes to leadership, a little positivity goes a long way, and a little negativity can be incredibly destructive.
We all want to hear “Good job.” Some people can’t help but point out the negative. They feel anxious about pointing out what else needs to be done. It isn’t personal, but to the employee, this is draining.
Some bosses simply aren’t good at feedback. You can feel like your boss hates you when in fact he or she simply doesn’t know how to give feedback very well.
Some people can’t simply give a compliment without including some factual and helpful, they imagine, criticism, or nudge you onto the next task. “Good job on that report,” is important to hear. “Now that the report is done – the one that took you two weeks of twelve-hour days and working after hours — we need to start on XYZ immediately.”
In this case, it’s not you. This type of boss tends to be difficult for everyone to work with.
2. Micromanaging and Controlling Behaviour
When we are micromanaged, it can make us feel like we are not seen as trustworthy and competent. It leaves us feeling unappreciated, infantilized and demeaned.
It can feel like your boss hates you when he or she constantly disrupts your work and checks in endlessly on your progress. Is it really all about you?
If you think about the bigger picture, you may see that your boss has anxiety about his or her own job security. Often bosses have bosses. Maybe your boss reports to someone who is micromanaging him/her.
If your boss is hovering, anxious, sometimes pushy, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. What are his/her stressors? What kind of pressures is he/she under?
3. Your Boss Is Absent and/or Feeling Overwhelmed
When staff don’t see much of their supervisor it can be just as damaging as micromanaging.
When employees don’t get feedback and timely information and updates, they may feel unappreciated, irrelevant, or worse.
In some cases, employees may start to feel like the boss is avoiding them or hiding something, which can create paranoia and hostility.
The reality may be that the boss is scrambling to keep up with his own work.
Again, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. Often, a boss or manager has a heavy, multi-layered workload that staff may know little about.
4. Interpersonal Skills Need Improvement
In a perfect world, only people with amazing interpersonal skills would make it into management positions. Of course, we all know that this is not that world.
The reality is, promotions are often earned through the application of hard skills. Someone who is good at his/her job is usually the one to get promoted. But managing well is so often about soft skills like emotional intelligence and verbal communication. If these are lacking, it can feel like your boss hates you.
When a supervisor consistently avoids eye contact, is socially awkward, and misreads social cues an employee might interpret their interactions as unfriendly. There could be other reasons.
A boss who interrupts or does not listen attentively may come off as disrespectful and rude. Occasionally this is more about the boss’s inability to focus than a personal dislike.
Our modern workplaces are complicated. Many of us are trying very hard to do much more with much less. When possible, it’s important to view these issues rationally rather than emotionally.
How Do I Know If It’s Actually Me?
If you are the only one who experiences this kind of treatment you may have a genuine personality conflict with your supervisor.
Daily tension and discomfort is stressful and can lead to depression, other illnesses, and stress leave.
What can you do?
Some organizations have access to formal conflict resolution. If you like the organization for which you work and you want to try to make it work, this is an option.
Organizations with an EAP program may be able to help by setting you up with counselling, including assertiveness training if needed.
On the other hand, if you just want out and you want to make the best possible move, a career coach is your best bet. I can help you figure out what to do next and the best way to do it.
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