Ahh, your boss. They hired you. They trained you (maybe). They delegate, supervise, and review your work and give you productive feedback – or at least in an ideal world they do. They may even be the person you spend most of your working hours with. So it’s completely normal to wonder whether your boss cares about you. Where this “normal” wonder turns problematic is when it turns into rumination and worry, morphing into a form of career sabotage.
To help ease the anxiety of whether your boss genuinely cares about you, here are 6 signs to look for that show they like you as a person and you are worth paying attention to.
#1 Your boss regularly asks you about your life and makes space for you as a human being.
Do you find yourself dreading your weekly meetings with your boss or looking forward to them? Chances are if you enjoy meeting with your boss, it’s because they’ve prioritized getting to know you as a person. When they ask you how your day is going, they care about the answer.
Beyond the casual small talk about your weekend plans, your boss shows genuine curiosity about how you spend your time outside of work. They don’t jump immediately into work mode. They ask you questions about yourself (the non-probing, appropriate kind) and they listen to your response before jumping in about themselves.
#2 Your boss pays attention to what you like and makes you smile.
Similar to making space for you as a whole person (and not a work robot), your boss will pay attention to the things you like and what makes you smile. They will remember the name of your partner, dog, or pet iguana and that you grew up in the Adirondacks of New York. And if they forget, they’ll ask you to remind them.
They will know whether you drink coffee or tea, that you love going to listen to live music, your weekends are filled with DIY home improvement, or whatever else you’re into. Maybe they even send you a Star Wars mask in the mail to make you laugh!
#3 Your boss reminds you to take time off from work and checks in to make sure you are not over working.
Your boss promotes healthy work / life boundaries and insists you take vacation, use your PTO, and take breaks from work. They do not ask you to come to work when you’re sick (even if you don’t have sick days left) and they don’t show up sick either.
Your boss knows the signs of workplace burnout and understands you are happiest and most productive when you are well rested and have time for yourself outside of work. They do not expect you to be on call, checking and responding to email at all hours. They also advocate for the health of your team by challenging unreasonable requests and deadlines.
Your boss also models that they take care of themselves, too, by not sending you emails at midnight, not staying at the office later than everyone else, and not working on the weekends. If they have kid pick-up at 3pm, they put it on their work calendar, highlighting “there is no penalty for having outside commitments here!” and that they care about you being able to uphold commitments outside of work.
#4 Your boss prompts you to set professional goals and helps you achieve them.
Your boss lets you know they see your potential by encouraging you to set career development goals. If your company doesn’t have a system for professional development planning, they sit down with you to talk through what your hopes and intentions are for your career in the next year or two.
And they don’t leave it there. They coach you to define actionable, measurable steps and ask you what resources you need to get there. If you require time outside of work and/or financial resources from the company, they do their best to advocate for you to receive what you need.
Your boss is also aware that your goals may go beyond working with them and at the company. And while this may make them sad (because they like you and know how amazing you are!), they do not hold you back. Instead, they encourage you to set your sights high.
You know your boss believes in you because they challenge you. They give you regular constructive feedback to help you grow in your expertise. They show you they took the time to evaluate your performance and work by writing long-form feedback during your reviews.
#5 Your boss encourages you to lead in your area of expertise and endorses you.
No one likes a micromanager. Or a boss that takes over and takes credit for your ideas and accomplishments.
Surefire evidence your boss cares about you is their encouragement to lead in your expertise, their public endorsements of your remarkable skills, and their open celebration of your successes. They trust you to do your job well and avoid telling you how to approach your work, unless you ask them for their support.
Your boss is also your best advocate, even showing up for you on the days when your imposter syndrome is running high. They use their power, credibility, and visibility to cheer on your strengths and successes in front of leadership, their boss, your colleagues, and industry partners. And they don’t act threatened by it because at the end of the day, they know that when you rise, they rise, too.
#6 Your boss shares openly with you about when they mess up and make mistakes at work.
Lastly, you know your boss genuinely cares about you when they are honest with you, especially when they mess up and make mistakes at work. They show their humanity to you, that they are not immune to mistakes. That way, you feel comfortable taking risks, challenging the status quo, and thinking outside the box. In fact, they nudge you in this direction because they know there is something to be learned and this is the way you all grow together.
What do you do if your boss does not care about you?
Chances are you know what it’s like to have a boss who doesn’t care. If you’re not careful, that can prevent you from seeing any of the six signs I’ve covered here that show your current boss really does like you as a person.
If that’s not the case and your work situation is one where you feel mistreated, not paid attention to, and uncared for, it’s up to you to change your situation. You do not deserve to work for someone who mistreats you or gaslights you. That may mean applying for a new position within the company so you work for a new boss. Or more likely, finding a new job at a different organization. Don’t worry. You’re not alone with this. I can help!
I recommend checking out my course, Promote Yourself Professionally, to learn how you can start building your professional credibility to attract your next great job and the caring boss that comes along with it.