1. Great bosses tell you where you stand. They're clear about what you do well and where you need to improve, and they're also clear about how you're doing overall. You never need to wonder what they think of you.
2. Great bosses stand up for you. If your boss's boss or someone in another area of the company is making unreasonable demands, they intervene. If you haven't had a vacation in a year, they make sure you get one. And if you need particular resources to do your job better, they find a way to get them for you.
3. Great bosses don't avoid difficult decisions. They know that their job is to solve problems, not avoid them, so they're willing to have to have tough conversations, make decisions that may be unpopular, and enforce standards and consequences.
4. Great bosses know how to get things done in your organization. There's no overstating the value of manager who knows how to make things happen, whether it's expediting a production process, adding a new staff position, or replacing that incompetent assistant.
5. Great bosses value the right things. They favor people who do good work, not personal friends or suck-ups.
6. Great bosses are challenging while still being reasonable. A great manager will hold people to high standards, but won't demand the impossible or insist that an employee work all weekend for something that easily could wait.
7. Great bosses make it safe for you to be honest with them. Rather than getting defensive or shutting out differing opinions, they create an environment where employees aren't afraid to say that something is a bad idea or that a deadline is unreasonable. In fact, you may hear them thanking a staff member for sharing complaints or concerns--and they really mean it.
8. Great bosses know when to cut you some slack and when to push you harder. They get to know you well enough to recognize when to challenge you to do better--but will also make life easier on you when you need it (for instance, if you're dealing with stress in your personal life).
If you have a boss who fits the picture above, let him or her know! They rarely hear it enough.
Alison Green is the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results. She is chief of staff for the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit lobbying organization, where she oversees day-to-day management of the staff as well as hiring, firing, and staff development. Her writings have been published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Maxim, and dozens of other newspapers. She blogs at Ask a Manager.