Part of being a boss is having difficult conversations. But managers are human, and while they should be tackling difficult or awkward topics head-on, in reality plenty of them shy away from it.
Here are 10 things that your boss might be too uncomfortable to say to you:
1. You talk too much in meetings. Before you take up the group’s time at the next meeting, ask yourself whether everyone there really needs to hear what you’re about to say.
2. You're spending too much time on Facebook. You might think it doesn’t impact your productivity, but most managers are sure it does. They don’t want to see you logged into Facebook or other social networking sites when you’re supposed to be focused on work.
3. You're too emotional. If you routinely get upset, offended, or angry, your boss might dread giving you critical feedback, to the point of avoiding it altogether—which will put you at a huge disadvantage. You want to know what you could be doing better, and you’re more likely to hear it if you don’t make it difficult for your boss to tell you.
4. You dress inappropriately. Especially if you’re a female employee with a male manager, you might never be alerted that your necklines are unprofessionally low. But that doesn’t mean that people aren’t noticing and taking you less seriously because of it.
5. Your attitude sucks. If you're high-maintenance or complain frequently or don’t ever take ownership for your work, your boss probably considers you a pain to deal with. Guess what that means for you? Less interesting assignments, less flexibility, lower raises, and ending up at the top of the list if cuts ever need to be made.
6. There's a reason you're being micromanaged. Your manager might love to back off if only you'd stay more on top of things, stop letting things fall through the cracks, and generally be someone she can rely on more. She’s hovering because you haven’t given her reason to trust you.
7. You bring your personal life to the office in ways that make people uncomfortable. If you’re making personal calls that involve yelling, swearing, or crying, or if you’re regularly telling your co-workers about your latest marital fight (or latest hot date), it’s a safe bet that people around you are cringing.
8. Your bias shows, and it makes you less credible. Most managers can tell when you’re not playing it straight with them. The way to have real credibility with your boss is to be vigilant about putting all the facts on the table when you're talking through an issue, and even be candid about your own biases.
9. Your co-worker earned that special treatment. Sometimes the reason that your co-worker gets to come in late or get better projects than you might be that she worked all weekend and regularly outshines you with her work.
10. You don't need to agree so much. Good bosses want to hear differing opinions. If you can tell that you're on a different page than your boss—about a project, how realistic a deadline is, or the best way to deal with a difficult client—don’t ignore that difference. Bringing your different outlooks to the surface and explicitly talking about it may reveal that one of you has information that the other doesn't have, which can result in one of you changing your stance. Plus, if you stay silent and it turns out later that you were right, your boss may be irked that you didn't tell her about the case for proceeding differently.
Now, to be clear, a good boss won’t stay quiet on any of these topics. But there are plenty of not-so-good bosses out there. And you probably know if you have one.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.