No matter how much of a chatterbox your boss might be, chances are good that she's not telling you everything—because most companies require managers to keep certain types of information confidential. Here are five common things that your manager generally won't tell you about.
1. Your job might be eliminated soon. When companies are planning layoffs, they're often tight-lipped until they've made definite decisions about whose jobs are being cut. In fact, many layoffs are announced on the same day that people are expected to leave. So even if your boss knows that you're going to lose your job—even if she knows that your whole department is losing their jobs, and that even she will be out of work—she generally isn't allowed to share that knowledge until the company makes an official announcement.
2. Your co-worker is in the process of being fired. If you've been wondering how your slacker co-worker who surfs the Internet all day still has a job, and you've been growing increasingly frustrated that your manager lets him get away with it, realize that your manager might be dealing with it behind the scenes. Managers don't generally broadcast their disciplinary actions to others, and in most cases, when someone is in the process of being fired, you won't know about it until it happens. So just because you don't see your manager addressing a performance problem, it doesn't mean that she's not.
3. There's a record of everything you do on your work computer. You have no privacy. Companies increasingly warn employees that they monitor computer usage, but employees often disregard this section of their employee manual—and then are shocked to learn that their employer monitors their email, their Internet usage, and any other activity they do on their work computer, including personal email. You should never use your work computer for anything you don't want your boss to know about—whether it's job-searching, online shopping, complaining about your job, or anything else.
4. Your co-worker is making a lot more money than you because he asked for it. Think salaries are fair and set to equal amounts of money for equal amounts of work? Think again. Your co-worker might be doing the exact same work as you—or even less—but earning significantly more. If your co-worker negotiated better than you did when he was hired, and especially if you didn't negotiate at all, he could now be commanding a much higher salary. However…
5. You could get a raise if you asked for one. You might think that your company will offer you a raise if you deserve one. But more often, you need to ask. Sure, you might get the same cost-of-living increase as everyone else at the start of the year without having to ask for it, but if you want a more sizable raise, one that truly reflects the increase in your value to your employer, you generally need to speak up and ask for it. Don't wait around for your manager to give it to you on her own.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager'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.