5 Signs Your Relationship With Your Boss Has Gone Sour

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April 18, 2024 at 7:26AM UTC
When you're in communication with another human being 40 hours a week, you're sure to run into roadblocks in your relationship. That's just a fact of life. If you're here because you worry you've said or done something to rupture a good relationship with your manager, it's worth reminding you that not only is that going to happen every once and a while, but most bumps in the road can also be flattened out. 
All the same, it's worth knowing if your relationship has soured so you can work to correct the course. Here are five surefire signs your managing a fractured relationship with your boss, along with real-life examples of potentially problematic behaviors and how to manage them.  

1. You're being left out. 

If you're increasingly the one left off documents and calendar invites, it may be a sign you're on the rocks with your boss. Being left out is an especially strong sign your relationship has turned sour if your boss has been rerouting assignments to more trusted colleagues or taking you out of visible meetings. 
If this is happening to you, try to correct your course by stepping up and offering to take on something influential, then executing it excellently. If you aren't given that opportunity, have an open discussion with your boss about your current performance and your growth potential and try to address any potential problems that may be causing them to leave you in the dust. 

2. You're being micromanaged. 

If you've noticed your boss wants more receipts than usual of what you're working on or how you're doing your work, they may be struggling to trust you. This lack of trust is especially problematic if it's being taken out in extreme ways that aren't characteristic of your work culture and come without a performance improvement plan, like your boss suddenly asking to be CC'ed on all of your email correspondence or asking you to record time sheets. 
It's not easy to be surveyed like this at work. And sometimes, micromanagement reaches the point of being toxic. In those cases, it's best to start looking for another job. If your work situation feels salvageable, comply with these new standards and ask how you can address the root cause of the asks. For example, are they asking to see your emails because they feel like you don't answer clients correctly? See if you can meet once a week about your outreach strategy instead. This not only shows initiative to fix the problem driving you apart and instills trust, it also keeps your daily life more manageable. 

3. Your boss has been avoiding you. 

If your boss is going out of there way to pass meetings with you on to their colleagues, skip out on 1:1s or send your questions to another team member, it may be a sign your relationship has soured. This is especially true if this rerouting doesn't come with an explanation like an increasingly busy schedule. 
If your boss is skipping out on meetings, make each meeting you do have with them more impactful. Prepare the agenda, get your job done and also schedule in time to reconnect on a personal level. Still if this new schedule isn't working for you and it's going to negatively impact your performance, it's your responsibility to tell them. Have an open conversation about why you need your 1:1s or their help specifically on a project from a performance perspective. Then, as suggested above, make those meetings both comprehensive and connecting. If they're not willing to budge? That relationship is looking toxic. It may be time to start looking elsewhere. 

4. Your casual chat is cut short. 

If you and your boss went from having fun conversations about your lives to radio silence, it's a surefire sign something is up. If you try bridging the gap and ending a meeting with a quick chat just to get shut down, you may have a problem on your hands. 
If this is the only sign you're experiencing, it's important to remember that there's a lot going on in your manager's life that has nothing to do with you. They might be busy, distracted or just going through a period of time where they don't really want to talk. If your relationship goes from congenial to truly cold, there's no harm in continuing to try. Don't pry or expend too much energy trying to get on their good side — you can never please everyone — but continue to bring up commonalities, include some call backs to previous conversations or talk about something they love at the end of your meetings or across the office. 

5. You're catching more criticism.

If every comment you make is met with critique — especially in public settings — it's a sign your boss is faltering in their trust with you. The same can be said if your work product is increasingly not good enough for their standards or if you're getting critical comments on small aspects of your job that weren't previously under a microscope. If these comments are going beyond constructive to just plain mean, it's a sign your relationship has moved from sour to just toxic. It might be time to abort mission. 
If this is your situation and it's hitting you hard, take note of your bosses comments and have an open conversation about how this communication is you. Come to the conversation ready to use "I" statements and an performance-based approach ("It's hard for me to contribute to the team when I feel discouraged from speaking up in meetings, can we change their structure to make them more inclusive?"). If this change is really the result of petty behavior on their end, this conversation will hopefully put things in perspective for them. 

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