While some signs of job troubles are fairly obvious (you’re called in for an impromptu review that doesn’t go well, or you’re given a verbal or written warning), there are others that might go unnoticed to the untrained eye. Of course picking up on the subtle clues that your higher-ups are less than satisfied with your work can mean the difference between fixing the mistakes in time and starting a brand new job search.
We checked in with some experts for what they would consider are the subtle signs that someone should be wary of how their job performance is going — and perhaps start making some moves to up their game.
Sign 1: Your boss has to verbally ask for your input
Why it could be a bad sign: To the untrained eye, your boss valuing your input is a good thing — and it is a good thing! — but she shouldn’t have to ask for it. “If you like to sit on the peripheral chairs in meetings and do not often speak up, and if your colleagues or boss subtly nudge you to sit in the so-called central chair or if people are often asking you for your opinion in meetings, it may be time to step up your game,” says Gia Ganesh, a career coach and founder of GiaGanesh.com. Instead of forcing your boss to wonder if you have the potential to say and contribute more, prove it by impressing her with you know-how before she even has to ask.
Sign 2: Your boss has changed the way she treats you socially
Why it could be a bad sign: It’s an obvious bad sign if you’re suddenly looked over for new projects, clients or tasks that in the past you would have always been considered to take the lead on, but it’s also important to pay attention to the way your boss and key co-workers are treating you in general. If they’re not being as social, friendly or cordial as they have been in the past, it may be time to make some changes. “If your boss avoids having meaningful conversations with you about the status of your projects or quality of work, or even to engage in what had been in the past light social discussions, these are signs,” says Fred R. Cooper, founder/managing partner of Compass HR Consulting, LLC. If you find yourself dealing with this type of situation, having a frank, potentially uncomfortable conversation with your supervisor may help salvage your relationships, as well as provide a blueprint for future success and a road map for expectations on both sides moving forward.
Sign 3: You suddenly find yourself being micromanaged
Why it could be a bad sign: Generally it’s a good sign when your boss has enough confidence in your skills to allow you to handle your own projects and deadlines without any additional help. “If your boss is micromanaging you with frequent meetings and overly-detailed comments on your work, it could mean that he or she doesn’t trust you to operate independently,” says Sam McIntire, founder of online learning platform Deskbright. If this happens, McIntire suggests having a transparent conversation with your manager about what aspects of your work you can improve, and what skills and output you need to demonstrate in order to earn autonomy and self-direction. “Your goal should be for your manager to delegate tasks to you and trust that you’ll competently execute them with minimal direction.”
Sign 4: Your boss is unaware of some of your talents
Why it could be a bad sign: If you’ve taken certain courses or classes or had particular experience in a past job that would really come in handy in your current gig, you need to speak up about that. “If you hear from your boss, ‘I had no idea that you did that or know that,’ in reference to some professional work, skill, talent or knowledge, it means you are not tooting your horn enough and it may be another sign to step up your career game,” says Ganesh.
Sign 5: You can’t remember the last time your boss came to you with a time-sensitive issue
Why it could be a bad sign: When there is an urgent, fire-drill type of task that needs doing, does your boss come to you to complete it? If not, it could be that he doesn’t consider you a go-to person. “Ultimately, being an action-oriented problem solver and leader is what is most likely to move your career forward,” says Mike McRitchie, a career and small business strategist. So the next time you see your boss struggling to get something done on a tight deadline, offer to take on the task, or at least check in to see how you can help out — then make your work really stand out.
Sign 6: Your boss has no idea what you’re working on
Why it could be a bad sign: While a little autonomy is a good thing, it’s still essential that your boss knows and understands the value you deliver to the office every single day. “Being a silent giant is not a good place to be,” says Kristi Daniels, an executive career coach and founder of Thrive 9 to 5, LLC. “Even if they’re focused on other priorities, make sure your manager knows your contribution to the team and the organization.”
Sign 7: Your boss or manager describes you in terms that don’t align with how you see yourself
Why it could be a bad sign: Obviously one of the more important aspects of your job is that both you and your boss agree on what your objectives and goals are within your position — if you don’t, that is a problem. “If you don’t brand yourself, someone else will,” Daniels said. “You need to actively demonstrate and share your skills, passions and what you have to offer. You teach others how to talk about you.”