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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

17 Signs You Have a Great Boss

Surprise: It's not necessarily the ones who bring in doughnuts and give you compliments.

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She gives you a challenging project

One of the primary jobs of a boss is to help develop and improve her employees, and a great boss knows just how hard to push you and what assignments will help cultivate your talents, says Lynda Spiegel, a human resources professional and founder of Rising Star Resumes. The new assignment should feel difficult but not completely out of reach, and your boss should be available to give you ongoing guidance and feedback throughout, she adds.

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She takes sick days

Managers can sometimes inadvertently discourage employees from taking needed sick days, says Alison Green, of the blog Ask A Manager and author of How To Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager. “If you have a manager who herself never stays home, and people see her powering through it when she’s sick, that usually makes people feel they’re expected to do the same—even if the manager doesn’t actually feel that way,” she says. Instead, a great boss will stay home and rest when she’s sick and encourage you to do the same.

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He includes you on all relevant emails

Being cc’d on every email can feel like a pain, but a boss that makes sure you’re copied on every email that relates to your job is a good one, says Alexander Lowry, MBA, HR expert and director of Gordon College’s master of science in financial analysis. This shows he is keeping you in the loop so you have all the information you need, plus it lets everyone else on the email thread know that you’re the one they should talk to. Of course, a great boss will only copy you on emails that involve you and your projects, saving you from unnecessary inbox clutter. Check out the 10 subtle things that will get you noticed at work.

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He speaks calmly, even when others are yelling

In an ideal world, everyone would be perfectly civil at all times, but anyone who’s ever worked under a tight deadline or in a challenging office knows that tempers can flare hot and fast. A great boss won’t get sucked into the drama and will be able to speak forcefully without yelling while helping to calm the situation down, says Peter Holmes, an employment law consultant and HR advisor.

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She has an open door communication policy

When challenged, some bosses retreat into their office, perhaps even giving employees the silent treatment, Holmes says. But a good boss will prioritize keeping the lines of communication open, even if she doesn’t particularly like what you have to say. Whether it’s through email, text, chat, or in-person, great bosses make themselves available for regular and timely communication.

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He gives you the credit you deserve

Is there anything worse than busting your butt on a project only to see your boss take all the credit for your hard work in the end? If your boss regularly assigns you “prestigious” work and makes sure you are getting the recognition for it, that’s the sign of a great boss, Holmes says.

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She has a great sense of humor

Laughter is not only the best medicine; it’s also good for business, says Steve Pritchard, human resources manager at Cuuver. A great boss knows how to laugh and share a joke without crossing moral or ethical lines or making anyone uncomfortable, he says.

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She asks about your weekend

Many people dread making office small talk—and with good reason. No one wants a boss who asks prying personal questions. However, a great boss knows how important it is to treat people like, well, people. One way a good boss can demonstrate her care and concern is to ask polite-but-not-overly-personal questions and then really listen to your answers, says Gina Folk, author of 30 Strategies to Ensure Your Team’s Success and creator of the Mentor Up Method. Does she need to know about your weekend diarrhea? No. But she should know and respect that you have a life outside of the office. Make sure you’re avoiding these 15 things your boss wants you to stop saying.

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He seeks out your opinion

Who knows your job better than you do? No one (hopefully!). So when it comes time to assign projects, make decisions, or change direction, a great boss will ask for your input and feedback about how your work is going, Folk says. Great bosses know how to ask the right questions to solicit quality feedback and then integrate all of those opinions into an effective course of action.

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She makes you fix your own mistakes

Having someone else point out your mistakes isn’t exactly the most fun activity, but in a work environment, it’s crucial to improving your skills and getting promoted. Everyone makes mistakes, and a great boss will help you identify yours in a kind way while making suggestions to help you fix them, says Nate Masterson, human resources manager for Maple Holistics. Look out for these 16 signs your boss actually hates you.

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He’s happy to provide explanations

Being told “That’s just the way it is,” “We’ve always done it this way” or, worse, “Stop asking questions” is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to an employee, Masterson says. “Effective leaders are able to address new ideas, see how they fit into the big picture, and share the reasoning for their decisions,” he says. Sometimes a boss may not be able to give you a full explanation, due to privacy or other concerns, but they should still tell you what they can so you’re not left hanging.

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She makes steady eye contact

Looking someone in the eyes while they’re speaking is such a tiny gesture, but it’s hugely important, says Robin Schwartz, a professional in human resources at MFG Jobs. A boss that maintains steady (but not creepy!) eye contact is showing that she’s paying attention and values your time—a definite sign of a great boss. Here are 10 more secrets to being a good boss.

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He gives you regular critiques

The only thing that feels worse than receiving a negative performance review is being surprised with a negative performance review. A great boss will give you consistent feedback, both positive and negative, throughout your projects and the year, says Todd Dewett, PhD, an author and leadership educator. This gives you a chance to course-correct as you go along. Your formal review should be a summary of these things, not a moment where your boss suddenly pulls out all their complaints.

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She gives you a list of her expectations

It’s hard to know what your goals are if you’re never given a target to hit or if that target is constantly changing. To avoid confusion and delay, a great manager will have a conversation early on to help you understand her expectations, the future of the project, and how to avoid foreseeable problems, Dewett says. These are the signs your boss is actually a micromanager.

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He doesn’t freak out if you say something bad about him

Sometimes you just need to vent about your boss. In the best case scenario, you get to get your feelings off your chest and move on, but sometimes that criticism can make it back to your boss through the office grapevine. A great boss will hear it and not freak out, says Jeannette Seibly, executive coach at SeibCo, LLC. If there is a seed of truth to it, he will take the criticism well, and if it’s just angry venting, he’ll understand that and either talk it out with you or let it go. Check out these 16 proven ways to build trust with your boss.

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She stands with an open posture

“People are unconsciously receptive to body language,” says Jesse Harrison, HR expert and CEO of Employee Justice Legal Team. A great boss will use body language to her advantage, conveying friendliness with an open posture (no crossed arms) and a smile, she says. People will often subconsciously mirror the other person’s body language so her openness can encourage you to feel more open as well, she adds.

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He gives you plenty of latitude in your work

Everyone does their best work a little differently. For example, some people work best late at night, on a deadline, while others prefer early morning meetings and lots of lead time. A great boss recognizes these differences and doesn’t micromanage your work, says Carol Wood, people operations director at Homebase. This could mean offering flexible hours, standing desks, headphones for music, quiet conference rooms, or any other concessions that help you get your work done. Next, don’t miss the 50 secrets your boss won’t tell you, but you need to know.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.