What to do if our boss doesn’t notice your work?

Here’s one of those problems. You’ve been working really hard and the results are there. You beat your quarterly goals, landed that major client, wrote your best proposal yet, or stretched yourself to master a completely new part of your role. Then, you looked around for somebody to recognize what you accomplished—and nothing happened.

Your biggest issue may be that he or she doesn’t have enough time to keep your work on her radar. The first time, it’s easy to chalk it up to a simple oversight. After all, you can’t expect praise for each and every impressive thing you do. But what happens when you consistently work hard and you never even hear a “Good job?” It’s not simply about missing out on praise (though, sure, we all want to be appreciated), you may worry that your manager doesn’t see all you’re doing.

Here are five possible culprits, along with solutions to get your boss to notice your work.

    Is your supervisor constantly shuffling from meeting to meeting and taking one business trip after another? If so, your biggest issue may be that he or she doesn’t have enough time to keep your work on her radar. Her schedule is simply too full to have a casual conversation—let alone a proper check-in meeting—with her staff.

There’s good and bad news here. The good news is that your manager isn’t purposefully shunning you. The bad news is that you only have select opportunities to get noticed.

Solution: Instead of waiting around for your manager to set a meeting, make an appointment with her—in fact, if you can, make it a weekly one. (If need be, go through her assistant.) Many people live and die by their daily agendas, so if you aren’t on the schedule, then they can’t afford to meet with you. However, if you’re on there, they’ll be happy to listen to you. (Once you’re there, use these tips to get your point across.)

Favoritism sucks. You’ve noticed that your supervisor has drinks with two or three of your coworkers—and also loves all of their ideas and suggests they take the lead on exciting new projects. And you’re on the outside looking in.

Truth talk: Managers, like every other human, are pre-programmed toward having favorites. But while you can’t change that they’ll naturally click with certain employees more than others, you can expect that you’ll all be treated equally regardless.

Solution: Keep in mind that it may not be intentional. It could be that your manager connects better with a few people and naturally leans in their direction. (Or, yes, it could be that he blatantly prefers working with people who agree with him.)

We’re all unique in the ways we think, talk, and act. If you have different communications style (e.g., you prefer processing and replying over email and your manager likes spontaneous conversations), the result may be that your boss doesn’t understand you—and you feel your work goes unnoticed.

Solution: Your first step is building stronger communication skills in general. Basics, like looking your manager in the eye when you speak, asking clear questions, and writing concise emails, can improve your back-and-forth.

Next, find ways to navigate differences. If your supervisor is an introvert and you’re an extrovert, then you should look for ways to reach her that are non-invasive (e.g., remember that introverts dislike the phone). If your supervisor’s easily stressed, then you don’t want to use dramatic language. If you make these changes, then when you discuss your recent successes, they’re more likely to respond positively.

Have you made a mistake in the past? Maybe you missed a project deadline or failed to reach an important sales goal? While most people recognize mistakes and then move on, some managers hold grudges, which can make you feel like your work since then is being overlooked.

While most people recognize mistakes and then move on, some managers hold grudges.
Solution: One of the best ways to make a convincing argument is to use facts. Yes, you missed a deadline two months ago—have you beat five since then? So you totally put your foot in your mouth with a client, but have you since smoothly moved to the next stage of the project with them?

Don’t let your mess-up be an elephant in the room. Address it and then prove how you’ve regrouped since. From there, segue to other successes you’ve had recently.

What if you work for someone who’s simply “over it?” You know, the kind of person who has a side project going, or is preparing to retire, or dislikes the company, or is clearly looking for a new job. He’s no longer paying attention to his current role—or employees.

Solution: Your boss is looking ahead—and so should you. In this case, it’s less about getting their attention and more about making sure others know your value. Look for opportunities to collaborate and work across teams and concrete ways to show your impact. You want others to be able to vouch for you and to be able to show your value to whoever you’re reporting to next.

A specific way you can start to do this is to offer to take work off your current manager’s plate. Ask him if there are ways you can step into (either an official or unofficial) mentorship role on your team.

If you want to keep your career trajectory moving forward, you need those at the top to notice you and the work that you do. It’s not always about self-promotion (which is not a bad thing either) as it is about getting noticed. Even great bosses may not find the time to get to know every person working under her chain of command. It’s up to you to find simple ways to make sure that you stand out in great ways that make you impossible to ignore. Once you have the boss’s attention, then it’s up to you to do fantastic work. Keep it up!

Check out my related post: What to do when you thrown under the bus by a co-worker?

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