My manager can’t be pleased. What gives?!

My manager can’t be pleased. What gives?!

I can’t seem to please my manager. No matter what I do, he seems disappointed and somewhat distant. My work is good and I’ve asked him directly if there’s anything wrong with what I’m doing. He assures me everything is fine but I have this nagging feeling he’s not being upfront with me. What should I do? M.M., Basking Ridge, NJ

While it’s good to pay attention to your intuition, it’s not infallible. In this case, the interpretation you’re putting on his behavior is disempowering for you, eg you’re not meeting his expectations.

Although you certainly want to please your manager, your main goal is to do your job to the best of your ability. Take his feedback on your work at face value and craft an explanation for his behavior that doesn’t take you out of your game. For instance, “he has a lot on his plate and trusts me to involve him when necessary” vs “he’s distant.” Instead of attributing an emotion to his behavior (“disappointed”) instead it’s “he is doing a great job protecting me from all the back and forth that happens at his level.”

It’s important that you maintain your confidence regardless of what’s happening around you. People can feel when you’re unsure and others can start to draw erroneous conclusions based on an impression (much like you’re currently doing with your manager.) Avoid unintended consequences by reminding yourself that you know what you’re doing—as your manager has said—and staying focused on your own agenda.

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