Climbing The Ladder/Work/Life Balance

10 Signs You Have An Exceptionally Good Boss

By | Monday, March 19, 2018

In the corporate world, there is one person that has the power to make your work experience something you look forward to every day, or a living hell. That person is your manager.

We’ve probably all heard horror stories involving a sadistic, lazy, incompetent, and all the while demanding boss that ruined someone’s life at work, or their life period. But we don’t nearly hear enough stories about the great bosses. In fact, between 13-36% of American workers report that they have a dysfunctional (abusive, inept, malicious, etc.) manager.

Honestly, I can probably write a book based on my own experiences, let alone all my friends and families’ stories combined. But that wouldn’t be news to anyone, would it? The truth is, it’s easy to be a bad manager, and very difficult to be a great boss. I sometimes think that, perhaps by default, if we don’t try hard, we are all bad managers. After all, we all have what it takes to be a little self-centered, or insecure, or lazy, or just not give a shit sometimes, amirite?

Great Bosses Are Rarely Talked About

This is what brings me to today’s post: Let’s talk about the qualities that actually make a great boss. In my 10 years of having a corporate career, I’ve had my share of bad as well as great bosses. But almost every single one of my manager has qualities that I respected and appreciated. I reflected on my experience working with all these managers  (and perhaps wondered what they wished I’d known but they wouldn’t tell me…) and came up with 10 signs that indicate you actually have a great boss at work.

How many of these great boss qualities does your current manager have?

Disclaimer: I’m using the pronoun “she” here because I like the way it sounds. In my career, I’ve had exactly six male and six female bosses so far, and the ones that have impacted me most deeply happen to be female. That’s also why I am using the pronoun she. However, some of these characteristics have also belonged to my male bosses.

1. She asks you for your opinion in your area of expertise and values your expertise

It’s an incredibly empowering thing when your manager defers to you in areas of your expertise.  One great boss of mine always managed to do this to give me opportunities to shine and to have the chance to make an impact instead of telling me what to do.

2. She expects a lot from you and trusts in your ability to complete things

It’s not that she is simply laisser-faire and doesn’t like to interfere with your day-to-day. A great boss actually expects a lot from you. She knows that you will put 100% into everything you do and that you will deliver on time. A great boss doesn’t need to constantly check in with you, ask if you’re making progress, or monitor how you’re doing things. She simply trusts you to deliver when the results are due.

3. She protects her people from outside criticism but delivers it individually and tactfully when needed

This is an important characteristic in a manager if she wants a loyal team with members that trust her. She shields her team from others who have directly negative feedback or criticism to her team’s performance. But this protectiveness doesn’t mean she would never deliver criticism. A great boss will still let you know where you need to improve, but her feedback is delivered tactfully, purposefully, and with context.

4. She respects her employees’ time


This is a big one for me, personally. A great boss is a good time-manager and respects everyone’s time around her. She shows up to meetings on time, doesn’t set up excessively long meetings, and always has an agenda for her meetings. She also shields her team from outside projects that are time-sucks or with unclear/indefinite timelines.

5. You look forward to your 1:1 meetings

As an extension of sign #4 — a great boss makes sure your 1:1 meetings are productive and your time together is well utilized. This means when you have questions, she has solutions, or at least suggestions. This means she is an insightful and intentional person and that she respects your time.

6. She makes it a point to always talk about your development & goals and how you are progressing toward them

If there is one quality that all of the great bosses have, it’s this one. At the end of the day, managers manage people, and people need the motivation to keep performing, improving, and evolving. A great boss works with her employees to craft ways to be motivated, i.e. set up development goals. Even when you’re not 100% clear on what your career goals are, a great boss would guide your thinking and help you find your goals.

7. She creates an environment such that the team can thrive in

A great boss creates a strong team. She knows how to provide social glue and bring people together. She brings people closer instead of pushing them farther apart.

8. She always makes time for you and is there when you need her within a reasonable timeframe 

A great boss doesn’t push your meetings off indefinitely or tell you “I don’t have time” without hearing you out first. A great boss is there for her employee in times of need, whether it be with a meeting or a simple phone call. This, however, requires that she is a good manager of her own time, to begin with.

9. She supports your career moves even if it means you move away from her team

This isn’t just about being selfless, or caring, and empathetic about others’ goals. A great boss knows that her ultimate job is to develop a person as a whole, and not just to develop a member of her team. Any person’s development, if it goes well, will surely extend beyond what her team’s function requires of any person on her team. If she sees this, she will be supportive and happy for you when you one day tell her that you have to pursue bigger or different goals or simply goals that don’t fall within her team.

10. She asks for a 30-60-90 day plan at the beginning of a new job

When you are starting a new job, the impact of a great boss is immeasurable. She has the power to set you up to have a thriving future at this new company. An average manager appreciates a 30-60-90 day plan, but a great manager asks for one. Either way, you should always be prepared to do one, but know that if your manager asks for one, it’s likely that she will turn into a great boss.


Does reading this list make you appreciate your current boss more? Did you just realize you have a pretty decent boss yourself? Tell me more below in the comments section!

Jessica is the writer behind personal style blog Cubicle Chic. In her early twenties, she has contemplated many career paths, such as a novelist, a physician assistant, a research scientist, a court translator (English to Mandarin Chinese), and a clinical research specialist. Eventually, she found her passion in marketing communications for life science companies. She continues to cultivate her interest and skills in many other fields, such as writing, career development, and self-improvement, and hopes to help others do the same.

Image via Unsplash

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