My Boss Doesn’t Look At Me

Question to Ask the  Workplace Doctors about boss lack of eye contact.

My boss looks at others when they talk, but she looks away from me.

Signed, Feel I Don’t Count

Dear Feel I Don’t Count:

You are right to feel that eye contact speaks very loudly. We communicate with our body language and we believe what the body says more than words. Most of the nonverbal the rules about how we should communicate with others are unwritten.Your brief question doesn’t provide enough information to explain what has been or what is going on between your boss and you, but it does tell us that your communication with your boss is impoverished. That is to say, you two likely don’t talk enough to each other and when you do, you feel it isn’t friendly.

Can you change that? Possibly. You can start by first looking in the mirror and asking: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, am I doing my assignments the best of all or do I come in late and leave early and just get by?” I don’t know you at all, but it’s always good to look at ourselves before we blame others for not treating us the way we want them to. It is hard to believe that a boss looks past you if you are doing exceptional work. It is hard to believe that the boss doesn’t come close to you if you are clean, neatly dressed and smell good. It is hard to believe that the boss turns her eyes away from you if you have a smile.These thoughts might strike you as unfair because I don’t know you. However, before I point my finger at a boss, it is wise for me to realize that three fingers are pointing back at me. If you talk to the mirror and it tells you to shape up in one way or another, do it.

Second, you can put your mind to work about ways to do your job more effectively. Think up ways to cut wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy and money. Also think up ways to make your coworker and boss’ jobs easier. Do you offer to help others? Do you greet others with a pleasant hello? Do you talk quietly and avoid gossip? Are you generous with please and thank you? Is your work “just a job” or do you approach it as one step in a career, a career that makes a difference?

This is probably more a sermon that you expected, but it is free. So let’s now think about what you might say to your boss? You can request a performance review if you’ve never had one or you can asked to talk with her privately. Use that meeting to ask for ways you might do your job more effectively. Ask if there are things you might do to make her proud that you are in her work group. You can then talk about any of the things she says she wants more or less of in your performance. You can talk about training you might need and how you hope for her support as you try to make your work not just a job.

Most importantly, you can ask how you might be someone that she wants on her team. If she asks, why do you want a performance review or why do you want a meeting, you should have the courage to say, “Boss, or what ever is her name, I want you to see me as a good employee, but most of the time, I feel you don’t know I am alive. You don’t look me in the eye. You look past me as though I don’t count.”Likely, your boss will say something like, “Jane, I don’t look past you. I know you are here and we need you.” You can then say, “I’m glad to hear that. So beginning tomorrow, if it is ok with you, I’ll check in with you in the morning to see if my assignments are any different and before I leave at night, I’ll ask if I’m doing what you want.”

Ideally, your boss will have weekly skull sessions in which she invites your work group to talk about how things have been going, what deserves applause, what you might do to correct mistakes and what’s ahead. Apparently your boss doesn’t do that. I predict that she might if you and your coworkers began to think big. By that I mean if rather than small talk (and some of that makes work go faster), you put your heads together to ask the big questions such as:

· How might we delight our internal and/or external customers?

· Where does our work group fit into making our company successful?

· Are there ways we can really communicate and work more effectively as a team? For a short question this is a long answer.

My hope is that you might not blame your boss or mumble to your self about her. My hope is that rather than see her as your enemy, you will see her as someone with responsibility for you and you will confront and cooperate in ways that will make you feel deserving of her respect. My hope is that you will see your self as one who cares enough about your self that you will hold your head high and see your life and work as one that has purpose. The fact that you wrote us that you want your boss to look at you as she does to others indicates that you feel strongly enough to speak up in your own behalf. That probably, along with some of the other things implied by these remarks, will be required to change the way you are viewed by your boss. I predict that can happen and I look forward to hearing from you again in a couple of weeks about how things are going between you and your boss. Meanwhile, think about how my signature sentence applies to your work group: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden