13 things that should never surprise a boss

praetorianphoto/Getty ImagesHere are 13 things that should never surprise a boss.

Good bosses don’t need to spy on their employees to know if they’re thinking about quitting.

Certain things should never surprise a good boss. While employees will try to keep their dissatisfaction at work or external job interviews under wraps, managers should know the signs long before they get a resignation letter.

Read more:
26 signs you’re a great boss — even if it doesn’t feel like it

On the flip side, managers shouldn’t be surprised when an employee asks for a raise or more responsibility. Good bosses should make sure to communicate regularly with direct reports so that nothing about an employee’s behaviour comes as a surprise.

Here are 13 things that should never come as a surprise to bosses:

When an employee quits

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If you’re blindsided by an employee’s departure, you’re doing something wrong.

Employees ideally should feel comfortable telling their managers if they feel unhappy or unsatisfied, says Julie Zhuo, author and vice president of product design at Facebook. Unexpected departures can also cause serious disruption to business operations and profits.

Zhuo recommends checking in with employees regularly so you can have a better sense when employees feel dissatisfied: “I wouldn’t want to be surprised and think that somehow they were perfectly happy and that everything was roses when they announced that they’re going to do something else,” Zhou told Business Insider.

When an employee hates you

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If you can’t detect when employees hate them or feel unhappy with your management, there’s a problem.

Although employees work hard to keep their true feelings about a boss secret, managers should be on the lookout for subtle signs there’s dissatisfaction among their ranks (signs range from a lack of eye contact to refusing to smile at you).

Learning when your employees don’t like you can prevent them from quitting and boost productivity, international business speaker and author Michael Kerr told Business Insider. “If your employees are beginning to sound like your moody teenager, then that’s a pretty big red flag,” he said.

When an employee is bored


Good managers always know when employees are spending more time scrolling social media or internet shopping than working.

Employees that are constantly bored will have more of an incentive to quit, Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant,” told Business Insider. If an employee tries telling you they no longer feel challenged, you’d be better off taking them seriously.

When your employee fails

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Employees want to be challenged, so setting them up for failure may help them in the long run.

Jake Poses, CEO of teaching startup JumpRope, purposely gives his younger employees a task that’s too big. The practice of “goal-setting” also occurs at Google, where managers expect employees to fall short of their given tasks.

Expecting failure from employees not only helps challenge them, but also lets you know the true all-stars who can somehow master the assignment.

When an employee comes to you with suggestions on how to improve

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Good managers will expect employees to come to them with suggestions on things they can do better.

Creating a culture where employees feel comfortable coming to you with “feedforward” – or suggestions on how to improve in the future – can improve workplace morale without having awkward conversations about a manager’s shortcomings. In fact, refusing to seek feedback is the biggest mistake leaders can make, a former Google executive Meg Crosby told Business Insider.

“The more CEOs [and leaders] can get that very candid feedback and value that and understand it and think about it as they’re making decisions, the better the decisions they will make,” Crosby said.

What your employee’s weakness is


Employers rarely inquire about their workers’ shortcomings – but they should, says Sarah Wagener, chief people officer at DoorDash.

Wagener encourages managers to create a space where employees feel comfortable talking about their weaknesses. Creating a culture where employees can openly state their weaknesses will allow good managers to help them improve, while helping workers find more avenues for career growth.

Whether you need to fire an employee

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No one likes handing out pink slips, but good managers need to know when to fire an employee: “It’s a necessity if you want to have a thriving business,” says John Rampton, entrepreneur and founder of productivity service Calendar.

When employees are gone more often than not, are argumentative, or customers despise them, these are signs your workers have overstayed their welcome.

Your employee’s ideas for the company

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An effective leader actively seeks out employee input when making big decisions – and good managers should expect employees to feel comfortable expressing their vision for the company.

Humble leaders, including those open to their employees’ ideas and perspectives, facilitate better team performance and inspires team members to work harder.

When a new hire won’t last very long

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Hiring can be a gamble; you never truly know how good an employee is before you hire them.

Good managers, however, stay aware of signs that a new hire won’t make it out of the probation period.

If your new hire won’t talk to team members, strays from company policies, and poaches responsibilities from others, a good manager might have to ask them to leave.

What an employee’s ultimate career goals are

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If you don’t know what your employee’s ultimate career goals are, you are practically handing them a reason to leave.

In fact, talking about career development is crucial to retaining talent, Harvard Business Review reports. HBR found better career development opportunities was the primary reason most employees left for different companies – even above higher pay.

Yet many managers find talking to employees about career development can be time consuming or awkward. To get to know what your employee’s ultimate career objectives are, HBR recommends managers simply bite the bullet and ask.

When you shouldn’t hire someone

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Managers may be torn over whether a forgotten thank-you note calls for disqualification from a job, but there are some clear-cut reasons not to hire a candidate.

If a candidate has poor references, comes unprepared to interviews, and cannot follow job-application directions,JobMonkey argues there should be little to no surprise that the candidate does not take the role seriously enough to be considered.

When an employee asks for a raise

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Getting blindsided by an employee asking for more money can lead to awkward, tricky conversations for managers.

“No manager should go into any review winging it, not just for raise purposes,” Karan Dillon, former editor of the Harvard Business Review, told The Muse.

To better prepare for getting asked about a raise, managers should tell employees before performance reviews whether or not the budget allows for a raise, and put the work in to evaluate whether employee performance exceeds expectations.

When an employee gives you criticism

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Receiving negative feedback from your employees can be a tough pill to swallow. If you’re not expecting the feedback, you run the risk of getting defensive, over-apologizing, and acting on emotion – all ways to ruin your professional reputation, says The Muse.

Instead, good managers should prepare themselves to receive criticism from direct reports. Harvard Business Review suggests forming a group of “loving critics,” or trustworthy sources that will be brutally honest about your performance when asked.

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