You work hard, perform your duties well and are well-liked by your colleagues, but you’re frustrated by your career’s lack of advancement. You may not realize it, but your manager may be to blame.

A good manager should be your biggest supporter; a bad one can be your biggest hurdle. Here are five common signs that your manager is holding you back at work — and the steps you can take to move forward.


You’ve met all of your performance goals, including reducing costs and increasing revenue, so you ask your boss for a raise and he agrees you deserve one. Unfortunately, he says it's up to “the powers that be” to make the final call. That sounds reasonable — until nothing happens.

“Your direct boss is your gateway to opportunities like raises and promotions,” says millennial career expert Jill Jacinto. "Communication is very important." She adds that if your manager tells you now isn’t the right time to ask for a raise, ask him to help you map out a timeline to track your progress for the next three months up to a year. That will provide a formal record of your value, which you’ll be able to present to senior management if necessary.


To err is human and you’ve made your fair share of workplace mistakes, but you’ve used them as learning experiences to improve your performance. The only problem is, your boss doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge your improvement. Career coach Alyson Garrido notes that younger employees especially struggle with this scenario. Her advice is to make sure your boss understands that you are determined to do better.

“Share the lessons you have learned with your boss,” Garrido says. “As well as the procedures you have put in place to keep them from happening again.”

Jacinto notes you should remember that everyone makes mistakes, even your manager. “If someone is getting hung up on your mistakes, the issue might be in your reaction and overall solution,” she says. “Are you the type to brush it under the rug, dismiss it, or pass the buck?” Take steps to earn your manager’s respect by proactively presenting a solution the next time you make a mistake — he or she will likely appreciate the effort.


If you have a manager who plays favorites, you may be eager to ride out the times when you’re in their good graces. But if it’s never you and your teammates are getting all the best projects, your growth opportunities could be stunted.

“Most bosses do not realize they are playing favorites or leaving people out intentionally,” Jacinto says. “And yet high school culture never seems to end.” So she recommends trying to build a congenial relationship with your boss. Do you share any interests? Find some common ground. “Once you have established camaraderie, you need to speak up,” Jacinto says. “Mention you heard Acme company is coming next week and it would be great if you could sit in.”

If your manager tells you now isn’t the right time to ask for a raise, ask him to help you map out a timeline to track your progress.


One of the most frustrating workplace experiences can be dealing with a micromanager — especially one who takes good opportunities from you or changes your work so much that your skills become obscured.

“The best way to work with a micromanager is to foresee their wants,” Jacinto says. “Do they always ask for the sales data on Mondays to be double-checked? Then do it in advance and add your observations.” Make it a habit to be one step ahead of your manager. “People micromanage when they feel out of control,” Jacinto says. “Prove that you are well prepared on the projects set out for you.”

Garrido points out that micromanaging bosses aren’t always a bad thing. “One person's micromanager is another person's supportive mentor,” she says. She notes that when style differences happen with a manager, it's important to set clear expectations for the workflow to ensure that you're both on the same page. “Micromanagers like to stay informed,” Garrido says. “So share with them what’s important to you in your career progression so they can help you get there and help to monitor your progress.”


Your boss praises your performance and says she doesn’t know what she would do without you. Great, right? Yes, if she is also recommending you for promotions or better opportunities in order to retain you. If not, that could spell trouble for your career.

In this case, it may be time to start looking for a new position, Jacinto says. No matter how much she might be singing your praises, it’s clear your manager doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

If moving on isn’t an option, Garrido advises pushing past a manager who wants you to stay put. “Ask for clear criteria: What will it take for you to get to that next level? Or provide your own and ask for their input,” Garrido says. “This will give you measurements to fall back on when review time comes along.”

Recommended Reading