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Green Flags in a Manager: How to Spot ThemFeatured

I’ve had over six managers in my almost ten years of working full-time and have had some great bosses and some bosses that taught me a lot about the type of manager I wanted to become.

Your relationship with your boss can significantly impact your mental, emotional, and physical health, and they help determine your feeling of psychological safety in the workplace.

In this age where we often talk about toxicity in people/ourselves, the workplace, and are quick to name red flags, I wanted to share the fastest way I’ve been able to assess for green flags in a boss: pay attention to their behavioral cues.

Here are the bright green flags that have given me success.

They respect your space and time

  • Respecting someone’s space can look different in a lot of ways. A good boss can be someone who encourages you to take PTO (and also models that behavior) without asking anything about what the time off will entail.
  • They run effective meetings in a tight timeframe to not take more of your time. Agendas are fleshed out for every meeting. They recognize what needs to be moved offline and know when/how to move on.
  • They know when to get out of your way. A good manager knows when they need to step in/provide more direction and feedback. But they also are aware of their part in the process and help remove themselves from becoming an obstacle in your timeline and on your project.
  • They accept that time and workflows can look different on some days, and they are not interested in tracking you and your time. You’re an employee and human outside of work, not a minion to the team.
  • They anticipate and check in on your workload, know how to say “no” or “not now” to teammates, and can shelve projects for later.

Servant leadership

Servant leadership is where a leader’s goal is to serve those around them. This is a powerful green flag because it shows humbleness and character behind your manager, and a will to contribute to something bigger than themselves.

  • A servant leader is there to support their direct reports, and doesn’t have a problem pitching in to help a team member with a project.
  • They acknowledge that your success is the team’s success. They will not just say that they support you, but they will actively work with you to problem solve.
  • They feel comfortable sharing power and value, and thus team members’ sense of morale, importance, and engagement is higher.
  • They are not threatened by your ambition or growth. They don’t want you to just stay and do the role, they want to see you try new things, and are ok with failure.
  • They are inclusive of diversity in thinking and style. They accept that their opinion is not always the right one, they check in with others, and know how to let go and let others lead.

Care for team/department/company culture

I find that these green flags can be more subtle and can also happen behind closed doors.

  • They go to bat for you and for others. When you’ve put in a lot of work into something and it’s not being recognized or when you’ve been thrown under the bus, they’re in your corner advocating.
  • They make sure to celebrate you/teammates personally and professionally. Whether it’s doing something for your birthday, a work anniversary, completion of a big work project, covering when they’re sick, it is so important to make sure that they are recognizing and valuing you as an individual.
  • Standing up/voicing for the kind of company culture that they want/will tolerate. Many people want to make sure to conform to senior leaders and their expectations, but a good manager knows that they have a seat at the table in creating a workplace culture, and they will show people how they want to be treated/and what kind of behavior is unprofessional.
  • A good manager cares what it’s like to work with team members at the peer level. On a cultural level, they will want to get a sense of how the working experience can be in order to get an honest and fair assessment of each team member.

There are several behavioral cues to look out for when scoping out the green flags of a manager. Your day-to-day relationship with your supervisor can make you feel drained each day or leave you feeling free and empowered. The only way I’ve found the right fit has been by tapping into my observational skills, listening to my intuition, and paying attention to their behavior and how others experience them.

These are just a few of my overarching themes that I’ve grouped together as my green flags (also got help from friends: TY Lauren, Ilyssa and Kelsey!)

What do you think are the green flags in a manager? I’d love to hear what you’ve seen, experienced, and learned from your life or even from others!

Thank you so much for sharing :) <3
I love this! I have had so many managers in my career (at one company, I had 6 managers in 2 years!), so I definitely have noticed green flags:1. They respect your life outside of work. My best managers have always made it clear that my family and my health should always be my #1 priority. I never had to worry about whether or not I'd be able to take time off for a family emergency, a doctor's appointment, an illness, etc. 2. They work with you to help you achieve your career goals. If you want to be on a management track, they let you know exactly which steps you'll need to take to make that happen. If you want a promotion and a raise, they work with you to make sure you hit all of the benchmarks you will need to earn them. 3. They are transparent. Amazing managers all aways open an honest about why decisions that are impacting your role have been made. They're also honest about your performance, so you never feel nervous about being blindsided in a performance review. 4. They back you up. If something negative happens at work, you know that you can bring it to your manager first and that they will help you correct the issue (and fight on your behalf if it needs to get escalated above you).
Transparency! Yes -- openness and honesty are so beneficial in knowing where you stand and allows better decision-making on your end.
Great article, Sara! I love the specific examples.
@danasimonsen, thank you for reading and supporting!
A fantastic list, and the best managers have done all of these. I think we need to start socializing people asking these questions during job interviews, and anticipate that anyone in positions of senior leadership consider all of these and especially company culture if they want to retain their talent.
What are some good questions outside of “what’s your management style” to gage this in an interview?
I recently asked, "tell me about a time when you gave a direct report feedback and helped them improve their work." I received a blank stare (suspected I would) and won't be said if this company turns me down.
I recently asked… “Tell me about a time when you advocated for someone you managed” and got a great answer about past management style
That's a good one.
@srinaldi, you really captured it well. "They are not threatened by your ambition or growth. They don’t want you to just stay and do the role, they want to see you try new things, ..." Yes, I have worked with at least two managers who fit into this description. Working with them encourages me to expand in skill and knowledge, as well as plan for life beyond the organization.
"Working with them encourages me to expand in skill and knowledge, as well as plan for life beyond the organization" 👏 👏 that is good leadership right there
this is amazing, thanks for sharing!
They connect you to the WHYs, not just the whats and how-tos. They help to ground your work in the company's mission.
Amazing article thanks for the positivity and break down of what to look for. I’m starting a new job and on green alert for signs like these
@Jillyee - good luck, you got it!
Other examples: me! 🙂😂But seriously, this is great, and I go out of my way after having a fair share of 💩 managers to get it right.I also make sure that my team is comfortable giving me hard feedback, correcting me, or even going over my head if they feel it's necessary. Ideally, they won't need to do that, but I want to make sure they know that if they have to, do it.
This is so great. I've tried reading "how to be a good manager" books and they are not necessarily great (dare I say training folks to be robots). Let's lead with empathy and compassion.
1. Kindness to others who are, "below," them, from waitstaff to admin assistants, etc. It shocks me how many people I thought I really liked turn out to treat waitstaff or service people or admin assistants terribly. It truly reveals something about the character. 2. Power that others respect, not something they need to talk about. Managing is like being a parent, but with adults. 3. Generosity to people when it counts. Making allowances when necessary helps show a person's good judgement. Generosity in general is a good trait, but in pressing situations, it helps one to see a manager's willingness to work as well, or cover for a team member. 4. Awareness of their environment and ability to use that. Being aware and able to observe keenly is strangely not a common talent. Politics are an integral part of the workspace, and a manager must be able to move within that space with ease, without creating tension or factions.
These are great observations Sara! I'd add that - they ask you what matters to you? They do their best to align your work with work that's important to you.They coach you to expand your thinking & capabilities.They sponsor you - and help you build relationships across the company that can help support your learning & progress.
Excellent list - so many qualities I have strived to exemplify in past management roles and also those that I have created intention around for future leadership opportunities.
It sounds like you worked for the boss I had at Meta. LOL. I was a DEI Comms Specialist and she was the best manager I've ever had, before or since. I was actually a 60/40 split between her and another manager on the comms team, who was equally incredible. I'd say it was the best year of my life. I was the least depressed I've ever been, before or since. :)
Managers who keep their promises are a green flag for me—which means they know which promises they CAN keep, versus the ones they can’t. Honesty and follow-through goes a long way!
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It's really sad that we live in a world where we have to call out these things as "green flags" for a manager. I feel like all of these points are just respecting the people you work with as human beings :(.
Truly, but managers are humans being paid to have power over a certain group of people each day. No one is perfect, and it matters who one gets along with on a day-to-day basis.
My manager has the attributes listed above, but does not have any directional input on how I can be a better professional in my field and does not have clear definitions for our team's success/impact. I would add that a good manager is one who can communicate company strategy and align the team's work to that as well!