As a manager, if you want to really know what your boss, staff, peers, and clients are thinking, learn to look for the invisible. I don’t mean like in the movie “The Invisible Man.” I mean, look for the unwritten and unspoken signs, both good and bad, that can give you insights into people’s personal agendas, positive and negative feelings toward you, your company and others.

As a manager, if you want to really know what your boss, staff, peers, and clients are thinking, learn to look for the invisible. I don’t mean like in the movie “The Invisible Man.” I mean, look for the unwritten and unspoken signs, both good and bad, that can give you insights into people’s personal agendas, positive and negative feelings toward you, your company and others. For example:




Clients that don’t order products as often as they previously have.

Peers and staff members that are being overly friendly to you just before a company reorganization.

Cross glances between fellow employees that may denote more than just a professional relationship.

Your boss distancing himself/herself from you just before a company layoff.

A member of your staff positioning himself/herself to replace you.

Internal politics within your department for choice projects and assignments.

If you don’t pay attention to these office subtleties, the above behaviors are easy to miss and in this case, what you don’t know can hurt you. My point here is not to spy on your fellow employees or to look for clandestine conspiracies within your office. My point is simply to open your eyes and look around.


Consider the following questions:




If your employees only tell you good news, does that mean there is no bad news or that they are afraid to tell you?

If a major client is buying less materials from you, does that mean he/she needs less products or that they have begun using a second vendor?

If your peers are being overly nice to you, does that mean they think you will be promoted?

If you don’t seem to be the go-to person for your boss anymore, does this mean he/she has lost confidence in you?

There are various things that you can do to help position yourself to see these subtle, seemingly invisible forces.




Be very prepared for meetings. That way, you can spend your meeting time observing other participants in the meeting rather than trying to figure out what to say next.

Don’t gossip, it’s not good business, but listen to what is being said. In some cases, the gossip will be true, in other cases, it will be false, but may still have some real-life repercussions.

Try to ascertain if your staff interacts differently among themselves when you are not around. This can be done by simply observing your staff when you are in their general proximity, but not the focus of their attention.

Pay attention to how you are being treated by your boss, peers and staff and take special note of any changes in this treatment.

Be known as a person who can keep a secret. If you are, people will be more willing to tell you things that are going on in your office.

Be known as a person who willingly accepts and appreciates constructive criticism. If you are, people will be more willing to tell you when you are doing things wrong.

In my career, there have been times when I have been very attuned to the subtleties of office life and office politics and other times when I have not. In retrospect, the more observant I was of the politics, subtleties, and nuances within the office place, the more successful I was in that professional role. It’s not 100 percent correlated, but it’s pretty close.


The primary advice and takeaways from today’s column is to know that:




Pay attention to the unwritten and unspoken signs, both good and bad, that can give you insights into people’s personal agendas, positive and negative feelings toward you, your company and others.

There are various things you can do to help attune yourself to subtleties within your workplace.

Be known as a person who can keep a secret and willingly accepts and appreciates constructive criticism. If you are, people will be more willing to confide in you.

For additional information on today’s topic, I suggest the book “Games At Work: How to Recognize and Reduce Office Politics” by Mauricio Goldstein and Phil Read.


Until next time, manage well, manage smart and continue to grow.


Eric P. Bloom, based in Ashland, Mass., is the president and founder of Manager Mechanics LLC. He is also a nationally syndicated columnist, keynote speaker and author of the award-winning book “Manager Mechanics: Tips and Advice for First-Time Managers.” Contact him at eric@ManagerMechanics.com, follow him on Twitter at @EricPBloom, or visit www.ManagerMechanics.com.