21 ominous signs your boss is testing you (and why)

Updated on September 4, 2023
signs your boss is testing you and why

It’s not uncommon for superiors at work to decide to test their employees from time to time.

Whether for constructive reasons or to point out someone’s inability to progress professionally, employers have many ways of testing their staff to keep them engaged and invested in their positions.

But how to know if your boss is testing you?

Some managers love playing subtle games, while others may be a bit more conspicuous about their intention to put their subordinates to the test.

In this post, you’ll find different signs that your boss could be testing you. And hopefully, they’ll help you be more prepared for such tricky situations with your employer.

Reasons why your boss may be testing you

Bosses often operate with extensive psychosocial equanimity, which gives them the confidence to play games with their subordinates.

There are all sorts of circumstances where an employer may resort to testing a member of their staff.

For instance, your boss may doubt your loyalty and commitment to the company’s success.

Or they may simply want to assess your ability to take the lead in order to consider you for promotion.

Some of the most common reasons why your boss could be testing you are:

  • Promotion consideration – Your boss tests you to see if you’re ready to take on more responsibilities.
  • Empowering autonomy – Your manager is considering giving you more independence at work.
  • Work ethic evaluation – You’re being tested by your boss with respect to your level of commitment to the job.
  • Trustworthiness test – Your employer is somewhat distrusting you in one way or another.
  • Work performance checks – Your superior tests you due to job performance issues.
  • Job termination is in view – You’re being tested with your boss’s intention to get you fired.

Whatever the idea behind your boss’s decision to test you, being aware of it by identifying the signs can only make you stronger and better equipped to deal with the situation.

21 signs your boss is testing you

Reasons why your boss may be testing you

It’s not always easy to know if your boss is testing you, as you can interpret their behavior or a specific situation in more than one way.

Still, in any case, there will always be some indications to look out for, which can help you recognize that your superior has put you to the test. Here is what you should be looking out for.

1. You’ve been asked to work overtime

If your boss is making you work long hours on the pretext of completing a short-deadline project, then this may mean that they’re testing your willingness to put work before anything else.

And how you respond to their request could make all the difference, of course.

You can climb up the ladder and get promoted or stay where you are, failing their high expectations of you.

2. You’ve been assigned a task outside your job description

Another indicator that you might be tested at the workplace is if, all of a sudden, your superior gives you more complex tasks to complete.

Then, this could be because they want to offer you another role in a different department.

It could also mean that they simply care about you and your professional development

Great employers are usually good for spotting talent among members of staff. So, take this as a compliment and try not to disappoint them.

3. You’re suddenly given extra responsibilities

Similarly to my first point, delegating any additional responsibilities given to a hard-working employee might be a sign of testing their leadership potential.

So, if your boss has just asked you to oversee and report on an important project, this is a sure sign that they are testing and evaluating your capacity for independent decision-making that can lead again to promotion.

4. Your boss confides in you out of the blue

Has your boss decided to share “off-the-record” information with you with the request not to tell a soul?

Well, this could be a sign of testing your trustworthiness and ability to keep confidential knowledge to yourself.

The test can be even more specific – your employer tells you something about another employee and asks you not to communicate with them. If rumors spread, they’ll know who is to blame.

5. Your boss tries to bribe you

If your manager asks you to do a favor for them and, in return, they offer you some sort of reward, this could be a sign of testing your integrity and moral compass.

Your employer will certainly respect you more if you prove yourself to be of good character, with solid principles, and that you have an understanding of what’s right and wrong.

6. Your boss sends you to fetch something from their office

To test how trusty you are, your boss may ask you to, say, get a folder from their desk where important documents are on display, or their laptop has been left open.

Snooping around for too long may confirm their suspicion of your lack of decency or tendency to go furtive and sneak around.

7. You’re asked to carry/deliver company money in cash

If you work for a small-sized business, your boss may test your honesty by asking you to deliver some cash to a business partner, for instance.

Not everyone can withstand the temptation of doing a runner, stealing the money, and moving to another state, especially if they can get away with it and have nothing to lose.

8. Your boss asks you to accompany their wife to dinner while they’re away

The ultimate test of your loyalty and trustworthiness is if your boss asks you to escort their wife to a dinner party while they are on a business trip.

And no, this is not just a prerogative of Hollywood movies, where the handsome personal assistant has to entertain the big boss’s wife.

Your employer might have a twisted sense of humor and ask you to do just that.

9. You’ve been ignored when asking job-related questions

Has your boss stopped replying to your emails?

Are they ignoring your attempts to seek advice, or do they simply take too long to respond to your queries related to work?

This could be a sign that they no longer appreciate your input at the workplace and they want you to leave.

But it can also mean that they want to test your capability to figure out things on your own.

10. Your manager is no longer giving you feedback

If your superior has ceased to offer regular feedback on your job performance, this could be a sign of testing your freshly acquired skills to work without constant supervision.

Take it as a compliment and an indicator that they now trust you to do your job independently.

Still, it could also mean the opposite – they no longer want to invest in your training and are possibly looking to replace you.

11. Your superior stops assigning you challenging and interesting projects

You’ve been feeling unappreciated at work because all the new exciting tasks end up being given to your coworkers.

Well, if your boss is overlooking your willingness to develop your skills through challenging projects, this could mean that they are testing your level of assertiveness and preparedness to stand up for yourself.

Unfortunately, it could also mean that your employer no longer feels that you could be entrusted with difficult tasks.

12. You’ve been left to work completely on your own devices

If your boss has left you (and your team members) to work with very little supervision, this could be an indicator that they are testing out the concept of enabling autonomy at the workplace.

There’s nothing wrong with this, as micromanaging and constant control can often be counterproductive in work environments.

13. Junior colleagues are given more responsibilities than you

If inferior, demoted, or junior colleagues are suddenly allowed to take more responsibility than you during the work process, this can be a sign that you’ve lost your employer’s trust for some specific reason (even if unbeknown to you).

Think about what you could have done to make them skeptical about your skills and try to remedy the situation. Your employer could also be testing your ability to prove them wrong.

14. Your boss keeps asking you to complete personal jobs for them

Does your boss insist on you doing stuff for them outside work hours or outside work altogether, like picking their kids up from school, taking their dog to the vet, and so on?

This could mean that they consider you a close friend, despite realizing that doing favors for them doesn’t look very professional.

Also, they could be testing your level of dignity, how far they can push you, and your ability to say ‘no’.

15. Your workload is gradually increased without extra remuneration

If your boss burdens you with an extra task load to the extent of you needing to work during the weekend in order to complete the job, this could be a sign of testing your stamina and capacity to work under pressure.

It may look as if they’re simply using your time and resources without additional pay, but in effect, all your hard work could pay off in the long run in the form of that dream promotion.

16. You keep hearing about a team gathering after the event

Has your manager somehow skipped to notify you about a team-building event or two?

This could mean that they have some issues with you.

Feeling isolated from the rest of your team is surely a testing time for you, but don’t despair! Instead, speak up and question your boss’s decision to shun you in this way.

17. You’re not invited to important meetings

If your boss holds meetings without your presence, where previously your attendance was the norm, then this could be a sign of a write-up coming your way.

They are in effect testing your commitment, level of engagement, and eagerness to continue working for the company.

Maybe, you’ve been just going with the flow and showing apathy toward your job responsibilities. Now it’s the time to make your mind up on whether to step up or quit.

18. Your opinions at meetings are always brushed off by your boss

Arrogant and full-of-themselves superiors are not an uncommon sight in the workplace.

But if your boss has suddenly started to ignore your views and ideas at company meetings, this could be a sign of their discontent with your conduct at work.

It could be anything that you have done, and now they can only take pleasure in publicly ignoring you.

19. Your boss has stopped encouraging you

Getting the thumbs up from your boss on a regular basis is certainly motivating and reassuring.

And if your employer has stopped praising you all of a sudden, you may naturally feel hurt and unappreciated.

Worry not, though, as this isn’t always a bad sign. Your efforts and achievements are still recognized, but now that you’re well-settled in your job role, you certainly don’t need a constant pat on the back.

20. You have random checks on your work progress

If your boss starts checking up on you routinely, this could mean that your performance is lacking.

It’s a test to see if you pick up your game with the help of a little extra supervision.

You may feel anxious about your work being overseen and checked upon unexpectedly and at any time.

But stay calm and just do your best to convince your boss that they can trust you again to work independently.

21. You’ve been given repetitive and boring tasks

Work is work, and it can’t always be interesting and exciting.

If your superior has assigned some monotonous tasks to complete over a long period of time, this could mean that they are testing your work ethic.

Will you just get your head down and finish the job? Or will you start moaning and complaining?

What to do when your boss is testing you

What to do when your boss is testing you

It’s hard sometimes to know what to do when your boss is testing you. You may feel out of your depth and unsure how to react.

So, take advantage of these general tips, and you may just pass the test with flying colors.

1. Stay collected and calm

You may be ignored at work or given extra projects to complete, which can make you feel stressed out.

But try to stay composed and not show your emotions. Your employer is only testing you, and getting angry will only result in failing the test.

2. Use your common sense and intuition

Is your boss playing tricks on you? Are they testing your work ethic or loyalty?

Don’t fall into their trap but use your common sense when responding to their unusual requests. Resort to your intuitive decision-making skills, as well.

3. Exhibit your integrity if needed

If your superior is testing your virtuousness, honesty, and moral compass, meet their high expectations by example.

Show your integrity in a way that you make them never doubt your good character.

4. Do your best to prove your expertise

Testing your skills and job-related know-how can lead to career growth and personal development.

So, don’t be afraid to get into your stride and push your limits. Only the brave and adventurous come out as winners.

5. Confront your boss if necessary

If your boss is being mean to you and their testing efforts are completely uncalled for, you better confront them respectfully.

Question their reasons for such behavior, and you may regain their trust and respect.

My experience being tested by my boss

My boss is a bit of a control freak and has trust issues due to inexperience in managing employees.

So every now and then, he tests my marketing knowledge and skills. It was frustrating at the beginning, but I got used to it.

I learned to have a positive mindset at work, and every time this happens, I take it as a challenge and an opportunity to improve my soft skills.

My number 1 advice for you is to try not to be defensive when you suspect you're being tested.

If you are trying to figure out if your boss is testing you, you should look for multiple signs that indicate that your suspicions are true because just one or two signs could easily be misinterpreted.

If it turns out that your boss is indeed testing you, then you should play their game for a while and see where that leads.

It might be stressful and annoying, but this won't last forever.

Eventually, your boss will come to a conclusion about whether they trust you or not, and this shenanigan will end.

Frequently asked questions

How can an employee differentiate between genuine tasks and tests from their boss?

It can be challenging, but looking for patterns, sudden changes in behavior, or tasks that deviate significantly from one's job description can be indicators.

Is it common for bosses to test employees' trustworthiness with company money or confidential information?

While not universally common, some bosses might use such methods to gauge an employee's integrity and trustworthiness.

How should an employee react if they feel they're being unfairly tested or singled out?

It's advisable to remain calm, maintain professionalism, and consider discussing the matter directly with the boss or HR if it becomes a recurring issue.

How can an employee handle being given tasks outside their job description as a test?

They can view it as an opportunity for growth, but it's also essential to ensure they're not consistently overburdened without appropriate compensation or recognition.

Written by:
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co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

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