Whatever it is, I need to hear some kind of feedback that tells me
that he's fine with whatever work I'm doing or how I'm doing. Is this
a reasonable expectation or not?
To clarify some of the other answers:
- Expecting feedback on your work is definitely reasonable (and in my opinion should be the case in any decent workplace, at least to know if you are working in the right direction... but it is not always the case.)
- Expecting praise, on the contrary, is not a reasonable expectation. Some bosses do it (it actually works as an amazing motivation for some people, and good managers know that), but most of the time it's not their main concern. If this is what you want to hear, just accept that it is not going to happen.
If it is constructing feedback that you need, and you feel that you are not getting it spontaneously from your boss, I suggest you address it in a direct, proactive and peaceful manner:
- Actively do by yourself whatever tracking you can do: carefully read e-mails, take written notes in meetings, etc, and regularly update a checklist of what you have done/still need to do/are unsure if you need to do, on each project you work on. A surprising amount of "self-feedback" can be done that way.
- Regularly ask "micro-feedback" from your boss. The least invasive way I've found to do that, is to ask direct and informed questions when you get the chance, e.g. "By the way, about project A, I've done tasks X and Y like we discussed and I'm planning to start on Z, is that still ok?" (optional, if you need this info: "is the timing still good?"). You'll notice that the previous point helps a lot in doing this efficiently, because if you ask targeted and precise questions this conversation can last 30 seconds and waste nobody's precious time. You can also include this sort of questions in a related e-mail, if you can't find a good moment to ask in person. Do not ask vague, unprepared questions like "what should I do know?": it will make you seem lost, and you are never going to get a good answer to that anyway.
- If some points still need to be clarified, or are too complex for a simple yes/no interaction, ask for a meeting with your boss and involved coworkers. Again, carefully prepare the meeting in order to get the answers you need.
- Ideally: set up scheduled meetings with your boss (weekly, monthly) to give updates on your work and decide of the next actions. This is not always an option - depending on everyone's schedule and most importantly on your boss' will/ability to take the time, but can be a great solution if possible. Still doesn't allow you to skip points 1. and 2. though!
Other answers/comments mentioned that any negative feedback would come out sooner or later, so behave on a "no news = no problem" basis. This is definitely true, but the key is to give your boss the opportunity to give you small negative feedback whenever they need to, and allow you to directly act on it, instead of letting all the small problems pile up in their head until one day they come at you with one big "everything is wrong with what you do".
(I've been there, and believe me you do not want to be there. But I ended up finding a new job, which felt like the best thing ever happening to me! Maybe sometimes boss/employee work methods and needs are simply incompatible...)
In short: remember that not every employee has the same need for feedback, and not every boss gives the same spontaneous amount of it anyway. Target the precise questions on which you need feedback (some things you surely know you're doing well?) and constructively ask for that precise feedback, and provided you find the right time to ask, there is no reason why you should not get it!