pearls before swine for story seven signs your boss wants you out linkedin april 2015

What To Do When Your Manager Turns Against You

This story on LinkedIn, Seven Signs Your Manager Wants You Out, describes the signals you’ll get when your flame is too hot for your manager’s comfort.

It could be your own boss who is uncomfortable working around you. It could be your boss’s boss, or another manager in the organization. Once somebody in a position of power decides that you are not their cup of tea — either because you’re more knowledgeable or credible than they are, because you’re smart and capable or just because your personality doesn’t match up to the personality they want and expect in an underling — you have to act.

What do you do then?

First, take stock. How bad is the problem, really? Energy moves in waves. Sometimes a fearful manager will calm down without you doing a thing. Whenever you change the energy at work or in any gathering, people will react. This is why we created the Reactionometer dial. The Reactionometer shows you the range of reactions you can expect when you shift the energy at work. Some people will be thrilled by your new ideas and your approach to work, and some people will be horrified.

Reactionometer jpegIf your boss or another higher-up is turned off by you, then the energetic shift you put into motion is having an impact. We tend to say “Oh, that’s bad! I need my boss to  like me!” but that is a very small-scale analysis. The changes you’re making to the energy in your  workplace just by walking in the door are probably very good changes.

In the short term, they may make things uncomfortable for you, but we have to guess that it’s uncomfortable for a snake to shed its too-small skin, also. It’s probably not the most comfortable thing for a baby chick to peck its way out of the egg, but that’s  life.

Your goal is not to be comfortable in your work and go to sleep. Your goal is to stay awake, keep learning and keep growing!

Most of us try to placate a boss who’s unhappy with us. That’s normal. We might work weekends, take on extra assignments or sacrifice our personal lives altogether to try and keep the boss on our good side. Sometimes that works for a while, and other times it’s a complete waste of energy.

Get out a piece of paper and draw your human system on it. Draw a circle (or a star!) that represents you. Draw a line connecting you to your boss. Draw more lines and shapes to show your other connections at work, and draw in your boss’s boss and others in the organization who work with you or know you.

How do these people feel about you and your work? It is a rare for one manager to have complete control over your career and your work status, unless that person is the company CEO.

Are there people at your workplace who support the new energy you’re bringing? Probably there are. If not, you misjudged when you took the job — but that’s okay, too! It’s all learning. If you have literally  no supporters and your boss is breathing down your neck, the best thing to do is to get a stealth job search going. Spend a few weeks thinking about what you’d like to do next — don’t jump at the first opportunity that comes along, but get back on your path doing work that’s important to you and that deserves your talents.

If your situation is not so dire that an under-the-radar job search is the only option, you can stick around and grow new muscles in your current job. Here are some ways to help your boss and others get comfortable with the new ideas you’re proposing (or just to get comfortable working with people who don’t fit their traditional mold):

  • Acknowledge every bit of support and idea generation your boss gives  you, even if the support and the ideas are so tiny you can hardly see them. You can say “George, thanks so much for your guidance on the marketing plan. You made great additions to the plan!” Maybe George gave you one insignificant new idea for the marketing plan — but they, that’s all he was capable of at that moment. Reinforce every good thing you experience from George and others. Most people don’t get enough acknowledgement — I know you don’t!
  • When George criticizes your work, don’t push back. Get curious, instead. When George says “I don’t like the font you used on that document,” ask him “Okay, thanks for that! I haven’t talked with you much about presentation. Are there certain fonts you prefer?” Be a consultant, even in a tiny exchange like this one. George needs to feel that you are with him and not against him. Sometimes tiny things that typefaces and the format of meeting agendas make fearful folks like George feel more in control.
  • Lastly, know your own plan for your career and for the job you’re in. You can manage your relationship with George and even help him grow his flame as long as you stay focused on your own forward path. Pleasing George is not worth your time unless it helps you get to the next step on your path, so the question is: where are your headed? What did you come to this assignment to learn or to conquer?

fear and hostility (2)Managers like fearful George are a pain in the neck, but they are wonderful teachers. They remind us to stay on our path. They teach us what fear looks like and they remind us that fear and hostility are two sides of the same coin. We can feel sorry for George.

Remember when we were kids and we’d say “Eek!” when we saw a bug or a mouse, and our moms would say “That bug or mouse is more afraid of you than you’re afraid of it!”?  Fast forward to today, where George is playing the part of the bug or the mouse.

He’s terrified. You can soften and try to see the world through George’s eyes. He isn’t your enemy. You are already forty thousand feet above poor George, because you have altitude on your situation in a way that he, at the present moment, cannot. You can help George be a better manager and in so doing, become a stronger leader yourself.



29 replies
  1. David Jenkins
    David Jenkins says:

    Excellent advice. I am past fearful George, at last! I learned a lot about myself, most importantly stay true to my values and the need to move on! Thanks!

  2. lilley
    lilley says:

    The most important thing is to keep them in the dark, while continuing to do whatever you’re doing. Keep making connections outside and be the dark horse in a race.

  3. staceytheone
    staceytheone says:

    Awesome blog as usual Liz. Very Very helpful. I’ve learned the faces of fear in the workplace and you are absolutely right! Poor George Happy me.

  4. Bill
    Bill says:

    Couldn’t agree more about “George” helping one stay on their path. I’ll even go so far as to give my “George” credit for helping me figure out my path (and redirecting me through his examples of how not to do things).

  5. EM
    EM says:

    I feel petty on George , believe I have one George in my work
    I m now in Step two 🙂
    its wrong to waste energy with Such a manager despite you have a loyalty to the company ,
    especially that this will affect negatively on your personnel life and your health
    leaving is last and best option

  6. Grant
    Grant says:

    Wow! I lived that and unfortunately had no where to turn and no one within the company to address the issue, as senior management supported that person.

    • brittany
      brittany says:

      WOW! That’s where I’m at right now, thus the reason for me reading this article. I’m curious to know how you handled your situation? When you have NO support from senior management, is leaving really the only option?

      • Michelle
        Michelle says:

        I am in the same situation at work. My boss is not performing to that level because of personal reasons so his boss taps on me to get his work done. I raised to issue to upper level management based in the head office (this was when bosses boss wasn’t taking me seriously how frustrated i was with my work load). bosses boss and my boss are now buddies and i am the bad guy. I mean common on how can i manage two jobs and the other person’s non-performance is not even taken into consideration. All they tell me now is that i should work with my boss. My boss is not happy and always trying to put me down in front on my colleagues. He is now calling daily meetings to discuss what i am doing ever day and making a record of things. I love my job and despite what my boss thinks of me in bad way i am not leaving this place. I will fight to the end alone. Mgt is not my side and i dont trust anyone. Worst case scenario he can make the position redundant and here in NZ we are covered by redundancy insurance for 6 mnts so thats even better. One of the senior managers was hitting on me and in a company party i refused his proposal and this even created more resentment with anothersenior mgr so i am in a very bad position. It’s so hard to work as a female with male managers especially if you have so high values. My advice to any one is no matter how bad your boss is the fear is in him not you so NEVER QUIT!! I am a qualified CPA accountant so i am not worried at all. I mean if i am targeted for doing the right thing i actually dont give sh***t. Also try and take lots of break and be happy in the office dont share your problems with anyone and BE HAPPY always – laugh as much as you can he will hear you laughing and feel offended. I tried and it works…HAHA

  7. Jasmin
    Jasmin says:

    Hi Liz,
    Nice blog. How comes that so many Georges are out there? I would suggest to ask this question as first in many companies worldwide. It might help to reduce lot of stress and make this world nice place to work, instead of solving the same conflicts for centuries 😉

  8. Jerry
    Jerry says:

    I had a couple of bosses like that. My job had to abide by federal guidelines. Bosses could care less and wrote their own rules. I was too efficient and knowledgeable for my own good. They wanted their beacon to be noticed and not mine. I was too old to look elsewhere. They ousted me because it’s like government where they won’t admit fault or change the rules. No matter how wrong they were, they were right. Some bosses make for great intimidators I was not an aggressive person I only wanted to do my job and be the best at it and not the BSer. 2 tears after my forced retirement those same boss are now gone.
    To this day I don’t trust anything/anyone corporate.

  9. Susan
    Susan says:

    I too have been in this situation – twice! The worst part was the self-blaming. The best thing I did was to get out of each gracefully.

  10. Leena Ramanan
    Leena Ramanan says:

    Thank you very much for such a wonderful article, I think this sort of bosses make us realize our own potential, make us a stronger person and help us control our emotions. Due to such bosses, we will start thinking out of box.

    It’s our luck to have such bosses at certain point of our career, we should take it in a positive way and move forward.

    Good Luck to all.


  11. IVY
    IVY says:

    Liz, you have helped me understand a problem at my place of work. I have realised that I have a George (or rather a Georgina too) and today my view of work has changed, thank you.
    I think this problem gets worse as you get older and have younger corporate bosses.

  12. Kay
    Kay says:

    Coming across this article made me feel not so alone and that this type of situation does not solely exist in my head. About a year ago a person took a management position who had very little to no experience. I have been with the company for 5 years and have not had any problems until recently. Meetings with H.R. are becoming frequent. My manager “praises” me constantly to everyone, including H.R., however, I am not “fulfilling” my role. When my new manager stepped in, she took over all of my job duties, never once asked me for help (and actually refused my help when I offered, stating she knew what she was doing), assistance, or for any explanations, and kept me in the dark about everything. She never communicated with me over the past year and then recently went to H.R. stating that she is “afraid” to talk to me. She is my supervisor and has shut me completely out since day one and has made me feel I cannot even approach her, which is not due to lack of my several attempts. I have a lot of knowledge and am one of the more competent employees within my department. My work place is driven by fear and any word against management or the higher up’s is a sure way to get fired fast. I feel like my manager is setting me up while trying to make herself look good. I know how to “play the game” and I know she is only afraid of me because I know much more than she does and I am more capable of doing her job than she is. What she doesn’t realize is that I could have had her position, but chose not to because it is not the direction I wanted to take my career in the future. I know it makes my manager mad that she cannot build a case on me to fire me because I do my job the way I am suppose to do my job and reports back on my performance are always good. My manager has sunk to the level of attacking my character on a personal level and blaming her failures in her job duties on me, instead of owning up to her mistakes and learning from them to grow to become even better in her position. I have been implementing the suggestions in this article, but must admit it pains me to be so fake. I am working on furthering my education to advance my career and only need to hang in there for a little while longer. Undoubtedly, this will not be last of this type of situation I come across in my professional life. I am learning all that I can from this situation now to learn how to hopefully avoid this type of scenario in the future and/or be able to handle it once again, only next time with a little more confidence and a lot more knowledge.

  13. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Excellent article.

    Very difficult to be knowledgeable, efficient and rational – around fearful, power hungry management. Believe it is more common in organizations then we want to believe. Have experienced the same issues in the private sector, public sector, education/non profit sector; including roles without compensation.

    Remedies are often very tough to implement in these situations – and if you are alone with no support – so very hard.

    Yes, we can do the best for ourselves in the face of it – do the work, keep optimistic and learn from it – but the energy – the work – the stress – so very challenging!

  14. Monica
    Monica says:

    pig in the image at the top of the story asking whether the necklace is edible – “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” – to Give something of value of someone who won’t appreciate it.
    Great article!

  15. Anna
    Anna says:

    I have just been going through this for over a year and i’ve finally quit my job today for the sake of my mental health. I am pretty terrified of what lies ahead but it can’t be worse than having to endure another day of misery. Only question is, what do I even say to another prospective employer in an interview?? ‘i left because my boss was a nightmare’ doesn’t seem appropriate!

  16. Ellie
    Ellie says:

    I’m going through this with my boss right now, only thing is my ‘George’ is my CEO and he’s just told me on a Friday that from Monday I will now report to someone else and when I tried to talk to him about it he quite aggressively told me to “park it or else”. Already applied for 3 new jobs and God willing I’m hoping to be out of there soon. Just had the worst weekend of my life but this article has just empowered me – as scary as it is I’m not going to stop looking until I get another job. With thanks to Liz.

  17. Debra
    Debra says:

    I’m going through this now. I have been with my company over 22 years. My boss was just born when I started. She is suddenly finding fault with everything. I am banging my head against a wall to figure out what I can do to remedy the situation. I am not in a financial position to quit but am finding it extremely difficult to want to go in to work.

    • Stacy
      Stacy says:

      I hear you Debra! My boss is also young enough to be my daughter (Ugh!). The worst part is that I trained her 5 years ago when she came to the company in the same supervisory position as myself. Now she is my manager! She even does things like not approving a 30 minute early start for me as I wanted to have everything done before we opened. So, to be productive and proactive is now against the rules.

  18. Maria
    Maria says:

    I returned to a company I worked for years ago to administratively support a c-level executive. I could feel something wasn’t right when I interviewed not only with this woman but with the temp covering the assistant desk. I took a leap of faith being that a former boss of mine hired this executive. I ignored my instincts, which are always accurate, because I needed the job and loved working for the company. As time progressed, I learned that I was working for an abusive, obsessive-compulsive, egomaniac. I was badgered and attacked every minute of every day. She was a control freak who enjoyed implying that I wasn’t doing my job well. I was functioning in a panicked state because my mind was always wondering where her focus would be and what she would accuse me of not doing. This was like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz trying to scare people with his theatrics and accusations. The entire department functioned in fear and they were a wonderful group, but the difference for them is that they got to hideout in their office or cubicle while I couldn’t get 5 minutes away from this incessant abuse. That said, on the surface her manner of communication was very politically correct. She was constantly in touch with HR, and her best friend the chief legal officer. Apparently she’s had issues with staff in the past. I was getting physically ill and dreading going to work each morning but I kept smiling and remained positive, like hitting a daily reset button. I worked a little bit online from home before I went into the office, never took a lunch hour, and never left on time at the end of the day. Within my 25+ years of working for senior execs in large global corporations, I have never endured such an abusive individual. It is unfortunate that HR believes anything she tells them even though the results of her actions should speak volumes, but they’re so busy eating up her self-promoting propaganda. How many people’s lives have to be turned upside down before they realize SHE’S the problem? (They actually do know.) Mind you, just before the holidays I was told my work was excellent and everyone on the team and in the company was singing my praises; I received a raise. In January, after being out with the flu that she passed on to me, I was fired. It is unfortunate that HR staff no longer help to protect the average employee but rather guard their bigger investment with senior staff.

  19. Brian C.
    Brian C. says:

    This was a surprising read. I genuinely thought it was just me, but some “George” examples were too close to my situation to ignore. I’ve only had these issues since being assigned a new boss in the last few months. No matter what I did or do, I can’t change it and now everything is under scrutiny. It’s a horrible feeling and I have to see someone to talk about it 🙁 I’d sooner sweep the streets than have to deal with this. I am making a move like some of the other commenters have done. Thanks Liz!

  20. Xiousie
    Xiousie says:

    I have this x2.
    The head of department is a fearful bully who honed in on me the day she joined and nitpicked and bullied until I lost all my confidence. It was only after confiding in my colleagues did I realise 1) I wasn’t the only one and 2) It’s because she was fearful.
    I’ve managed to deal with her now and don’t give two hoots (most of the time). But as bad luck would have it, my line manager left and the head of department hired a neurotic and fearful idiot to replace her. This woman is utterly terrified and creates gigantic messes with everything she does.
    We’ve had chats about how she can maybe communicate better, what exactly each of us is responsible for and to not just, you know, scrap 3 days worth of work that I’ve slaved over and replace it with her own shoddy work instead that doesn’t follow a process or best practice and remain silent about it, leaving me to discover when irate colleagues in another team email me asking what the hell happened to their campaign.
    I do my job well. Very well. She keeps swooping down and doing little turds on things, and then I have to clean it up. Some of the stuff I do she has no experience in, but clearly wants that experience. So her approach is to cut me out, not ask me anything about it and try and muddle her way through. She then reaches a point where she can’t continue. I get brought in to sort stuff out for the deadline, which I do. I get no thanks or praise. Then she swoops back in and messes things about again, and hands it over for sign off. Utter moron.
    I try very hard to not make her feel like an idiot. I’ve been so nice. I’ve tried to make her see I am her ally, I am a useful source of information for her as a new starter.
    But I’m looking for a new job. It’s the only solution. I can’t have two levels of fearful managers. It also makes me feel confident that I’m good and should be able to get a job paying as much as my manager.

  21. Jarrotte
    Jarrotte says:

    Todays my first to tap unto your resources. It is really really helpful.
    You dont know how much your articles means to me.


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