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.
If 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?
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.