I’ve worked hard to build a solid reputation as a good performer. I’ve had rave reviews from most of my managers.
Five years ago I was asked to learn a segment of the business from top to bottom, front to back. It is complex and high pressure, but I did it and used to be considered a valuable resource.
Then I got a new boss. She and her boss came together from another organization in the company. Within a month, 3 trusted colleagues told me that she was talking about me in such a disparaging way that my career was in jeopardy. Sure enough my personal stock dwindled. Most of the people who work for her do not respect her and feel that she also undervalues their contributions. I think she is so blinded by her own brightness that she can’t see other’s contributions.
Now someone new on the team gets all the best assignments in my area of expertise. I have more experience than this guy, can do a better job and am better liked than him. In the past I helped him on a couple of projects and he never acknowledged my contributions, even though they were critical to the success of the projects. Now, in front of my colleagues and customers he is condescending and openly rude to me, although I don’t take it personally because that is his general demeanor to everyone. He is my boss’s boss’s hand picked favorite. I am now forced to polish his apple with my experience in the name of team work. I’ve seen no team work from him. The job has grown, and having two people perform the job is merited, however I get all the drudgery, he gets the glory jobs.
Before the arrival of this boss I loved my job and the company. Now I am getting ulcers. Every time I look for a new job, it doesn’t measure up to my old job before this boss came on. I keep hoping she’ll be gone, but I don’t see any signs of that. The stress from this job kind of paralyzes me, I don’t have the energy to leave. Please advise.
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY DR. RICK BRANDON AND DR. MARTY SELDMAN
Dear Getting Ulcers,
No one can truly tell you whether to leave, “play hardball” against your antagonists by rallying a support team behind you, swallow hard as you grin and bear it, interview while you go through the motions, or do your best to get in good with the cronies by being a team player and hope that gradually they will endorse you and realize you’re an ally. We say this since only you know what your lifestyle needs, economic freedom, and track record are. So we shy away from “telling you what to do.”
However, it does seem clear in the “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” equation, you have a powerful trio of adversaries you’d have to face off against if you were to attempt exposing the unfair treatment. Especially given the two bosses have a long history together and the golden boy gets away with abusive or disrespectful treatment of many people, it’s unlikely his hero status will diminish. He clearly has the boss and her boss in his hip pocket for whatever reason, and it might even mean that they are consciously colluding due to some sort of hidden agenda. But unless you have a wide and high network of powerful stakeholders across the company, you may have little choice other than an attitude adjustment or resume adjustment.
Be very careful to be verbally disciplined, since that ulcer brewing means you’re swallowing a lot of anger that may be ready to be sparked at the wrong time in the wrong way. Find trusted people outside the work setting to whom you can vent and express your frustrations if you decide to stay since you do not want to give the trio any excuses to “diss” you further. Practice relaxation techniques of some type whether through exercise, meditation, yoga, journal writing, support groups, or any type of channel for destressing.
A sub-category of stress management (combating ulcers) is your Self-Talk and winning the inner game of politics. We commend your perspective of realizing you’re not alone, that it might be a case of the boss’ intellect blinding her with hubris and a narrow frame of reference. She may even be emotionally crippled or ill and at some level, so perhaps you can be less bothered by knowing her life must be pretty lonely to produce such tunnel visioned self-absorbing opinions. Remember that she and her pals win twice if you give yourself an ulcer.
Meanwhile, consider that they are not currently getting rid of you –– it’s more like you’re walking around with a Scarlet Letter, what we call being banished to Corporate Siberia. Yet they all seem to need you and rely upon your contributions. Therefore, if you are willing to deal with the risk since the stakes would be high, you might consider some “straight talk” with your boss about observable behaviors you find discounting, noting how your track record is for being a team player and that you want to know exactly what you might do to become a valued member of her team. After all, it might win some points and surface how you are going the extra mile and perhaps they do need your substantive expertise and results enough to adapt their treatment of you. So decide if you want to paint some new boundaries. But be ready to accept the consequences if they turn on you more overtly.
If you do decide to leave, and even before, first work on gathering documentation of past rave reviews, accomplishments, and proven results. Do not trash the superiors to future job employers but merely share your great record, noting you’re ready for a bigger challenge since the job has been re-engineered. While you say you don’t have the energy to leave, you might find yourself liberated by feelings of rejuvenation once you make a tough decision. After all, you’re not finding any other job better than the one you had before, but you no longer have it. We always say “you can’t lose what you don’t have.” Sounds like a bad relationship that is too hard to leave because for some people, any change is too painful versus the status quo. For some of us, halitosis is better than no breath at all! We’re not saying “LEAVE.” Only that you sound miserable and you imply it’s a dead end. What would you tell your best friend to do?
Please let us know how you decide to take care of you and then choose the route that’s right for you, no one else.
Warm wishes for coping and groping (taking small steps to a new beginning) instead of just moping and hoping. Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.
Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. Co-authors,
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success
Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. are Co-authors, Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success. Dr. Rick Brandon is CEO of Brandon Partners. He has consulted and trained tens of thousands at corporations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America’s most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.
Publication note: This letter was originally published in 2006. We are republishing the best letters from Office-Politics and integrating them with our blog format.