I work in “super specialty” software work. I had the “halo effect” bestowed on me by my boss for the two years I have been in this job. I even wrote his “strategy” and didn’t mind when he took credit for it.
Now the halo has been transferred to another. It didn’t really bother me. However, it seems that the new holder of the halo has decided to leave and my boss has become miserable. He has started to belittle me in front of my peers and staff. I manage three others and need to command respect and trust to do my job. I have tried to reason it out with the boss, but the behavior continues. He seems to understand the problem when I talk with him in private but loses it when in meetings with the rest of the group. I am keeping notes of the incidents when he is overly negative of me in front of others.
Should I try to reach out to other senior people for advice? (and/or) Search for a new job?
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY DR. RICK BRANDON AND DR. MARTY SELDMAN
If you are a regular reader of OfficePolitics.com you know that many letters ask the question you did, “Should I search for a new job?” Our response to that question often includes our reluctance to tell people to leave because there are so many aspects of peoples’ personal circumstances that we are not aware of.
In your case it seems like your boss’ behavior is causing you embarrassment and may affect your ability to lead your direct reports. This makes it a serious issue and we are glad that you are beginning to formulate plans of action and are reaching out for help.
Why would your boss act this way? Usually there are three possible reasons:
1. He wants to drive you out of the company
2. He is a bully who likes to use his power to embarrass people
3. He is unhappy and/or under stress and has less control of his emotions and verbal behavior
Using the information in your letter our best guess is the third possibility. If we are right then there is an opportunity to improve the situation because he may still value you and is not intending to be disrespectful.
What are your options? If you are sure that if the behavior continues you will eventually leave then there is not much risk in reaching out to other senior leaders. The conversation should probably include these elements:
1. Use language that could let your boss save face, e.g. “He probably doesn’t intend to be disrespectful but the behavior has continued.”
2. Explain the impact on you and your team’s performance and effectiveness
3. Tell them that you would love to continue contributing at the company but if there is no improvement in the situation you may explore other options
4. Ask for and listen carefully to their advice
If you have this conversation things may improve. If they don’t then you know that your boss can’t change or won’t change and he is willing to risk losing you. Hopefully that won’t happen but if it does you can find out what other options are available and make an informed choice.
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.