My boss is a self-serving ego-nightmare at the cost of my self esteem. He had minimal previous experience in the field his management post assumes, yet assumes he has has magically accumulated expert knowledge of every area of our function. He contradicts or disagrees with every opinion or comment we say to the point he constantly contradicts himself. He takes over ever meeting we attend.
Twice in the last 2 weeks he has chased out people who were helping me and taken over, only to make things worse. The last time he did this he made my problems worse and I had to wait until he went to a meeting so I could get the person who was helping me back so that I could complete my task.
He talks over people when they are talking but does it in a way that he says we interrupted him. I have 12 years+ experience, however anything I attempt to contribute is criticized extensively. He never says “hello” or “Did you have a nice weekend/holiday“. My work mate describes him as the rudest person she has ever worked for.
He is exceptionally moody, some days, such as last Monday, he systematically went to each of our desks and found a way to upset us. He never delivers on any of his promises. He is in with the guys-club (group of managers in our area – one of these is likely the senior manager of the floor where any complaint I made would go to). He gives all the interesting and high profile projects to one of the team (who was our most junior and by far least experienced), but he has positioned this person as the most high ranking. This person is an infamous brown noser and is very giggly and ‘touchy’ with him. They have lots of ‘whispering’ meetings at each others desks. I am sure this is not an affair, what I am sure is that she is providing him data about what the rest of us are doing, as he has slipped up a few times knowing things I have not told him. What is interesting is I have observed that he brown noses managers that are superior in position to him.
I used to deliver huge projects for a well known high tech firm and now I am working in the back ground doing menial tasks, I have to approve everything I do through him, this is a huge ‘demotion’ for me. I do critical jobs (when possible), in secret so that he does not make me constantly re-work them, such as helping other departments out.
My once loved job is now hell. I have considered moving and have had a couple of interviews but feel resentful that I should have to move. My other work mate is at their wits end also and has the identical observations I do, (from what I can see he treats this work mate worse than he treats me).
I know I should go to the HR department but I am terrified of losing my job as we have limited income at home. In the last round of layoffs they got rid of “trouble causers” (as termed by one manager), and many good people were let go.
Feeling trapped, losing my self esteem, please help.
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY DR. RICK BRANDON AND DR. MARTY SELDMAN
You describe your boss as full of power-tripping, naked self-interest and ego gland hyperactivity, technically incompetent and unknowledgeable, interpersonally unskilled and rude, not a very nice person, a power tyrant and ego tripper, an overly political player who plays favorites and uses the new junior as a spy, and into a low-integrity good old boy network. But, Trapped, other than that, congrats on having such a great boss!
Seriously, it’s so obvious that we hope you can develop a sense of humor and realize if he’s so blindly obvious perhaps:
a) You can take it less personally and see it for what he is, defusing, asking yourself,” how miserable his life must be to be this insecure and unaware,” etc.. Remind yourself that only “hurt people hurt people,” and while compassion is tough when you get burned, you don’t want to be so angry that it’s like taking poison (anger) and thinking it’ll kill the other.
b) It’s likely that others see him for the blindly obvious behavior and often power pedestals are shaky to stand on. Maybe others will see him for what he is, and he may topple. Take solace in that.
c) Focus on building your own positive buzz and reputation (self-promo, network with seniors).
d) Don’t give the benefit of the doubt to the junior brown-noser since she’s getting all the benefit and you’re getting all the doubt! Protect yourself by having more private agenda, keeping your friends close but your enemies closer by not revealing what she will simply pass on.
Sometimes when someone is this blatantly political, punitive, and controlling, they are symptoms of a tyrant running a “private power pocket,” sometimes called a “closed shop.” This means he may have some hidden naked self-interest he is hiding and over-controls his department because he wants to maintain control, hoard information or resources, conceal illegal or quasi-legal behavior, or perpetuate some unethical ends.
Other clues are absence of open communication flow in and out of the team, little disagreement allowed, whistle-blowers being punished in the past (so be careful), and an environment of people’s living in fear — do we allow this demigod to keep hurting the company or blow the whistle, yet we might be risking revenge. As you ponder whether it’s safe to tell appropriate people, please consider the risks and rewards carefully, including the fact that whenever a private power pocket exists, it usually means that the layer of management above it has a huge political blind spot, or is privy to the power pocket and lending tacit endorsement. In some companies, they are even accomplices. We’re not suggesting this is happening, just that it’s a possibility.
Finally, regarding feeling trapped, you ALWAYS have choice, first over your attitude.
Best wishes and stay savvy! 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 2005. We are republishing the best letters from Office-Politics and integrating them with our blog format.