My boss is trying to get me fired. He’s the Director and I’m the Assistant Director so we’re supposed to work together as a team. I work for government (thank you for your sympathy) and last year there was an investigation on his actions and I was called in to testify even though I had only been there 3 months. Ever since then he has been on my back and lately it has been getting much worse. He has even tried to set me up. He has asked me to prepare a report for every call I made in the last year then says the request came from upstairs. They said he asked for it. It’s a constant game of gotcha at work and I’m tired of it.
Being in government there aren’t a lot of jobs and private sector think you’re stupid because you work for govt. I know I need to get another job and I have been trying. Part of me wants to fight and get him fired.
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY TIMOTHY JOHNSON
Dear Embattled Bureaucrat,
I wish you had told me what your boss was under investigation for and a little more detail about that situation. Was he guilty but only reprimanded? Was he guilty but got off the hook on a technicality? Or was he actually innocent of the charges surrounding the investigation? What was the nature of your testimony? How damning was it? That would tell me a lot more, but we’ll try to tackle this anyway.
For starters, let’s assume that either 1) he was innocent or 2) he perceived himself to be innocent. In that case, you are perceived as a real and tangible threat to him. His perception of you is that you already have attempted to get him fired. If this is the case, I would be curious what your discussions were with him during this time period. Once the investigation was complete and he wasn’t fired following your testimony, did you attempt to extend an olive branch and make peace, or did you just sweep it all under the rug and pretend it never happened? If the latter, I bet I could easily receive a letter from your boss complaining that he has a subordinate who is trying to get him fired. Do you see how the perceptions can play into this?
Policies to protect whistle-blowers
Most governmental agencies have policies protecting whistle-blowers. If he is punishing you as retribution for your testimony, you should have been logging and documenting these events all along and turning them into your HR department, union, or ombudsman. (If he’s trying to get you fired, I promise you that he is documenting everything that you are doing right now so he can use it against you.) The act of retribution alone could be grounds for further reprimand or dismissal on his part. It is not OK for government officials to seek revenge, regardless of whether or not he actually did what they said he did.
Apologetic about government labor
Now, let’s deal with your perception of government labor. If you are as apologetic to prospective employers as you were with me in this letter, it’s no wonder you are having difficulty finding employment. Many of the government employees I’ve known are very bright and articulate people who have chosen civil service as a career. When you are selling yourself (and you are in the job of sales now that you’re job searching), you need to move past apologies and excuses and focus on the results you’ve achieved in your career and the assets you bring to an employer.
Kick some job hunting tail
If you are approaching each job prospect with an aura of defeat, then it may be time for a serious attitude adjustment. Retool your resume, bone up on your interviewing skills, hire a coach or a head hunter, and kick some job hunting tail.
I wish you all the best!
Thank you for writing to Office-Politics.com
Timothy Johnson, Author & Consultant
Timothy Johnson is the author of the newly released Gust: The “Tale” Wind of Office Politics (Lexicon, 2007) as well as Race Through The Forest – A Project Management Fable (Tiberius, 2006). As Chief Accomplishment Officer for his company, Carpe Factum, Inc. (Latin for “Seize The Accomplishment”), he also is a dynamic speaker, providing keynotes and workshops on the accomplishment-oriented topics of project management, creativity, process improvement, systems thinking, and (of course) office politics. His consulting clients have crossed multiple industries and have included Wells Fargo, Harley-Davidson, ING, Teva NeuroScience, and Principal Financial Group. In addition to writing, consulting, speaking, and coaching, he is also an adjunct instructor for Drake University’s MBA program in Des Moines Iowa, teaching classes in Project Management, Creativity for Business, and Managing Office Politics.