Is your boss trying to sabotage your career . . . and what you can do about it! (Part 1)
I can remember watching classic cartoons such as The Jetsons with my son and was struck by the way in which George Jetson’s boss Mr. Spacely was portrayed as having a mercurial temperament where at the drop of a hat he would go from firing his bewildered employee, to promoting him to Vice President then, back to firing him.
While some might suggest that this is just a cartoon, what is interesting is that similar portrayals do in fact play out in the work place every day. Books such as Unstable at The Top, authored by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries and Danny Miller bring to light the challenges employees face when dealing with what can only be described as a “toxic” boss. Can you relate to working with the wrath of a toxic boss?
In my own career as a branding specialist and leadership coach, I have seen first-hand where people’s behavior were outrageous but because they brought in the results, senior management just accepted their emotional/erratic/dysfunctional actions.
Toxic Boss Story # 1:
An example that immediately comes to mind was when my client Sue who was viewed as being a rainmaker, was given the opportunity to jump two levels at another organization. To keep her employed and happy, the President stepped in as her sponsor and got her promoted with the promise she would go up an additional level within six months. Based on such high level intervention, it would seem logical that my client was in the ideal situation being positioned for long-term success. After all, wouldn’t one think that having the support of the President was insurance for future success?
Unfortunately, being championed by the President proved to be more of a hindrance than a blessing. The reason for this was because the President’s direct report, John, resented his interference in insisting that this woman be hired and promoted in his department. John resented the President undermining his authority. This was because John had already decided to promote a friend to the position that this so called rainmaker now held.
Suffice to say, John did everything he could to make her life miserable.
Besides bullying her, he found every reason to rob her of confidence by complaining about her work in front of colleagues, and claiming that she wasn’t mature enough to handle the stress or change that the new position required.
Eventually she got transferred but never recovered from his badmouthing. Her once promising career unfortunately stagnated.
Sadly, and to avoid butting heads with a toxic boss, some employees will opt for job security and accept the consolation prize as the best alternative.
Toxic Boss Story # 2:
Another example of a toxic boss can be found in a recent situation where he was a results oriented producer , loved by leadership but disliked by anyone not on his team. Politically savvy, this boss hired Eric, a person whom he had befriended.
In his new role, Eric was given the task of being the bad cop so that the boss could look like the good cop. With virtually no support from the boss but certainly lots of pressure, Eric communicated in the same abusive style as that of his “mentor.” Unfortunately, he was outnumbered by his colleagues towards whom his abusive tone was directed and got nailed. Sadly, and even though Eric adopted a “when in Rome” approach to dealing with a toxic leader, he was ultimately hung out to dry by the very boss he had chosen to emulate.
So what is the answer when confronted with having to deal with a toxic boss on a day in, day out basis?
In part 2 of this series, I will provide definitive action strategies that will help you to navigate the difficult and trying waters of a boss’ destructive behavior to not only reduce its impact on your career and life, but also help you to overcome and succeed either within your present company or in making the move to a new organization.
In the meantime, do you yourself or someone you know have a story of having to deal with a difficult boss and what you did (or tried to do) to deal with it?