In the last couple of months, I have had the chance to deliver a few training sessions related to management and a couple of motivational speeches. Interestingly, one question came up in each of the five of these events: How do you handle a situation where your boss feels threatened by you and is blocking your career advancement?”
Frankly, this is a very difficult question. And, at each of the events, I did start answering by confessing that it is a difficult question. Even here, I declare from the onset that this is not an easy situation. You may have to take tough decisions in the end!
The reasons for a boss to block your career advancement may be various. It could be that he or she feels threatened by you or is simply jealousy. Below are eight of the things you can do in a situation where you are sure that your boss is blocking your career advancement.
1. Focus on delivery: Your number one objective in a job is to work for your boss, to deliver results for your boss. When you discover that your boss is blocking your career advancement, focus all your energies on delivery. Avoid talking much about your future jobs and avoid discussing details of your career plan with the boss. You may have to even tell such a boss that you do not have immediate plans to scale up your job.
2. Don’t act as a threat: The most likely cause for your boss to block your career advancement is that he or she feels threatened by your achievements, your potential or your skills and so on. You need to play all this down. You need to survive. Do not unnecessarily add to his or her feeling of being threatened. Reduce the anxiety your boss feels. As is often said about rules of power, never outshine your boss. Play the underdog to survive.
3. Leave no gaps: Such a boss may go to the extent of even looking for reasons to have you fired from your job. Make sure you adhere to all the rules and follow procedures and processes at all times. Leave no gaps at all in your workings and in your delivery. Give him or her no chance to find a cause for disciplinary action.
4. Keep low profile: As we have mentioned above, avoid outshining such a boss. Keep a low profile so that he or she does not feel inferior or outshined. By keeping a low profile, you will automatically reduce the boss’ fears, thereby minimising his or her working against your career advancement.
5. Broaden your network: Quietly broaden your network. This might help you in case your current situation deteriorates into a stage where you may have to look for another job internally or externally. The expansive networks that you build both internally and externally to the organisation will be a good starting point for looking for alternative jobs. You need to expand your networks without fanfare as that may irritate a jealousy boss further.
6. Talk to HR: If your HR looks professional and can be trusted with confidentiality, then you have every right and reason to brief them about the challenge you have with your boss. Letting HR know helps because HR can help you to manage the situation. HR may also consider you for other internal opportunities as they arise. Additionally, HR will take into account the relationship challenges should your boss start to affect your employment directly.
7. Change departments: If you find a good opportunity to transfer to another section or department, then you might want to consider that option to work far from the current boss. Be careful not to openly show that you are running away from the ‘troublesome’ boss. You need to act smartly.
8. Change jobs: If everything else fails, you will have no choice but to completely change your jobs. You may have to search widely for new amazing opportunities.
Good luck as you work to manage a tough working relationship with your boss. All the best!