Career Development: How to Handle an Unsupportive Boss
In this column, we share a lot of ideas and tips for building and moving forward in your career. But sometimes management can present obstacles to your success, whether it’s a personality difference, micromanagement, stifling a promotion, or undermining your hard work. Don’t simply live with the negative situation, or quit only to find another imperfect job in the future. Try the following tips to improve your relationship with your boss and empower your career.
Acknowledge Your Role
Rather than blame your boss for the obstacle you’re facing, put aside any emotional bias you may have (SHRM). Don’t gossip about your boss, and try to understand the situation more clearly (Tech Republic). Honestly evaluate your own role in the situation. Do you have unrealistic expectations of your boss? Do your professional skills measure up to the requirements of that promotion? Have you failed to earn the trust of your micromanaging boss? Have you really achieved all the goals of your current role? Do your work achievements reflect well on your boss and team? Think of this as your “HR root cause analysis.” Truly evaluate all the facts about your performance and relationships at work, then devise practical methods for improving these.
Communicate with Your Boss
In our “HR root cause analysis,” one of the corrective actions will almost always include talking with your boss. Difficult though it may be, coming to your boss in a professional manner is the right thing to do and will likely make a positive impression on him or her. When you do, come with a positive outlook with ideas for improvement. Don’t simply come with complaints and no attempts at a solution, which may only make your situation worse.
The best approach is to arrange a performance review meeting with your boss. Make it clear during this meeting that you want to grow professionally, and you’d like to find out what it will take to do so. Ask him or her how you’re meeting and not meeting the goals of your position, and brainstorm action steps to reach those goals. As you receive the criticism, take it with grace and not defensiveness.
If there’s something you need from your boss that you’re not receiving, simply ask for it in a logical manner (Chron) (SHRM). Make it an easy request to grant. For example, instead of simply complaining “You micromanage me too much,” ask if it would help your boss if you provided regular status updates to ease his or her mind.
Make it clear at this meeting that you are committed to your boss’ success as well (Chron).
Develop Your Professional Skills
After you’ve met with your boss, take this feedback to heart. If you’ve received concrete ways in which you can improve, make these your goals and stick to them. Exceed your boss’ expectations and you’ll likely gain his or her trust (Chron).
If your conversation does not go well, there are still options. Take your problem to HR, even if all you need is a second opinion on some aspects of the problem. It always helps to bring in a third party ro evaluate the situation.
If you need additional support, start by building your professional network by pursuing a mentoring and/or networking opportunity (Tech Republic). A mentor can provide a second opinion and unbiased advice on your career. This relationship just may provide the support you need to move forward in your career. Continue to build your network through events, LinkedIn, and pursuing one-on-one meetings with colleagues (Diversity MBA).
Prepare for a future job change and safeguard your interests by building a file that includes your updated resume, certifications, accomplishments, successful projects, and any awards you’ve earned (Diversity MBA). As you move forward within the company, or if you decide to seek advancement elsewhere, you’ll be ready to put your best foot forward.