A friend of mine, Fiona, was telling a group of us the other day about her manager. She was expressing her frustration with his inability to make decisions, his poor communication style and his constant cancellation of meetings. The biggest frustration was his seeming inability to walk his talk. Instead of doing what he said he’s going to do, he’d do the complete opposite. Fiona was in a complete state of confusion and angst, as she really doesn’t know how to handle this situation. She is directionless in her role and very disengaged. I mean, what do you do when your boss is a complete douche bag?
I’ve got to say as she was telling me the story my frustration levels were rising too. It’s not only an incredibly annoying situation but it can also feel like a very helpless situation for any employee to be in. To confront this situation can be very uncomfortable because it generally means one of three things:
- You have to confront your boss about their behaviour and it’s most likely a conversation they don’t want to hear.
- You go above your boss’s head and speak to his manager (if this is available) or the HR department (if this is available).
- You put up and shut up causing you to lose engagement and enjoyment in your career.
Of course, there is also the option to leave but this can feel like a very unfair and unjustified option when the person who is meant to be leading you is actually significantly hindering you.
Unfortunately this situation isn’t uncommon. There are many who are called leaders simply because of their authority and they don’t possess any true leadership attributes at all. And unfortunately these ‘leaders’ impact people in a very negative way. Fiona felt like her confidence was being drained, that she wasn’t performing well and that she was the only one that had the problem.
So what did we encourage her to do? As she had tried to speak to her manager previously with no luck she took this approach:
- She approached her manager’s manager for guidance advising she felt helpless and had no other options. His manager empathized and assisted Fiona in her next steps. This allowed her to feel like she’d been heard and empowered her with the next steps. It also released a lot of tension and anxiety so when she took the next step she was less emotional.
- Fiona confronted her manager in a controlled state. She let him know how she was feeling and provided examples of what he was doing to make her feel this way. He was shocked but accepted the feedback and they worked out agreed actions to move forward with.
- She also approached recruiters so she felt in control of her career and empowered with options just in case this didn’t end well! This was important for her so she didn’t feel trapped in this situation.
So where is it at now? Fiona felt so much better and empowered by having the courage to have the conversation with her boss and his manager. She also found out she was not alone in feeling this way so felt validated. Not surprisingly, her boss hasn’t met their agreements and continues to operate in the same manner. She has had two job interviews and feels like she is getting her confidence back. She now knows that she doesn’t have to tolerate being treated poorly; she has options and is taking her career into her own hands.
There are three lessons here –
- First, is the power in confronting a situation and not allowing things to continue as they are simply because your leader is a douche. We need to challenge the status quo to move forward
- Second, is the power of collective intelligence. The group helped Fiona through this situation and rallied to support her. Who you surround yourself with and seek guidance from is incredibly important.
- Third, is that people will not tolerate poor leadership. My friend is a star performer and the interest in her from other companies since she has floated her CV is proof of that. This will be a big loss to the organisation for tolerating poor leadership. The cost to recruit and train to replace her will be exorbitant. Culture is the lifeblood of any organisation and in this example culture has been compromised.
The good part of the story – either way, my friend is now in a winning position as she has taken control of the situation and is now in control of her own destiny. She has stood up to be heard and has stopped compromising what is important to her. All power to her – she demonstrated incredible courage. This situation isn’t easy but hopefully through Fiona’s story you can see there are options and you do have a choice if you are in this situation. And if you are the douche bag boss – take note!