Deur Anja van den Berg
In an ideal world, your boss would support you and your career goals, open up opportunities, and pave the way for you to be successful at your company. But the world isn’t perfect and even managers who once seemed quite supportive can make a sudden shift.
“It can be extremely difficult to deal with a boss who is shutting you out,” says Liz Kislikhey, a management consultant and executive coach, with 30 years’ experience in conflict resolution in the workplace. “They may exclude you from crucial meetings, stop answering or deflect your questions, disparage your input, and ignore your needs for resources or other support.”
Bosses may behave this way if they don’t believe you’re loyal to them, if they feel threatened by your expertise, or if they’re concerned that you’re undermining their standing with the rest of the organisation, Kislikhey explains.
Regardless of the specific reason, she suggests specific approaches you can use to attempt rapprochement, maintain satisfaction with your job (if not with your boss), and keep your career moving forward:
- Revisit your assumptions
First, verify that your boss is treating you differently from the way he or she treats everyone else. “It’s worth checking to see if colleagues are seeing what you are, or if their style or technique generates a better result,” Kislikhey explains.
“It’s also smart to verify whether circumstances have changed for other people if you think they’ve changed for you. Assuming that you’re the only one who’s experiencing the new discomfort — or worse, believing that the change is personal — can make you feel alone and ineffective, when all you might need to do is experiment with your approach.”
- Be the one to bring it up
if you notice a consistent (and more or less explicit) negative thrust to your interactions with your boss, it’s time to step up and do something. Professor of Psychology and Marketing, Art Markman, says you need to go talk to your boss. He does admit that it’s hard to take such a direct approach, for the same reason that many people avoid medical tests when they suspect they might get bad news: uncertainty about the future seems preferable to knowing that there’s a problem. “But”, he says, “you’ve got to suck it up – and fast. The earlier you find out what the problem is, the more time you’ll have to do something about it before it becomes terminal.”
- Don’t let poor management affect your performance
Relationships can’t always be repaired instantly. But don’t spend so much energy focusing on your relationship with your boss that it undercuts your sense of purpose or your performance, says Kislikhey. “Instead, concentrate on what you contribute to the organisation. Be creative and look for opportunities to build new alliances with other colleagues to accomplish more than you could on your own without your boss’s support.” Branch out and make some allies, and let those relationships raise your profile and credibility.
It’s uncomfortable when the person who should be providing you with a platform for success is actually trying to prevent you from progressing. Every human relationship goes through ups and downs, and the one you share with your boss is no exception. These fluctuations are natural, but when they happen in the workplace, they can be extremely destabilising. It’s imperative that you don’t just sit back and hope for the best – approach the problem in a proactive manner.