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When To Fire Your Boss

Going into this third season of Pandemic, employees are enjoying some leverage. In order to fire your boss, you still carry the risk. But it may be time.

Not Your First Option

"Fire my boss, YESSSS!" Let's all take a breath and slow our collective roll. Unless there is direct evidence of embezzlement, no boss is getting fired. A boss has to fire a boss and if one can get fired, well, who's next? Yes, it's a super cynical view, but in your most honest moment, how many 'bad bosses' have you seen stay in their jobs in no small part due to lack of fortitude by other bosses? Maybe they're relational, maybe they hate conflict, maybe they don't think the behavior is so bad, and yes, maybe, if they fire the 'bad boss' there's no one below them to make them not look so bad. Cynical? Yes. Possible? Also, yes.

At the first sign that your boss has achieved their career apex and you've got no idea how, severing the relationship should not be the first play. People are relational characters. People are also complex. In many cases, as employees, we have no idea how a person got into a leadership role because we know them in that job. They may be really good at certain portions and leave you wanting in others. It's possible that overall, they're better than competent and can be alright.

What to do, learn more about them, their experience, their career path, and aspirations. In other words, get to know them, to the degree they're open to that idea. You don't need to be besties, but there's nothing wrong with having some good work friends.

Gaslighting or Introspection?

The more I learn about imposter syndrome (or phenomenon) the more I think it's a bit of a misnomer. The feeling of being an imposter is not relegated to women or underrepresented colleagues. Feelings of being an imposter can affect anyone with the possible exception of the narcissist. If the fully vetted podcast I enjoy is as accurate as I choose to believe it to be, Tom Hanks also has times when he thinks he's going to be revealed to be a fraud. As an actor. Who has achieved National Treasure (TM) status. It's fair to think that most of us question or own skills, achievements, and abilities.

In the red zone, we're being introspective and really thinking about our experiences and questioning our beliefs. In the violet zone, we are being questioned about what we think we know in a way that makes us wonder if we really know anything. Somewhere in the range of yellow to blue, we're wondering if we're thoughtful, or incompetent.

How do we know? Introspection will help you examine what you believe and what you think. Gaslighting will make you question what you know, what you've earned, and whether you're good enough. If your boss is sparking introspection, it's likely they're being a leader and possibly a mentor. If your boss is gaslighting you, it's time to stand your ground, appropriately.

When gaslighted, a response like, "I'm fairly certain I understand this, but there's always room for confirmation. I'll double-check and let you know if something is different." If the gaslighting is more subversive like a slight to your credentials, a possible response is, "That experience is where I learned [subject] and the opportunity helped me earn my promotion."

You don't 'get' a promotion, you earn it. 'Getting' means your indebted to someone. Earning is independence.

Diminishing Returns Approaching Zero

Assuming you've made every adjustment possible to make your work life work for you, it may come to be that departure is the only rational response. If your relationship with your boss is degrading to where you look to minimize any interaction with them, consider an exit strategy. The reason is, most people quit their boss, not their job. This means that even if you feel purpose and meaning in your role and you have connection with your colleagues, it could all be overrun by a poor supervisory relationship.

As soon as you see your relationship with your boss as irreparable, it's time to go. This might be a transfer, a lateral move, or the dreaded job hunt. But if you're looking out for your own health and life satisfaction, hating going to work every day is going to only detract from your ability to enjoy the rest of your life.

Egos of Candy Glass

There is a finite group of people who are able to have critical conversations, even confrontations, and have a positive result on the other side. It absolutely requires the target of the confrontation to be at least a little bit reflective and able to accept critique. Without that, even the most versed orator would not likely have a positive outcome. Most people don't like critiques and many bosses seem to think that any kind of constructive criticism is an irreparable strike against the very core of their character.

If a person is going to respond with an F5 tantrum if their behavior is confronted, most of us will avoid the tough conversation and bypass the storm altogether. If that F5 tantrum is launched, it's likely not to lead in a better leader, but an even rougher work experience than before the storm.

Brittle egos don't stop there. While I don't disagree with the advice, when discussing interview strategy, I was once told, "Even if you worked for The Devil himself, do not speak badly of your boss." I appreciate the advice. Further, I understand and reject the premise which is the interview team will see the candidate as a problematic troublemaker. What if, just maybe, the candidate is leaving their job because their boss was a belittling misogynist and no one would help correct behavior? Why work in that environment and why be afraid to say, "I don't work for belittling misogynists," if that's exactly your disposition?

In part, because the interview team will think you're the problem. In part, because they don't want to be accused of the same kind of thing in their leadership roles. The Us and Them here is not even people in the same space or on the same team, but at comparable levels of the org chart. "If that's how they talk about their old boss, how will they talk about us?" Turns out, most people don't speak badly about leaders who treat them with dignity and respect.

Super, So, When, Exactly?

Fire your boss before your current situation is no longer tenable. When people wait until they have to leave, the odds go up of taking any opportunity that gets them out of the situation which may or may not be better. Recognizing that things are going poorly and then looking for a place to land will help you run toward a goal rather than run from a situation.

Keep your needs toward the top of your list of to-do's. We're not always first on our own list, sometimes we might break the top 5. But you should be your priority on a recurring basis. If you realize you haven't acted in a way that is to your benefit for quite some time, it may be past time to make a change.

When you can, leave that situation. Your holistic health is worth it. Goodness knows if the business wasn't healthy enough, they would cut you and other employees to save money and save the business. In a very real way, you are your own best advocate. If you don't advocate for your needs, who else will?

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