How to handle a boss who breaks promises

February 8, 2009

Q: My boss promises incentives for achieving targets, but when we reach them, he gives every reason why we won’t get them. With the economy the way it is, I can’t afford to make waves and get fired, but I have lost trust and respect for him. How can I get beyond this?

A: Your boss is in the position of authority, but you have a choice — and experiencing that choice offers you freedom and peace even if you don’t get your desired results.

You can choose to resolve this by developing new alternatives where you both still reach your goals and maintain your relationship. Express your point of view in a calm, neutral way without attacking him. Document and verify all future agreements up front.

If your boss still disagrees, you have been true to yourself and you’ll know where you stand. You can’t always change a person’s mind or the situation, no matter how hard you try. Instead of fighting a losing battle, you can decide to accommodate. In other words, let it go.

You can opt to overpower him by taking it to an influential ally or higher power to force the issue. But what’s the long-range cost to you? If his behaviour reflects the organization’s culture, this could be a no-win situation. It might be wise to cut your losses and move on.

Alternatively you can compromise on what goals you are willing to give up in exchange for others. Staying put means contending with this boss. Is it worth the trade-off of not having to job hunt?

Stewing about bad treatment breeds resentment and drains your energy. Refocus on what brings you satisfaction at work. Set your own benchmarks and incentives for attaining them. If you can’t find a way to minimize conflict, minimize the contact.

Originally printed in The Province on February 8, 2009.

Stay in touch with your boss

November 16, 2008

Q: With the dramatic economic downturn, I am noticing my colleagues are increasingly territorial and protective of their jobs. They are even claiming my results as their own. In spite of my best efforts to resist, I am being drawn into the fray. How do I insulate myself?

A: Understand that the threat on their job security is likely motivating their actions. Fear and stress reveal a person’s true character. While such tactics may be designed to protect their turf, they can actually cause their demise.

So why not play a different game with considerably better odds? Differentiate yourself by taking a completely different tack — the best defence is a good offence.

First, be crystal clear about how success is being measured in this new economic reality. Clarify with your supervisor what outcomes you are expected to achieve, their deadlines and what specific criteria you’re being measured against.

Don’t stop there. Stay in regular communication with the key leaders in your company. In a fluctuating economy, strategies and measures can shift quickly. Understanding where the brass is heading enables you to correct your course at a moment’s notice.

Focus on doing the best you can in your role by being productive and generating positive results.

Your boss will have firsthand knowledge of your efforts — and no rumour mill can snatch that away from you. By making it your mission to meet the organization’s goals, you’ll be demonstrating beyond words that you are a proactive, dedicated and dependable leader — a valuable asset who’s worth hanging on to! 

Distance yourself from the unhealthy head games. The economic climate won’t last forever. Find unmet needs or gaps in your organization that you can easily fill. While others worry about hanging on to their jobs, you could find yourself up for promotion.

Originally printed in The Province on November 16, 2008.