When Your Boss Screws You Over




If you have spent several years in the work force (it could take a few years or up to a decade) and this hasn’t happened to you then there are one or more of three things happening in your life:

  1. you are an ass-kisser
  2. you have a great way of taking lemons and making lemonade
  3. you have an exceptionally wonderful boss

th_karmaNow let me tell you a little autobiographical example and I am being as objective as I can. I really really wanted a certain position within my organization. Not a promotion – more like a transfer. I have all the qualifications and then some. I keep my mouth shut and work hard. I always had (or so I thought) a solid working relationship with my boss. Then one year the position I wanted opened up. Oh joy! thought I. Now I have a great shot at it.

Not so. The Boss gave it to a new woman on staff who had just joined the organization that year and doubtless didn’t have anymore qualifications than me. The real catch? She’s pregnant. 7 months. She is leaving in 1 month for a 1-year mat leave. She is also very poor with her communication skills with the staff. Okay, some of the staff find her outright weird. She can be borderline rude and sulky for no reason whatsoever.

Clearly the reason the Boss gave her the position was because he wants someone from the outside to take the job but he’s obligated to give it to someone on the inside first – that’s just the rules. I seethed. I hurt. I even went home that night and had a bad dream about it and woke up yelling. Everyone who wanted this position was shocked and pissed off. Not necessarily because they didn’t get it. There aren’t that many petty people on staff but because we all know she is less qualified than certain people on staff and she has done nothing exceptional to demonstrate that she deserves it.

What could I do about it?  Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Sometimes you have to admit defeat and just get out of there. I figured well I might as well try to find the positive in all this because being down in the mouth isn’t going to help me. So I decided to put in for a transfer out of the building and into another school entirely. The happy thing is that my seniority and qualifications means I pretty much get to walk into the job I apply for – that’s our union’s guarantee. There were some pluses to this:

  1. Sometimes staying in the same school and school community isn’t always a good thing. About every 5 years many teachers move on just for the change and the opportunity for growth.
  2. I won’t have to deal with this particular Boss’s moody, unpredictable behaviour anymore. Ever.
  3. I’m studying for my Doctorate andif I decide to remain in the school then staying with a predictable grade assignment should prove very helpful in terms of not getting too overloaded with work or school.

So two things I learned from this are if you can’t get what you want at work and probably never will then move on. Dust off the resume and leave. Second, try your best to see if there is anything whatsoever that has a positive bent in the situation. Get someone else to give you feedback if need be. A friend of mine helped me to recognize #3 on my ever so happy list about why I shouldn’t be too upset about not getting the transfer I wanted.

It still hurts that my boss, whom I have always liked and defended to other people, would rather see me leave than to give me the position I want. Sometimes loyalty just doesn’t pay. Sometimes nice guys (and girls) really do finish last. That and the fact that several of my colleagues have simply approached me (not the other way around) and muttered that the boss is “an asshole,” reassured me that my sense of judgment in the matter overall was accurate. Didn’t matter. He’s still the one at the helm and I’m the one who has to adjust my attitude to work well in the school.

When this happens to you (and it WILL), try to not do this:

  1. burn bridges – you need your boss’s recommendation
  2. neglect your work – your boss will notice and that leads to burning bridges
    as well as affecting your reputation
  3. be a jerk to your boss – see number 1
  4. gossip about the person who gets the promotion – it’s not her or his
    fault that the boss prefers that person over you
  5. get stuck obsessing over how poor little you got screwed and
    just stay in the same job and same mindset indefinitely – that only hurts you
  6. take out your frustration on your family – that’s just wrong

Try to do this:

  1. take up boxing or kick-boxing at your gym and pretend your trainer or
    punching bag is your boss
  2. maintain a positive demeanor at work
  3. find a new job
  4. get a make-over – get your hair done and buy make-up; get a new outfit:
    anything that makes you feel fresh and renewed – it’s good
  5. go to a spa – you’ll feel like a socialite who chooses to work so you won’t
    sit around bored all day – bring a friend –  drink wine
  6. count your blessings and you have LOTS in your life – at least your boss
    isn’t your doctor telling you that you have cancer

Penelope Trunk has a blog entitled There are no bad bosses – I love this quote: I never expected [the boss] to manage the relationship for us, because I wanted to make sure I was getting what I needed out of it….I could have spent my time complaining. There was a lot to complain about. Instead I always approached him with empathy.” Depending on the size of your organization, your nature and the position you are in compared with the boss, that may be easier for some people to do than others. This is another great blog.

I believe there is such a thing as a bad boss however. A boss who controls her employees by:

  1. yelling
  2. micro-managing
  3. insulting
  4. acting like a Drama Queen
  5. threatening to fire you
  6. unable to follow through on decisions
  7. lying to people

is a bad boss (even one of the above is enough). In that case, if I can’t work something out with such a person, I’d leave.

There are lots of other things you can do to get past disappointment however, which isn’t the same thing as having a tyrannical boss. I’m sure you have ideas of your own. As long as none of them involves keying the boss’s car or pushing her over the stairs then it’s all good. There will always be a shitty development in your work life that makes you wonder why this has happened to you and whatever possessed you to get into this line of work in the first place. That’s human. There will always be the opportunity to shake it off and make Plan B. That’s divine.




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