Five Ways A Weak Manager Will Set You Up To Fail


Most of us grew up drinking toxic lemonade.

We were not taught to pay attention to our five senses, but now we are learning that we must! We were taught to respect authority more than our own bodies. The training started when we were tiny kids.

We can look back now and see how many destructive things we learned from our elders. With luck we learned more valuable lessons, too!

Now we know that fear and trust are the two energy fields that flow through any workplace. If you’re good enough at your job or you catch the attention of higher-ups, a fearful manager above you won’t like it. He or she will make it very hard for you to succeed — or at least they’ll try.

You have a choice when you’re working under a fearful manager. You can jolly him or her along and help the fearful one become less skittish. You can partner up with him or her and let your manager see that you are happy to make him or her look good along the way to growing your flame.

If you don’t like that plan, you can leave the fearful manager and go to work for someone else — or go to work for yourself!

Once a fearful manager decides you are too hot to handle, he or she will try to trip you up. They’ll set you up to fail. Here are five ways your fearful manager might go about their plan to “cut you down to size:”

They’ll give you “dog” projects that are bound to fail and will tie you up for months

For years people have said “If they change your title to ‘Special Projects Manager’ you know it’s time to go.”

Your boss doesn’t have to give you a title with ‘Special Projects’ in it for you to get the message. You can tell where the energy is flowing in your organization.

You know which projects and initiatives are the most closely tied to the organization’s future, and which ones its leaders care about. When your manager decides to neutralize your energy, he or she will stick you on a project that no one cares about and that will take you out of circulation for months.

Should you take on the dog project to be a good citizen? You can take it on and launch a job search, internally and externally. Look at it this way: a waste of resources is a bad business decision and a disservice to shareholders. If your talents are being wasted, don’t stand by and be a party to that crime!

They’ll restrict your access to people outside your department

We got a call from Martha, an HR person with a big flame. Martha is dragging her company into the 21st century bit by hit. Her CEO loves her energy and ability to get things done. However, Martha doesn’t report to the CEO.

She reports to the CFO, who isn’t as comfortable with Martha’s culture-building activities as he could be.

Martha’s CFO boss told her “Why don’t you go through me when you need something from one of the executives here?” Martha was horrified, but she kept her cool. She said “What would be the business benefit of that process? I have never heard of a situation where an HR Manager goes through her boss to communicate with her internal clients.”

The CFO was acting out of fear, of course. He had never thought about an HR Manager having internal clients. He backed off. He said “Well, let’s keep talking about it” and Martha kept up her campaign to humanize her workplace. A month later the goofy “go through me” idea was forgotten, but only because Martha made it clear in her body language and her voice that she is not someone you can push around.

They’ll assign you impossible goals

Every aspect of a job is negotiable. That is true whether you’re working the drive-up window at Burger King or an executive-level position. If your goals are so out of reach that you don’t stand a chance at hitting them, you have to say something.

Boss: So, here are your goals. You have to double inventory turns this quarter and double them again next quarter.

You: Great. So, where do these goals come from? What is the  logic behind them?

Boss: I set these goals. Next question?

You: It would be irresponsible of me not to let you know that the goals are impossible. They are not tied to any actions that are within our capability right now. I can share with you a plan for getting us to these goals but I can’t sign on to hit them when I know that we can’t — no organization could, with our resources and given our current situation.

Boss: Then that’s the first problem you’ll have to solve, I guess.

Now you can see that your growing flame is impossible for your boss to deal with. Maybe you weren’t thinking about changing jobs, but something has to give. Sometimes Mother Nature knows what’s best for you — more than we do!

Don’t be angry or resentful when you run into a fearful boss. Your power is showing — that’s what your boss doesn’t like! Of course he or she is trying to squash your flame. You are a growing plant that has outgrown its pot.

You’re going to launch a stealth job search and look for a job where you have room to grow, working with a manager who wants the same things you want.

Fear of change — specifically, fear of a job change — is the reason so many people stay stuck in bad jobs and going-nowhere careers. You won’t get stuck — you’re on your path!

They’ll ignore you

When I was about 23, I was asked to make a presentation at my company’s national sales meeting.

I had to create a manual for our salespeople and sales managers to use in training their new recruits in the field. I had never done any ales, but luckily for me the manual was mostly about dealing with customers and their issues, and about dealing with headquarters.

Since I had been in our customer service department for several years, I was able to write the manual in a Q & A format without much trouble.

I asked my manager to look over the manual but she was too busy. I had it reviewed by our law firm. My manager didn’t make it to those meetings, either. She ignored me and my project completely.

My manager never saw my 100-page manual before the national sales meeting. Later it hit me that she wanted to distance herself from it (and me) in case the salespeople didn’t like it. Luckily, they did. My manager was hedging her bets. She wanted to maintain plausible deniability in case my manual and/or my presentation bombed.

You will run into fearful managers who aren’t sure whether you are friend or foe. You will singe them with your flame without meaning to.

They’ll chip away at your confidence

The best way to make someone nervous and throw them off their game is to tell them that other people are saying bad things about them. A fearful manager will chip away at your confidence by passing on negative remarks that others – especially higher-ups — supposedly said about you.

Here’s how that will go:

Your Boss: So Mike, what went wrong at last week’s production meeting?

You: Nothing. Why do you ask?

Your boss: I heard Catherine, the VP, saying she wished your numbers had been more solid.

You: Hmmm.

You’ll go see Catherine — not in a panic, but calmly. You’ll ask her “Catherine, were you missing any numbers you needed from me after last week’s production meeting?”

Catherine will say “No — why do you ask?”

You’ll say “No reason – have a great day!” because you’re too well-brought-up to say “A fearful manager put that bug in my ear — don’t worry about it!”