Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about boss who controls: When a problem occurs; he blames personnel or other leaders within the organization and refuses to take responsibility.
Six months ago I started in a Technical Department. I was hired to handle all the hardcore topics: financial and technical, while my male boss is in charge of the topics: personnel and strategies. He was assigned as my daily boss. In case he was on holiday or out of the office, I was in charge of the department. After a few months he promoted me to equal and co-leader still with our separate responsibilities. My boss is 53 year old and has 2.5-year experience in the industry while I am 41 year old and have 15-year experience in the industry.
While promoting me to equal and co-leader, he decided to keep the chain of command so that he still has final call on all decisions. But he asks me daily for guidance within his own responsibilities, and today I am basically running the whole department. He simply does not know the people employed in our department and their skills. He feels uncomfortable among them and does not understand their differences and the day-to-day problems and tasks. Instead he spends time in meetings (Quality Board etc.) talking about fluffy ideas in words no one understands (heard this from another member of the Board), or he spends time networking with leaders from other companies. Whenever he gets the chance, he spends hours in other leader’s offices crying about “my boss (the Technical Director) is too hard on me and does not understand me”.
Every single move he does and every single sentence he says is done with the single agenda: what can I do to save myself or promote myself? When a problem occurs; he blames personnel or other leaders within the organization and refuses to take responsibility. If I push him hard enough, he uses the excuse that he has no work experience within our branch or that he is temporary under pressure from our director or other leaders within the company. Problems in relation to other Departments are not solved. Often the employees in our Department are left in Limbo because he does not dare to confront the leaders of the other Departments as he fears that they might outmaneuver him, bully him or blame him.
Problems within the Department are left for the employees themselves to solve with no interference from him. His argument for this method is that this way, they can work out the issues in a diplomatically way themselves within the group. He deliberately keeps me away from meetings with our Technical Director, who then assigns all tasks and projects to our department via my co-leader, including those that are within my responsibility. Unfortunately my co-leader does not always understand what is asked for. So he passes these on to me in the 11th hour on a Friday with red eyes and a “cry” in his voice.
Tasks and projects within his own responsibility are also handed over to me in the same way, when he must give up due to incompetence. Then I can spend several hours afterwards as a detective so I can get started on the assignment. Not to mention that I can spend the whole weekend working in order to deliver the upcoming Monday. Once I declined a task that he tried to pass on to me on a Friday, the following week he was very cold towards me and tried to ignore me. Many times he has stolen credit for my work. I know for a fact that he delivers the results to our Technical Director with the word “we” instead of “she” when it is obvious that he alone could not do the task or project himself. Afterwards he forgets who was the original master mind on the task or project and repeats “we” and sometimes even changes it into “I” when speaking to personnel or other leaders in the company.
All my advice to him is delivered in private meetings, so that no one can hear the input and ideas I feed him. Unfortunately this also means that I have almost no paper trail to lean back on. Not that this would help in any way. In one of these private meetings, he actually admitted that he as willing to take a cutback in salary in order to keep his title and position. A few months ago, he joked while I was doing a superb presentation based on data entered in Windows Excel in a meeting with other people: we should change your initials to “Excel”, but pronounced it “XL” – Hereby commenting on my figure and size (US16). And here in early January when I entered his office with the remark, “I have done some thinking and have a suggestion,” he responded, “Is it a solution, where your husband gets a job in our company?”
For your information, my husband has been out of work for a year now. I responded, “No, it actually now we handle the scenario of the upcoming majeure.” He just smiled in a cool way and responded, “Sorry, that was a joke.” But I truly felt he hit me below the belt! I feel that he has planned my work in such a way that everything is channeled via him, both verbally as written. So I never get a single chance to shine in front of our Technical Director or to other leaders in the company. On one occasion my co-leader commented my performance with “Sometime in the future you will be running the entire department,” so I know that he defiantly sees me as a serious threat. My question is: how do I put myself in a position where I can shine and show my worth?
Signed, Equal But Invisible
Dear Equal But Invisible:
Up front, I want you to know, at least for now, that I’ve decided not to post this Q&A. Because? There are three because: · Because your boss/management might happen to read it and determine it is you who sent its details. · Because it might be too early to expect to shine. You’ve been in this position for only six months. · Because the suggestions I have, likely are not so applicable as your own. You sense the politics and risk of whatever you might do. With caution, here are some several overlapping approaches for you to consider:
1. Request a six-month performance review by your Technical Director. Of course at such a meeting, first listen for your TD’s evaluation. But also come prepared with a list of projects completed with measures in significant numbers and what feedback you can produce in so short a time. Without “tattling,”, candidly describe the division of labor proposed by your co-equal boss and its difficulties, such as being excluded contact with other departments and the misrepresentation of who does what by the “we” used by your co-equal boss. You’ll have to decide if you it is better to go to this review alone, or to have a conversation with your “co-equal boss” and to include him in the request for a your six-month review. I think it there is much to be said for including him.
2. Lay the cards on the table in a meeting with your co-equal boss; both from your and his perspective. This would entail clarifying and listing the driving/restraining factors to making your work visible and to your boss’ effort to maintain his. Then the work of collaborative problem solving begins. Rather than assigning blame, together you seek ways to increase the driving forces and mitigate or bypass the restraining for each of your goals.
3. Find a modification of the current division of labor, such as expanding your role to outside contacts that affect your department’s effectiveness. Arranging that might involve tradeoff of some of what has been assigned.
4. Insist on a signature for work accomplished. No more of the “we” for projects. Rather signing off on who does what and insisting that be visible in the reports.
5. Take on a coaching role with those in your department. Change from making assignments and telling to a skull session format. Initiating a different style of leadership might raise your visibility, especially if it would result in more effective delivery of quality.These are but a few thoughts that might prompt a course of action or prompt more creative approaches of your own.
Above all, whatever you do, it is important to save face for you co-equal boss and to seek the good feelings that come from promoting the good of all concerned rather than trampling on those as you climb the ladder of recognition. I will be interested in learning if you think any of these thoughts make sense and then in what you do. Soooo after a few weeks, if you can find time, send us a note on how it is going. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that isn’t that what you want?