I Think My New Boss Wants To Fire Me!

Question:

My friend read through an email that my current boss is trying to get rid of me. She has a friend that she believes can do my job.

The situation is that this is a new boss (1 week) for me. She has recently promoted to this position by what used to be my boss. I have proof that she is sleeping with him. He is a married man. She is recently divorced. Is there anything that I should do to prevent from being let go?

Signed,

Panicked With Worry


Answer:

Dear Panicked With Worry:

I can imagine how frightening this is. It can make a person panic and see only the negative side of things. In this case, your thoughts might be realisitc, but it would be good to force yourself to consider the reality of it all.

1.) According to the kind of business you are in, it is usually not easy for a new boss–especially if there are others in the chain of organization, to simply walk in and fire someone for no reason without stirring up a bit of trouble herself.

That alone should be somewhat of a comfort! She will likely have to give a reason and be able to make it seem important enough to fire a good employee.

2.) You don’t know exactly what the email said I gather. It’s one thing if it said, “I intend to fire Mary, but I’m waiting until the first of the month to do it.” It’s another thing if it said, “Mary is the Senior Teller, but I’m hoping I can get Jana in here before long.” That’s a wish but she would have to find a way to make that happen.

Or, she may have only said something snippy like, “Mary is the Head Teller. Believe me if I could I’d replace her with a friend of mine who could work circles around her. But, I’m probably stuck.”

Sometimes those are just “blah blah” remarks. By that I mean they are just empty words without any real intention to do anything.

And, keep in mind that even if she has a relationship with her boss, he may not be anxious to fire someone who has worked for him effectively, just to keep his girl friend happy.

3.) How is your own work going? You would be in more jeopardy is you have had some problems even before she arrived. For example, if your former boss had talked to you about your work, it may be that she came in feeling you were a problem. Or, if there have been complaints made about you by internal or external clients, coworkers or others, she may feel she has a mandate to make a change.

I’m not saying those things are true, just wanting you to consider what thought processes she is having about this.

If you’ve been getting along fine and doing good work, there is even less chance that she will be able to remove you on a whim or just to replace you with someone else.

4.) That brings us to the real reasons she would want to replace you. It may be that she simply wants to have a close friend nearby to ensure that someone will cover for her. Or, it could be that she resents your influence or status for some reason.

Your former boss may have complimented you too much for your new boss’s liking. Or, maybe she simply wants to have someone working for her who owes her for the job and will be completely loyal.

If you believe you know the reason for her thinking, that might provide you with some ideas for defusing her concern or anger. For example, if she feels you aren’t loyal to her, you could at least show her that you won’t go over her head with questions or concerns to your former boss. You could make sure to avoid saying bad things about her to coworkers (which will inevitably get back to her no matter how much people say they don’t like her and do like you.)

Or, if she thinks you don’t pay enough attention to her suggestions, you could at least start ensuring that you give her the respectful hearing and response that you would give anyone in her position. Ask her for suggestions, defer in small ways, let her be the boss in the things that matter to her.

5.) Consider some ways to strengthen your position there, making it even more difficult for her to replace you.

*I’m sure you know that you and your work space must look 100% professional. Present an image of someone who brings tremendous value to the company. Let those who have decision-making authority see you in that way and they will be far less likely to buy a story that you just have to go for the good of the company.

*If you are evaluated using a performance evaluation form, get a blank copy of it and ensure that you not only are fulfilling each area but that, when possible, you have examples or proof of the good work you have done. Develop a “fire-resistant” stack of documentation that you can share with your boss and mention to others.

*According to your location and your work, look for ways to develop influence using the three steps I often mention: Be credible, Be valuable and Communicate effectively.

*Are there associations you could join that would support you professionally and that would be good to mention at work, or that would enhance your work? What about creating a network of people in your same job or same business, and become known as a resource?

*Is there anything about your work for which you could let others know that if they need information or help you’d welcome a phone call or email? That kind of openness gets your name out and makes you a valuable commodity. If you do that already, do it again in a fresh way.

*According to the size of your community or area, if there is a way to get your name in the paper, with your business name included, so you can forward that to all the bosses, that too is a great value to add to your list. I realize that depends a lot on the community, but perhaps you could adapt it. For example, write a letter that is positve and upbeat to a professional magazine and sign your name with your employment and position, if that would be effective.

*Identify people in and outside your business and make a contact list, then work through it. You don’t have to spend a lot of time or be disruptive to them, but that list might remind you to send a hello message, drop by an office or make a phone call now and then, just to keep name and face recognition.

*Are there any templates, checklists, forms or ideas you could develop and share with others? One employee I know created a few little checklists about a work process and casually distributed it, almost like, “Hey, this has worked for me, I thought you could use it.”

The checklist was nothing special but it gave her instant value and credibility–and also stopped the efforts of a coworker to get her job.

*Find out what your boss needs from you and provide it to the best of your ability. If you don’t know, ask. You don’t mention how effectively you and she have been communicating, and I don’t blame you for not trusting her. But, remember she might change her mind if she feels you can help her in her new work.

6.) That brings us to the issue of what you should do about the relationship she has with her boss. Probably everyone knows about it anyway. Rarely do the bosses above not have at least an idea. But, unless it’s hurting business they probably don’t care.

If there is some truly serious organizational rule being violated and you know your job would be in jeopardy if you don’t report it, you should let someone know. But otherwise, I think you should let that work out on its own. You’d be mistrusted forever if you were the one who caused people at that level to be fired. And there is no guarantee that the next person would want you around given that history.

You may know the situation differently. But on the outside looking in I can’t see a way to put a good spin on being the one who reports that to higher ups. They might say, “Yes, we know. Now get out.”

7.) Instead of considering those personal issues, just focus on your work and demonstrating your credibility, value and effective communications. It is those three things that will keep you with such a good reputation that if your boss suggests replacing you, she’ll look bad rather than you.

I hope you can find a way to develop a workable relationship with your new boss. I think you’ll be wise to tell the person who told you about the email that you appreciate the heads up but don’t want her to get in trouble, so she’d better not do that again. Then, focus on being so effective that you are considered one of the most valuable members of the team. When those at high levels think of you that way, concern for the business will far outweigh the personal preference of an individual boss. And by that time she may feel much differently.

I’m very curious to find out what happens and hope you will keep us informed. I realize that it is easier for me to feel casual about it than you and I want you to know I do understand your fear as well as your anger and frustration. I’m hoping all of this is just the “getting to know you” stage and soon the workplace will be back on a good track.

Best wishes to you!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.