My Boss Went Behind My Back to Subordinates


Recently I was up for a raise. When I asked for the raise, I was given many inadequate reasons why I wasn’t getting one this year. Concurrently, I discovered that my boss had gone behind my back to the people who report to me, asking for criticism of my managerial style. She has since told me I need to be more accommodating to people’s personal lives, not work so hard because I set the bar too high and it makes others feel badly, and that I need to socialize more in the office and make the environment more fun. I told her I would do anything to change for the better of the office, but it concerns me that she is two-faced and did this behind my back. Is it possible to correct this, or should I be looking for another job?


Accommodate or Leave


Dear Accommodate or Leave:

It’s your choice. Your boss listed criteria for improvement she thinks can make your performance more satisfactory. Might she be right? You responded that “would do anything to change for the better of the office.” Yet you are uncertain whether you can achieve them: · Be more accommodating to people’s personal lives, · Not work so hard because I set the bar too high and it makes others feel badly, and · Socialize more in the office and make the environment more fun. Before we deal with whether you can change to satisfy the criteria set forth, let’s get over the “behind my back” accusation. Isn’t it your boss’s responsibility to solicit feedback from those you manage? Apparently, your workplace has no formal survey data of how a manager is perceived and performs, and even if you have, isn’t gathering data first-hand of value? Perhaps, you wouldn’t feel bypassed and think she was sneaky if she had informed you that she was doing that and/or if you had invited her to do so. But it is not done, and if you carry a grudge against her, it will adversely affect your relationship. You say you vented your displeasure to her–that she solicited the opinions of your performance of those you manage. In my opinion, if you called her two-faced, you should reflect on the wisdom of such talk and apologize. An along with that apologize, you might invite her to collect such data again six weeks or six months after you have made a serious effort to address the criteria she set forth. That could be outlined in a self-improvement plan that you and your boss collaboratively make. Possibly you can’t meet the criteria that your boss has stated prevents her from approving you a raise. Why? Because you are too set in your ways. Or possibly your superior has set forth standards that are so ambiguous that no matter what you do, you can’t meet them. You don’t say how long you have held this position, nor if your superior has made previous evaluations, but you should feel good that apparently she approves of the work produced of your office. However good you might feel about that, something is different. You are frustrated because you add that you were “given many inadequate reasons why I wasn’t getting one this year.” Is that because other years you were satisfied with your pay or didn’t ask for a raise? I can’t tell from what information you provide. It seems to me that the three suggestions made by your boss are not unreasonable, however, slippery. They are slippery because they pertain to subjective interpersonal communicative behavior. Yet they are an important side of your job, as important as is managing the product/service of your people. Apparently your boss has no complaint about the work of your office. Her beef is with how you relate to and interact with those you manage; what you say were her “inadequate reasons” why you have not been given a raise. Those who manage make assignments and evaluate to what degree one’s subordinate/associates’ performance is satisfactory; how well they satisfy their own standards and that of internal and/or external customers. Those who manage have a second responsibility; to show they care about and are sensitive to the feelings of the individuals they manage. That is to say a manager’s job is not just to push products and services out the door. He/she should be concerned about the lives those he/she manages and demonstrate that by informal chat about their lives, yet avoiding being nosy, and he/she should allow and encourage a cheerful workplace atmosphere. Is your boss wrong in saying you don’t do that? And I might add that the research shows that employees appreciate a superior who is visibly interested in their careers; helps them improve their skills and work to realize their dreams. Do you do that?

Do these thoughts respond constructively to your question? I hope you can look in the mirror and, however painfully, determine to be a manager who is genuinely concerned and demonstrates that concern for those you manage. If you set the bar too high and make your people fear to not be able to clear that bar, is it not time to collaboratively engage them in setting and measuring their performance. Let’s say, suppose you might shift your mindset from one to sets and monitors, to a coach who tentatively, yet assertively, enlists your people in goal setting and assessing their performance. That could entail determining the baseline of what your office now does and then as a work team seeking ways to cut waste; wasted supplies, wasted energy, wasted time, and wasted money. It could mean engaging your people in a lean-self-management; in finding innovates ways to think interdependently and innovatively. Possibly, you might first confer with your boss about such changes in the way you manage. Enlisting her support or failure to get her support in what your efforts to “do anything to change for the better of the office” could help you answer your question: Is it possible to correct this, or should I be looking for another job? I wish you the best over the next few weeks as you become better informed on how to answer your question. Whatever is your answer, it will good to the extent that you appreciate the meaning summed up in my signature sentence: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. So think about egos— your own, your peoples’ and your boss’ and of those of your workplace as a whole, and I predict the way you see your self cannot help but survive this current setback.

William Gorden