Tired of Being Held Back

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about female boss sleeping with owner: Because of her I am constantly looked over for promotions.

My supervisor is a small town big fish, sorta. She abuses her position to exert her authority over people. She is an alcoholic so her moods vary and a stable reaction is out of the question. We work in a predominately male work place and though men are promoted regularly, women are held back. There is an obvious territorial issue going on.I am an extremely hard worker, constantly being praised for my work by all who work there. There is not one negative thing they can hold against me. I am constantly looked over for promotions.

This is a seriously convoluted problem based on her insecurities and problems with alcohol. She is sleeping with the owner of the company who is obviously taking advantage of her but she has definitely got ahead this way. I can’t fight fire with fire, but I have to get around her. How do I do it?

Signed, Trying to Get Ahead

Dear Trying to Get Ahead:

Your concerns involve several issues and the primary one is that you seem to be working in a business that is poorly managed–and the poor management starts at the top. I don’t want to sound as though it is hopeless for you. However, it doesn’t seem likely you’ll be able to change the company. Perhaps finding another job would be easier than trying to change the entire culture of your work. I don’t get the impression it is a very large company, so there aren’t layers of managers to support you. If you think there is some provable gender discrimination you might want to talk to an attorney or to a government agency about it. But, it doesn’t sound like that is a clearly provable issue. Even the concern about promotions may not be a situation of discriminating against women. For example, you say you are a hard worker. But, the fact that you do well at your current job doesn’t mean you will do well in the job that requires a promotion. Or, it could be that they will never consider most women to be promotable. If they can justify their actions there is probably not much you will be able to do to force a change.

The one thing you CAN do is to continue to make yourself so valuable that your influence outweighs the influence of others. If there is concern that they might lose you, you may find that you have more clout than your manager, especially if she continues to be a problem with her drinking. (However, if she has a personal relationship with the owner, she will probably always have influence over him and that might be impossible to overcome.) Consider identifying those who have the most influence with the owner (other than your own manager). Without being phony or excessive about it, what are ways you can show your value to them? What will encourage them to champion your cause? Could you ask them to help you and support you the next time there is a promotion open? You may find that your best approach will be to quietly but steadily gain allies and supporters who care enough to push for you.If your manager has influence, which it appears she does, maybe it would be worthwhile to treat her as a potential source of support rather than the enemy. Ensure that your work is being done well and that she has no reason to resent you.

She seems to like her authority, which means you will be wise to treat her with at least a degree of deference. If you can tolerate doing that, it might help you gain her support. The bottom line is that you are working in a business that is owned by someone who has a well-known sexual relationship with a manager who has an alcohol problem at work. Right there you can see that this isn’t likely to be a situation that will react well to reasonable solutions.Your options are to leave the company and put your talents to work for a more deserving business, or to stay and build your influence with those who can help you move up as you’d like. Best wishes to you with this challenging situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what you decide and what happens.

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.