Undermining Supervisor

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a supervisor who undermines:

How can I deal with my supervisor who undermines me, changes the facts of my research and makes the CEO believe him?

Signed, Undermined and Upset

Dear Undermined and Upset:

If you think your boss is changing your research to make himself or herself look better to the CEO and to undermine you, that is a serious charge. However, I’m sure this situation is complex and has been going on for more than a few weeks. So, it may not be possible for you to “deal” with it without making a formal request for an investigation. That might be very difficult!

But, if the nature of your research is such that your supervisor is costing the company money or harming your professional reputation or there is some other serious result, asking for an investigation might be the best way to respond. Or, if you can get clarification about what has been happening to your research, the two other concerns–that your supervisor undermines you and makes the CEO believe him–might be taken care of. Another thought is that if you found out a logical reason for the changes to your work, you might not feel you were being undermined. So, the changes are a key issue.

In some circumstance it might also be an option to talk to your supervisor about a specific situation. “Paul, I see that the way you reported on my research gave incorrect figures. What was your thought process behind that and how can I get the correct figures out to those who need them?” (Or some other conversation that fits your situation.) You really only have those three options: Say nothing. You can say something directly to your supervisor and see if you can develop a better relationship and a better understanding of what has been happening. Or, you can document the facts of the situation and ask HR or someone higher than your boss to look into the ethical issues involved.If your immediate boss is an unethical as you say, you won’t be able to trust him or her anyway. If your boss is not unethical and these actions have been inadvertent or justifiable in his or her mind, your boss might like to discuss it and clear up the conflict.

Much of how you will respond will depend upon your relationship with your boss and your boss’s relationship to the CEO, as well as your tenure, the culture of your organization and the history you and your boss both have for being effective in the organization.Your first step is to make sure you are doing your own work exactly the right way. Reach out to others and establish yourself as a resource. That will give you credibility.

Examine every aspect of this situation and ensure that you are perceiving it correctly. Consider talking to a trusted friend at work to see if perhaps your boss would have a justified and different version of what has been happening. Get copies of your work and copies of the work as your boss has reported it. Compare and highlight the differences if they are there. Be able to provide proof that what you say is true. Then, consider what reasons your boss might have had for making the changes. Could your boss think he or she was doing the right thing? If so, that is even more reason to have a conversation about it. How do you know you are being undermined? If a coworker is aware of something untrue that was said about you, perhaps that person will support you with a memo to the people you ask to investigate the matter. If it is only a feeling you have, maybe you are seeing it as more or a problem than it actually is.Whatever you decide to do, none of those options will be easy–and they might not be 100% effective. But, they may start some questioning of your boss’s actions and get the truth out in the open.I hope these thoughts have provided you with a starting point for developing a response plan. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what action you decide to take.

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.