Is Your Boss Threatened by You?

December 12, 2016

Is Your Boss Threatened by You?

If everyone was actually as kind, considerate, and mature as they’re supposed to be at work, I wouldn’t need to write this nor you read it. However, that’s no more true at work than in life. So you may find yourself in the uncomfortable position of suspecting you have threatened your boss.

What does threatened mean?

I’m not of course talking about physical threats or even verbal. These are matters for the police or union/lawyer responses and outside of the scope of this blog. No, I’m talking about something more subtle. It is a vague feeling, suspected but never spoken of (and therefore a poster child for an undercurrent), that your boss doesn’t like you for reasons that are obscure to you. The result is that you don’t get the praise, plum assignment, exposure to senior managers or membership in your boss’ in-group (I have some other posts on in-groups under the Power category). Even though your work is excellent, you feel stuck in a corner, ignored. You are beginning to suspect that not only does your boss not like you, he might actually be threatened by you.

Can you threaten your boss without meaning to?

Of course. There are any number of ways.

Compared to Your Boss, You Are:

  • Smarter
  • More articulate
  • Better liked
  • Taller
  • Thinner
  • Better dressed
  • Better educated

Compared to Your Boss, You Are Not:

  • Worried whether you have reached your level of incompetence
  • Afraid that your job will be taken over by some young whippersnapper
  • Carrying around the burden of past failures

I shouldn’t have to worry about this

You are, of course, correct. It’s not your fault that you’re smarter, more articulate, better liked, taller, thinner, better dressed, and/or better educated. You might have even put considerable effort into acquiring these attributes (well, except the tall, of course).

And you’re also right that you should not have to worry about it. You can’t help it if your boss is so insecure that he can’t deal with people who are better at some things than him. You should be able to brush your hands of this nonsense and be done with it.

Also, absolutely correct. And yet, whose problem is it likely to be?

Whose problem is it?

As I said at the top, if the world were a better place, no bosses would be threatened by their employees. And sometimes, you luck into a boss who is competent, fair, mature, and stable. Given that, you’d probably never even know that your boss feels threaten. Either because she really isn’t or, if she is, she has the maturity to see it as a fault in herself which she must correct.

Nope, I’m not talking about those bosses. I’m talking about your ordinary boss who is a little self-aware, a little kind and generous, a little fearful that no more promotions are coming his way, a little conscious that he isn’t getting any younger.

In the next set of posts, I will deal with this. The next post will identify whether you’re causing the boss to feel threatened. The one after will suggest how to change this situation. The final one will discuss how to deal with an unreasonably threatened boss when your efforts to lessen the threat level don’t work. Don’t skip directly to the last post. You might find that you can do something to lessen the threat.

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