Confident Leader

You’ve got this: Dealing with an insecure boss

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Dr Froswa’ Booker-Drew answers your questions, putting her years of experience and practice into the goal of solving those knotty problems that beset us, and assuring us: ‘you’ve got this. If you’d like Froswa’ to look at your particular problem, email it to [email protected].

My boss is insecure. I’ve been written up for doing my job. What do I do?

Jackie:

It’s difficult to be in an environment that you are walking on egg shells and hoping that your intentions are viewed correctly.  I remember years ago, early in my career, I had a boss that I admired and respected.  She was smart and someone that I thought I could learn a lot from.  In the beginning, she took me under her wing and gave me enormous responsibility.  I was just out of graduate school and although I was new to this role, I had some experience under my belt.  As I flourished, she gave me more opportunities to take on great roles—almost to the point of being too much.  I loved the job and more importantly, I loved the people I encountered every day.  People began to compliment my work and that gave me the confidence to continue.  I began to spend time outside of work with my boss and our families would hang out.  I picked up her son from school at times and I really felt like she was grooming me and that she really liked me.  I don’t think she realized how valuable she was to me and I tried to tell her constantly that she was such a role model for me.

I’ll never forget that day at staff meeting.  She called the team in, including my admin assistant, and began reading off my job duties that she reassigned to my admin.  My admin stated that she could not do the tasks and that it was something I knew.  By the time she was finished, I had nothing to do.  I would come to work daily and sit at the desk while my former admin asked me questions on how to do the job.  It wasn’t her fault she was placed in that position and I did my best to help, reminding her of my new, non-existent role.

I decided after a few weeks of the nothingness to leave and begin my own business.  It was frightening.  I went from making two thousand plus a month (this was in the 90s and this was BIG MONEY) to $600.  I walked out on faith.  It was terrifying but within a year, I was making more on my own than I was at that job—and I was happy! My former co-workers and even those who were in leadership that supervised my boss began to reach out to me to explain that she was insecure and threatened.  That experience taught me that I would NEVER be that chick that would diminish the light of another woman because of my insecurities and fear.  I realized that there is enough space for all of us to thrive.  I couldn’t allow her issues to become mine and it was time to leave.  She hasn’t been the only boss that I’ve dealt with who had those issues.  I’ve sat in staff meetings while a boss who knew I had some expertise in a space would ignore me and act as if my accomplishments and insight were insignificant.  I’ve also been blessed with supervisors who are incredible—they have pushed me, encouraged me, and given me the space to flourish and grow.  I am grateful.

Thank you for sharing the write up from your boss.  You were just doing your job and to be reprimanded for it is both sad and unnecessary.  When I was going through a similar situation a few years ago, a dear friend told me that eagles put rocks in their baby’s nest to make them fly.  I had become comfortable with the rocks and it was time for me to move out.  I’m glad I did.  I’m not suggesting that you leave your job.  I am saying that you should consider the following:

  • Document what has happened and continue to do so. Every conversation needs to be followed up with a written re-cap of what was discussed.
  • Have a conversation with your boss to review the write up and discuss miscommunication and then send a written statement of the conversation.
  • Examine what is important for you. It isn’t about the job as much as it is about your sanity.  If you stay, how do you create a safe space so that you are not being torn down by the acts to make you uncomfortable?  Should you engage HR so that they are aware of what is going?  Is there someone on the team that can be your ally during these tense moments?

If you decide to leave, don’t make the mistake that I’ve made at several previous jobs.  I didn’t tell my truth.  I was afraid of burning bridges but what I did was make it harder for those coming behind me because there was no documentation of what they would ultimately deal with.  After reading Freda Kapor Klein’s book, Giving Notice: Why the Best and Brightest are Leaving the Workplace and How You Can Help Them Stay, I realized that it is important to tell my truth in a professional way that even if the company choses to do nothing about the person, I have made sure that it was documented.

No matter what you decide going forward, you must know that you are brilliant, beautiful, and bold–you are on a path of greatness!  Your decision is the best one and I support you.  You must know this…YOU. GOT. THIS!

About Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew

Dr. Froswa' Booker-Drew is a Partnership Broker. Relational Leadership Junkie. Connector. Author/Speaker/Trainer. Co-Founder, HERitage Giving Circle. She been quoted and profiled in Forbes, Ozy, Bustle, Huffington Post and other media outlets around the world. In addition, she has been asked to speak on a variety of topics such as social capital and networking, leadership, diversity, and community development to national and international audiences. This included serving as a workshop presenter at the United Nations in 2013 on the Access to Power. One of the most impactful life events for her was being a part of the documentary, Friendly Captivity, a film that followed a cast of 7 women from Dallas to India. Honors for her work include: Semi-finalist for the SMU TEDx in 2012, 2012 Outstanding African American Alumni Award from the University of Texas at Arlington, 2009 Woman of the Year Award by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and Diversity Ambassador for the American Red Cross. Graduating with a PhD from Antioch University in Leadership and Change, she also attended the Jean Baker Miller Institute at Wellesley for training in Relational Cultural Theory and completed facilitator training on Immunity to Change. She has also completed training through UNICEF on Equity Based Evaluations, and is the author of 2 workbooks for women, Ready for a Revolution: 30 Days to Jolt Your Life and Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last as well as a writer for several publications around the globe.

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