Office Woes: How to Handle a Career-Stifling Boss

If your manager is hindering your advancement, try these power plays

(Image: Thinkstock)

The office should be a place of productivity, revenue generation, impact creation and growth. That said, we all know that not every day at work is so rosy.

Depending on how far along you are in your career, you may have already encountered it. For those who have not, get ready. I’m referring to the day you realize that your boss is not “here for you.”

This can be interpreted in many ways, but the simplest definition of a boss who is not “here for you” is this: a supervisor who is not actively working to support your professional growth. A good supervisor does many things, but at minimum, they should be supporting your development because the more skilled you are (task completion, project management, team leadership, etc.), the better you will be at supporting their professional goals.

Unfortunately, things do not always work out this way, and many professionals are left to fend for themselves . Here are a few tips for how to move forward if you find yourself in this situation:

Don’t show your cards. There’s a chance that you are misinterpreting workplace events. As you evaluate this situation, continue to do your work, offer to assist with initiatives and contribute to your team’s goals.

In the meantime, find out if your supervisor is simply not helping you grow or is actively stunting your growth. Depending on your work culture and how people advance, this might be one in the same.

For now, we’ll assume it is the first option – just not helping you grow. Based on this, you need to develop your own growth plan. This plan might be with your current company or it might be time to pivot. The point is to know what you want out of your career in both the short and long term.

Share these points with your supervisor and try to get their response. Until your situation changes, this person still holds a lot of power when it comes to determining your career path at the company; you should not limit communication and disregard this fact.

Find another advocate and do a gut-check. Let me clarify: Find another advocate with equal or more power than your supervisor and do a gut-check. This person can tell you whether they feel your plan is realistic based on your current circumstances and may potentially guide you down a different path that still helps you achieve your goals.

Execute until you hit a roadblock. As a few people in my family say: “The worst they can tell you is no.” If your advocate gave your internal plan the green light, then go. This is how you will know whether or not the people you work for are truly here for you. If you’re growing in a way that supports their goals, no one will stop you…unless your growth is not in their plan.

Few people will actively stop someone on a positive path. If no wrongdoing can be placed in your corner and you are still being blocked at every turn, then it might be time to employ your exit strategy.

However, if you receive constructive feedback after executing, that is great. You now know where you stand, and you have the ability to realign and carry on with your work.

Either way, these tips are meant to help you reach a point of certainty. Once you do, the next steps will be clear.

James S. Walker (@jaywalk1 ) is a global digital manager on the Nature Conservancy’s international digital marketing team. Intrigued by how social and cultural insights connect people on a global level, Walker has completed long-term project assignments in China and Mongolia, and chronicles his thoughts on the industry via his blog, PR Prescriptions, and Website, Socially Diverse.

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