Can You Trust Your Boss?

A recent survey suggests that many employees feel betrayed by their supervisors

Tony Brown, a Web designer for a small firm in Montclair, New Jersey, felt forced to leave his $40,000 gig because his boss took credit for the development of an important Website for a major architectural firm without ever mentioning the team–much less the actual designer who spent more than 300 hours perfecting the site. “My manager never once acknowledged my work to the clients or even our CEO,” laments Brown. “I was invisible.”

In another situation, Maurice Moragne decided he had no choice but to quit his job as a senior manager in sales and trade marketing within nine months of joining a consumer goods company. He believed his charge would be to reshape, restructure, and improve the performance of the company, but once he joined the staff he found his responsibilities drastically curtailed. As Moragne questioned the company’s resistance, “the responses from my manager began to change in almost every conversation. That told me very quickly there were no tangible, agreed-upon goals as we discussed.”

These experiences are not unusual in the workplace, according to a recent survey by Florida State University.

Polled respondents say they’ve experienced varying degrees of disappointment from management:

  • 39% of workers said their supervisor failed to keep a promise
  • 37% said their supervisor failed to give credit when due
  • 23% said their supervisor blamed others to cover up mistakes or to minimize embarrassment

Marlon Cousin, managing partner for The Marquin Group in Atlanta, concedes that there are some bosses who lack integrity. But he also believes that bosses don’t intentionally lie. “Most just don’t disclose all important information,” he explains. “You go on a job interview and [the company] presents a great story and when you get there the story has changed. It’s not so much that they lied, but deceit can be just as bad as lying. If you don’t have all the information, then it’s difficult to make a clear assessment.”

Sometimes managers have to withhold information because they are bound by codes of confidentiality. “There’s a stigma attached to those who can’t hold confidential information,” explains Cousin. “So if you’re in a senior management meeting and it comes up that John is not going to get promoted and after the meeting John asks if he’s getting promoted, you say, ‘Just keep working hard.’ Did you lie? No. But could you tell him what was said in the meeting? No.”
If you are disappointed with the behavior of your boss, resigning is often the first consideration for frustrated employees. But it’s not your only option. “You always want to exercise as much control as you can over your own career,” counsels Ken Roldan Arroyo, partner of executive recruitment firm Battalia Winston International and author of Minority Rules: Turn Your Ethnicity into a Competitive Edge (Collins; $22.95). Arroyo strongly advises against creating inflammatory situations or quitting without exhausting all other resources such as mentors or members of your internal network. “Leverage those relationships,” he offers. “A mentor may have a relationship with your direct supervisor. See what type of clout

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