Real Talk: My Boss is a Vindictive Jerk — And It’s Ruining My Career

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Leah Thomas866

We've all had a bad boss. But not all bad bosses are created equal. While some may micro-manage or request a lot, others can throw your entire career off-course. 

“How [do you] deal with a social climbing and vindictive boss?” one FGB'er wrote to the Community recently.

“My boss is a social climber. He has no problem throwing colleagues and subordinates under the bus to make himself look better. This boss gives preferential treatment to one subordinate who is well-connected with the power players and people in the upper echelon of the community in which we live,” she continued. “He is dismissive of the remainder of his subordinates, and does not appear to value their contributions to the team. I am the subordinate receiving preferential treatment, and see how unfairly my boss treats everyone else. It makes me sick because I know I am getting better treatment based on who I know, not my performance at work. One of my colleagues requested a conference with the supervisor and his boss to discuss his concerns, and now that colleague is no longer working at the company. The boss brags publicly about firing the former colleague.”

A few other FGB'ers reached out to tell their stories of similar boss experiences. 

“This sounds too familiar,” one woman said. “I had a social climber boss. Luckily, the company I was at took annual reviews really seriously. Your boss reviews you, but you also review your boss and team. This social climber had a large team and I think together, we all had a little something to say. I'm not a fan of throwing someone under the bus. I was honest with him, verbally, about room for improvements, and I think the rest of my team was as well. While I don't think this is always the way to handle things, this was the best outlet his team to give constructive criticism and be honest with the company about our manager.”

“So sorry to hear this is happening to you,” another wrote. “There is an actual theory for this behavior. It's called leader member exchange theory (LMX). The idea is that leaders create ‘in and ‘out’ groups. It's hard to fix, but the fact that you have noticed that this is a pattern means that you might be able to find a constructive way to improve this behavior, or perhaps you will come to find that this culture is not a fit for you. It's definitely a tricky situation and I've had a friend go through the same thing, one thing she did was try and talk up those that were in the ‘out’ group to her boss since she was in the ‘in’ group and knew that her boss might be more likely to listen to her.”

While you recognize your boss’s behavior is unacceptable, we understand you may not be in a position to risk losing your job. A safe route would be to try helping those in the labeled “out” group, as the above FGB woman recommended. 

But do so only when valid — do not create praise out of nothing; ensure it is genuine. 

“That's a tough situation to be in, but it speaks volumes that you recognize that it is wrong,” a third FGB’er wrote. “You recognize how wrong that behavior is and I'll bet you anything that other people have noticed as well. You are only in control of you, but you can influence those around you. Keep your head held high, and follow the values that are important to you. Don't worry about your boss. It will catch up with him. If you love what you do and want to stay at your current employer despite everything that is going on with your boss, find a way to raise your co-workers in the eyes of their superiors and teammates. If the environment is that toxic and you choose to stay, team up with top performers and help them get recognized. Not only will you be seen as a collaborator and team player, but others will no longer see you as part of the problem. Last resort: Look for other employment. If you're not happy, it's not worth it.”

It is also important to take notes of your boss’s behavior. If it comes to the point where you feel comfortable reporting an incident, you will want to have other documented incidents of his misbehavior. Note-taking can protect you from losing your job.

If you truly love your position at this company, it may be worth it to stay. But if the environment becomes too toxic, try to switch departments within the company, attempt to find a different team or apply to jobs outside the company altogether. 

For all of your  work, relationship, family or life questions, reach out to the Fairygodboss Community to receive advice from FGB'ers everywhere. 

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