What do you do when the biggest obstacle to growth is your boss? This isn’t uncommon. Many success-minded professionals are challenged by a boss who is too controlling, limiting, clingy or even takes credit for your good work. So what do you do when your boss is blocking your career advancement? You’ve got to make a change. This doesn’t necessarily mean changing jobs—though in the long run it may be the best solution. Rather, before you start ironing your interviewing suit consider changing your perspective, your approach and your game plan.
Start with a perspective shift. Sure you’re annoyed and frustrated, but what is motivating your boss to behave in this stifling way may not be mean-spirited in the first place. If your supervisor is controlling, odds are they are struggling with their own insecurities and feel strongly that no one can do the job better. If they are limiting, perhaps they’re uncertain about your capabilities and feel that you have learning to do. A clingy boss often wants reassurance or feels they can’t lose you, which can work in your favor in a number of ways. But a boss who takes credit for your good work is one to watch. True, the work you do is ultimately for their good and the good of the organization overall, but if you are never rewarded or recognized for your efforts, your stress will increase while your motivation dwindles.
The truth is supervisors who fall into any or all of the above categories are typically operating out of fear. To illustrate, a client of mine shared how their boss told them to “stop being so ambitious.” It turns out their less than qualified supervisor felt threatened by all the experience and enthusiasm my client was bringing to the job. The worst thing that my client could do in this case is to listen to this fear-based advice and stifle their chances of growth and opportunity. Still, out of respect to the superior, they chose the wise course of action of self-reflection and honest communication.
Keep in mind, great supervisors and leaders want to help you with career advancement and although it may not seem like it at the time, so do those who put up some road blocks—they may not realize that they are doing so. When your boss is blocking your career advancement, help them help you by communicating clearly, understanding their intent, asking for assistance and developing a strategic plan for your career advancement.
Communicate and Question. Communication is the key to understanding why your boss is blocking your career advancement. Start with developing a solid understanding of what is actually happening. How are they actually blocking your career and if so, why are they doing so? This requires asking questions to uncover motivators and whether there are any deleterious causes within their agenda.
Determine Intentions. When you feel your boss is standing in your way, it could also be a situation of a simple misunderstanding. Maybe they believed their actions were helping you succeed. It may be time to talk with them about their actions but not without appreciating their support. Perhaps their goals for your success are incongruent with your own career goals and a clear, but frank conversation could promote win-win agendas.
Seek Help. When your boss is blocking your career advancement, you may need to take action that goes beyond a one-on-one discussion. Hosting a facilitated discussion or mediation may help both parties step beyond emotion and get to the bottom line. Human Resources can not only assist with this process but may be able to provide resources and suggestions for positive change.
Design A Game Plan. This is a great time to ask your career coach and mentor to help you develop a game plan for change. Whether this change includes a new position, a transfer to another department or even dialogue with other leaders in the organization, this plan can not only help you when your boss is blocking your career advancement, but will also leverage long term career opportunities.