Is the Boss Out to Get You?

Is your boss holding you back? Before you say yes, take a moment to evaluate yourself as critically as you’re evaluating your manager.

You have all the skills necessary to do the job, but you keep getting passed over for promotion. It’s not fair, you think. The boss is out to get me. The office politics stink. It’s not what you know, it’s who. And so forth.

Well, maybe. Or maybe it could be that your boss would very much like to promote you, but you need to improve your soft skills first.

The way you relate to your coworkers affects how you progress in your career, how quickly you rise financially, whether you’re selected for other opportunities and, ultimately, how much you enjoy your work.

Check out these three personality traits to see if any of them describe you.

1. You Always ‘Win’

You think you’re very persuasive. You have great negotiating skills and are more knowledgeable than your peers. Your coworkers don’t think it’s worth arguing with you over every little thing.

Is this you? Look for these signs.

  • Your coworkers call out the fact that you’ve “won.” They say things like, “Fine, have it your way,” or, “If that’s the way you want it.” Generally when a team reaches a consensus they’ll use “we” language, not “you” language.
  • Your boss makes “because I said so” type statements—but only to you, not the rest of the team. It could be that your boss knows that any other reasoning will just provoke an argument—an argument that you’ll be determined to win.

Try this.

What you think of as lively banter might feel like an argument to others. Experiment with these tactics and see how others respond.

  • Really stop and think about the points others make during a discussion. Evaluate their merit before you respond.
  • Address others’ statements rather than only actively arguing for your own view.
  • Ask questions instead of just providing answers.

2. You Never Stop Talking

You’re sparkling and charming—the life of the party! But others resent that they can’t get a word in edgewise. If you’re spending all of your time talking, how can you possibly be listening?

Is this you? Look for these signs.

  • People start the conversation engaged, but then they slowly stop contributing. After 10 minutes are you the only one left talking?
  • Eye contact decreases during conversation.
  • People don’t ask questions that invite an open-ended response. They ask, “Is that report complete?” (Yes or no?) vs. “How’s that report coming along?”
  • Does your boss engage in small talk with the rest of the team but is all business with you? Your boss might be afraid that a simple, “How was your weekend?” will result in a 45-minute monologue.

Try this.

  • Pay attention to how much time you spend talking during your conversations. Actually count sentences or minutes if you have to.
  • Aim to listen more than you talk.
  • Ask questions to engage coworkers. Remember to listen to their answers instead of thinking about the next thing you want to say.

3. You’re Too Perfect

You have a relentless devotion to quality. You aim high for yourself and your projects. Your peers think that you’re a lot of work, and they resent the fact that projects are never completed because you’re hung up on that “one little thing.”

Is this you? Look for these signs.

  • A pattern of “moving on.” Everyone rushes to talk about the next steps, and no one seems able to focus on the matter at hand when you’re around.
  • People ignore or gloss over the caveats that you raise.
  • Coworkers don’t respond when you propose solutions.
  • Your boss appears to not care for your concerns or the details of a project.

Try this.
If the above pattern seems to apply to you, it may be time to take a step back and start looking at the bigger picture.

  • Agree ahead of time which items should be prioritized for a project.
  • Make sure there is consensus about what is and isn’t a deal-breaker.
  • When focusing on a detail, stop and ask yourself what the impact of fixing that detail will be. If the result doesn’t outweigh the effort involved to fix it, it might be that you need to let it go.

Americans spend one-third or more of each workday with coworkers. Good managers understand that enjoying the time you spend at work is important. More than competent coworkers, people often want pleasant coworkers. When looking at which employees to promote, the best managers will evaluate soft skills as well as job competence. The good news is that soft skills can be improved just like technical skills.