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The Unsupportive Boss


There have been a lot of questions about how to deal with unsupportive bosses. You stand your ground and do the right thing. Maybe it’s a customer you had to say no to. Maybe it’s a supplier or employee you had to take corrective action with. With seemingly no thought at all, your boss overrides your decision, making you look and feel like an idiot. What do you do?

The harsh reality is that a lot of times your boss is actually doing the right thing, albeit perhaps the wrong way. There are times when the bigger picture necessitates a break in protocol. Why risk the wrath of a large, long-term client, for example, if the exception being made is small by comparison? These are tough calls for managers. Unfortunately, though, a lot of times the boss might simply be taking the easier way out, and just hasn’t taken their employees into consideration. They react, without thinking of the consequences to the team.

Whichever the case, you’re best to have a conversation with the boss about it. After all, if you say nothing, you are tacitly giving him (her) permission to continue doing it. It’s also a good idea to work on the assumption that your boss actually does care about you, but didn’t realize the implications of his behavior.

In your conversation, don’t debate his decision – just in case he is working with facts you are unaware of. Instead, focus on expressing the impact the action had on you. For example:

“Hey boss. Can I ask a favor? I kind of looked like an idiot back there, when you overrode the corrective action I took with Cynthia. I’m concerned that it sends a negative message about my authority around here. Is there any way we can do this differently so I can maintain my credibility?”

It’s a difficult conversation to have, and you’ll get one of two responses. The most likely is that your boss will apologize, and be more careful the next time it happens. The other possibility is that your boss will simply dismiss your perspective out of hand and continue the behavior. Either way, it’s a useful outcome. In the first instance, you get a better working environment. In the second, you may get the motivation you were looking for to find a job with a better employer!

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