Having a tough time in my career so I’m clicking through Get Bullish, hopefully for some good insights, and came across this: Incompetent Boss? Opportunity for You! – and I have a follow up Bullish Q&A question.
Let’s say you follow that article. Let’s say you use your smarts and charm and genuine personality and do get noticed by higher ups, who notice your value to the company and your intelligence. These higher ups invite you to give your unique insight at high-level meetings with high-level executives.
Then your Incompetent Boss gets wind of these meetings you’ve been invited to. She is insecure and jealous that she wasn’t part of these meetings and you were. She berates you for attending, tells you that you made yourself look bad by being at the corporate office (even though you were invited and thanked profusely for your help by the executives), tells you that you aren’t allowed to attend these meetings anymore, and that you aren’t allowed to visit or be in contact with anyone from that office without her permission — despite the fact that you have a good working relationship with many people there and were invited there in the first place!
So if you do reach out to let them know you can’t attend the next meeting- you’re violating your boss’s direct orders to not contact them. If you show up anyway – violating her orders again. She’s made clear that you’re in hot water if you violate her wishes.
What do you do?
All big moves require some risk. Jumping up three levels at a company might run you the risk of being spectacularly fired. But also remembered, as a badass. There are risks to most big jumps.
What do you do? You don’t just back out of the meetings and obey your petty tyrant boss. You are not Harry Potter living in a nook under the stairs.
I would wait until the next email comes from the higher-ups. Then loop your boss into it. If the email is, “you’re invited to a meeting,” cc in your boss and say, “Thanks, I’d love to! Looping in Donna who I think also has some ideas about this.”
It’s totally possible your boss just wants in on this but is embarrassed to ask you to loop her in, because you’re her subordinate.
It seems unlikely that, if included in a group email, she would respond, “[Yourname] is grounded.” You know?
You’re not doing anything wrong, so don’t sneak around. You’re being transparent about providing value all around and including everyone who has a contribution.
Of course you risk getting yelled at, fired, etc.
But what do you risk by staying under her thumb? Going nowhere, forever.
Opportunity cost is real.
Have a plan in your back pocket. What if she really does fire you — and cut off your company email? Are you connected to these higher-ups on LinkedIn? Do that. Should you maybe email them from your gmail once or twice? Yeah, do that too. A social relationship out of work wouldn’t hurt either – not necessarily getting beers with people (although that could work), but also volunteering, company softball league, etc….
If she does fire you, you write to the higher-ups in a cheerful way (slightly mystified that you’ve been let go but excited for new opportunities) and ask if they have any referrals, would spread your resume around, etc. (or ideally an even more specific request — you’re looking for X kind of role at Y kind of company, which just happens to be a category of company including the one you were just fired from). A few people will treat you like an outsider but some should treat you like a buddy (or a bizarrely wronged person!), so hopefully you’ve got more than 2-3 higher-ups in your network.
Get comfortable with this level of risk! It’s how the big players play — and move up fast! Sometimes with some setbacks along the way. All part of the game.
But does getting fired really seem that likely? The larger the company, the more procedures are in place for firing someone. Is your boss going to jump through HR hoops to fire you over this? More likely she’ll be passive aggressive, or just aggressive. She’ll undermine you and talk shit. Is developing a good relationship with the people above her worth that? Seems likely.
You have a career that exists independently from your job. Take care of it!