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6 Tell-Tale Signs that Your Boss Wants You to Fail

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

You suspect that your boss has set out to de-rail you. You don’t have hard evidence, but your suspicion is strong enough. Here are 6 signs that your boss has it in for you.

  1. You’re thrown in at the deep-end. This can happen with the best of intentions, but is this happening too often for you? This is your first sign that your boss wants you to fail. Perhaps you’re asked to take on a responsibility for something you know little about, or is a political hot-potato. You’re asked to go-figure without support, but with lots of ‘telling’ from your boss. Another indicator that your boss is setting you up to fail is the lack of direction, a lack of helpful suggestions on how to get support, or their unwillingness to grant you the use of their legitimate authority.
  2. Your boss undermines you. Your boss may be countermanding your instructions to your staff – and this is their prerogative – but is it followed up with a conversation about why, using a mentorship approach? When your boss vetoes your decisions, in the presence of other staff (or worse – privately to your co-workers), this is a retrenchment of their delegation and demonstrates a lack of respect, particularly in the chain of command. Not only are they unwilling to release control of a situation to yourself, the way in which it is done is destructive, and will potentially damage the confidence of your colleagues.
  3. Your boss withholds vital information. Often the critical piece of data you need to succeed. This is a power-game – one which is stacked against you. And your boss knows it. But you don’t know what you don’t know – so you flounder at your given task, with immense frustration, with the increased likelihood of failure. This information is then used by your boss to rescue the day. What a b*****d.
  4. Unrealistic targets. Your boss sets you lofty goals that can never be reached. Stretching targets are GOOD. They help us learn and build self-confidence. But unrealistic targets are CRUEL. If your boss is really sly, and hell-bent on your failure, they will convince you it’s all possible with their support and resources. They’re setting you right up to crash and burn.
  5. They let you down. Your boss constantly lets you down. Not turning up to meetings; not reviewing your reports; not signing off a request; etc etc. It’s not just once – it happens regularly – often when you most need them to come through for you. You will experience thinly-veiled apologies, but no change in behavior. Your boss might not be obsessed with your failure, but repeated disappointment is a clear sign that they don’t really care about your success.
  6. They keep on changing their mind. Often without rhyme or reason. Yesterday you were aiming for X, now you’re aiming for Y. This ‘tacking’ confounds you, distracts you and delays you – ultimately to cause you to fail. This can be done unknowingly – a demonstration of a lack of respect and value of your time, or quite deliberately – a malicious attempt to de-rail your progress and career.

Recognize any of these?

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This post is part 13 of 16 in the series You and Your Boss
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Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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