If you’ve ever had a sneaking suspicion that your boss is trying to make you quit, your instincts just might be right. Many managers are reluctant to engage with employees and provide honest feedback, according to Mike P., an executive with a provider of cloud-based mobile workforce solutions (and who wishes to remain anonymous in order to speak candidly). Rather than confronting the issues, some bosses may try to goad you into quitting by using a passive-aggressive technique called “managing out.” For instance, your boss may suddenly exclude you from important meetings or re-assign you to routine work or low-profile projects. Or he may give you the cold shoulder in the hopes that you’ll take the hint and leave. What should you do if you’re made to feel like persona non grata? Here are some things to consider, as well as some options.
Decide If You Want to Stay or Go
Before you take action, ask yourself: “What is my desired outcome? Do I want to try to make this work, or should I lay low and continue collecting a paycheck while I look for another job?” “When your boss tries to force you out, it gives you a feeling of powerlessness,” explained Bob Fleshner, president of EPICOACH. “Making a stay-or-go decision not only helps you formulate a go forward strategy, it gives you back a sense of control.” There are several things to consider as you ponder your next steps, added Madeleine Blanchard, director of coaching for The Ken Blanchard Companies. For example, have you ignored critical feedback from your boss? Are there things you haven’t done? Do you have the desire and ability to perform at a higher level? Is there an interpersonal issue? “Chemistry is a big deal and people can’t get personality transplants,” Blanchard noted. If you and your boss aren’t on the same wavelength, transferring to another team or changing companies might be your best option. There’s also the chance that your boss is under a lot of stress and may be neglecting everyone, or is falling back on bad habits and only spending time with his or her "favorites.” While those behaviors are unacceptable, it means that you’re not being managed out—you just have a bad boss. In that case, you need to decide how much you can take. “I’m a big believer that fortune favors the brave in these situations,” Blanchard said. “While each situation is unique, generally, I think you owe it to yourself to seek clarity while preparing to launch a job search.”
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Approaching Your Boss
If things haven’t gone too far, you may be able to work through the issues with your manager. Simply explain that you sense that your boss is not happy with you or your work as of late. Ask if you are correct, and if so, what has changed. If you’re feeling angry or emotional, rehearse your conversation in advance so you remain calm and collected. Don’t complain to HR, blame others or act like a victim. Be open to coaching and suggestions; but be prepared for the worst possible outcome. There’s always the possibility that you’ve misread the tea leaves and your conversation will clear the air, Fleshner noted. However, there’s also the chance that your actions may accelerate your departure. For example, your boss may come clean and ask you to resign or put you on a performance plan. “If that happens, you need to be prepared to switch gears and start negotiating an exit package,” Fleshner added. But at least you'll really know where you stand.