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Knowing When It's Time to Fire Your Boss

In a decade of career coaching, I have learned that people don't leave jobs, they leave bad bosses.
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If I had a dollar for every person who told me they were frustrated with their boss, I would be a very rich woman. In a decade of career coaching, I have learned that people don't leave jobs, they leave bad bosses.

Good Managers Don't Always Make Good Leaders

In many organizations, managers who are given the responsibility to complete predetermined goals or projects are rewarded for their success with an upgraded role in a leadership position. Many managers fail as leaders because they lack the skills and competencies to develop relationships with their employees and build loyalty with their team. They cannot evoke a compelling image of success by empowering and cultivating the talent of their subordinates because they are classic micro-managers and fail to instill buy-in and accountability.

These folks are not bad people but they are not gifted leaders, which often translates to being a bad boss. If your boss fits this description then you should consider firing your boss and hooking your star to a talented and dynamic leader.

In reality we know this does not mean to literally fire your boss -- although that would be gratifying for some during the most frustrating of bad boss moments. But I do encourage you to begin seriously looking for a new work environment that will empower you with a strong leader who in turn will help you grow your career if your boss is zapping your potential at work.

Find a Great Boss

A really good boss and a great leader can take you upward with them inside or outside of your current organization, if you prove your worth. If you have the trust of the rising star in the company -- keep it and maintain it, for this is your insurance policy. If your current boss is not star material, it's time to look for one that is.

If your boss just doesn't get it and there is no hope of a change in mindset, you need to stealthily devise your exit strategy. Don't ever leave a job unless you have another to go to, especially in this economy. But if your boss is not a good leader and there is no system in your organization that will help change that, then you deserve to be in an environment where you can grow and develop your career.

Even in the most blissful job environment, you should be thinking about your five-year plan and where you see your career going in the future. A great boss will help you on your way but alas, not all of them are so enlightened.

Interview Your Future Boss

The next time you are interviewing for a position make sure you interview your prospective boss thoughtfully. By asking compelling questions about their leadership style you will be able to ascertain if they are going to grow or diminish your talent on the team. I suggest you read a great book by Liz Wiseman before your next interview.

Liz Wiseman, worked at Oracle for 17-plus years and considers herself a genius watcher. She was the VP responsible for the company's global talent development strategy and ran the Oracle Corporate University. Her book: "Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter" teaches valuable lessons for current and aspiring leaders.

During Wiseman's leadership watching and developing experience at Oracle, she discovered that some leaders drain intelligence and the capabilities of the people around them. Their focus on their own intelligence and their narcissistic need to be the smartest person in the room had a diminishing effect on everyone else around them. For them to look smart other people had to look dumb or incompetent and in turn, the Diminishers created a vacuum suck of all the creative energy in a room. Meeting times were doubled and other people's ideas suffocated and died in their presence.

Coping with a Bad Boss

If your boss is not helpful in assessing your strengths, seek outside assistance from a personal Board of Directors that you assemble beyond the walls of your workplace. In reality, we don't always have the support system in-house that we need but this should not stop you from reaching out to others for mentorship and advice. And, it just might help you get to the next mile marker on your personal career journey that includes a position with a great leader as your boss.

While I believe that some leaders are born, most are developed and our current professional marketplace does not place enough emphasis on training effective leaders. This leads to discontent amongst the troops and ultimately low morale and low productivity.

Recognizing the Multipliers

In an ideal world where you land a dream job with a fabulous boss, you would want a Multiplier at the helm. The Multipliers use their intelligence to amplify the capabilities of others on their team. People get smarter and better in their presence and ideas flow freely and challenges are overcome. When these leaders walk into a room the energy level goes up on the team and difficult problems are solved because every team member has a say and is involved.

The Multipliers bring out the intelligence in others by building collective and viral genius in an organization. By extracting people's full capability, Multipliers get twice the resources from people than do the Diminishers.

Wiseman identified five disciplines of Multipliers:

  1. The Talent Magnet: Attract and optimize talent

  • The Liberator: Require people's best thinking
  • The Challenger: Extend challenges
  • The Debate Maker: Debate decisions
  • The Investor: Instill accountability
  • You Deserve a Great Leader

    This is a difficult lesson for many of today's unsuccessful leaders who don't have the professional development resources to learn to become Multipliers. Others don't have courageous team members to call them out on being ineffective leaders so they continue to diminish and dysfunctional teams plod along.

    If confronting your diminishing leader is not within your comfort zone, or you fear job security, perhaps a mysterious copy of Liz Wiseman's great book in an office mailbox will plant the seed anonymously. As you plan your next career move be sure to consider your future boss's role in your success and happiness in the organization. You deserve a Multiplier!


    Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name ( She is also the Director of Career & Professional Development at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

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