CXO

Young boss could derail veteran tech's career

A novice tech has taken over the IT department that a TechRepublic member built from the ground up. He seems intent on giving the member a hard time and driving him out of the door. Career expert Molly Joss offers a strategy for salvaging the situation.

Question: How should I deal with a new boss who's gunning to get rid of me?

Nearly a year ago, my IT section became the entire IT department. A young man with a high school diploma and an AutoCAD proficiency certificate from ITT Tech was placed as the IT department manager. To say the least, this move was a shock to me, as I am a 17-year veteran of IT and started here 12 years prior as the only IT employee. I built the current WAN from two PCs and a minicomputer.

Until this year, I have never received a poor rating on an annual performance review. My review this year is terrible; the new manager labeled me as dishonest, unreliable, and untrustworthy. Once again, I am shocked. I realize that without firsthand knowledge of the situation, it's difficult for anyone to give advice, but I'd like your opinions and any advice you choose to share.

I'm the professional individual who designed, built, and managed this IT department with no negative comments for several years. For whatever reason, this new manager feels compelled to document ridiculous accusations. Is there anything I can do? Are there legal actions that can be taken against this attack on my character and professionalism? Am I wasting my time, and should I quit now that I realize this young man feels so threatened that he is painting me as a liability to the company? This whole situation has made me physically ill.

I feel like my career is at stake and that my values, profession, and character have all been challenged unfairly. I find myself questioning everything I do and say now. I’m wondering what’s next.

Answer: Become an agreeable employee and dust off your resume

Once I had a boss who was hired out of a college internship program, never having finished his undergraduate degree, and was made the manager of the department I was working in at the time. The entire company was focused on computer technology, and upper management was impressed with the guy’s computer knowledge. I also suspect they were happy to find someone who would do management work for such a low salary.

I was in my thirties and had worked there for years with nothing but good reviews and raises. He treated me very much the way you describe, even going so far as trying to deny me any raise at all. Upper management overruled him and gave me a cost-of-living raise. As soon as I could find another job—which took awhile—I was out of there.

I did not do what I'm about to advise you to do. I wish now that I had; it would have made my final months there more pleasant. Doing what I suggest is going to be difficult because someone has trespassed into your territory and has started trying to conquer it for himself. The natural response when this happens is to push back, which is what I suspect you have been doing. It’s easy to call someone dishonest, unreliable, and untrustworthy if that person doesn't tell you the whole story, doesn't do what you ask, or tries to do things behind your back—all of which are time-honored, push-back strategies employed in companies worldwide.

So you have a choice. You can go back to the manager and ask for specific examples of the kind of behavior he says you are exhibiting, and if he’s right even 1 percent of the time, accept the truth gracefully. Then, make every effort to smile, nod, and do whatever he asks you to do. In fact, even without asking for examples, you can devote yourself to doing everything he asks of you precisely as it is laid out, smiling and being agreeable at all times.

Or you can keep bucking him in large and small ways at every opportunity and wait for the ax to fall. The more you oppose him, the faster you'll lose your job. With either choice, you have to face the reality that he was put in charge and you were not. Why that happened is beside the point. Upper management decided he was the best person for the job—he might be a cheap hire, he might be the president’s nephew. It doesn’t matter, and there's nothing you can do about it.

You can also quit out of indignation and rage before you find a new position, but I wouldn't advise it. It’s a really tough job market out there for everyone, including IT workers. Unless you have enough funds to keep your bills paid for at least a year, it’s better to keep the job you have while you look for another one.

And you should look for another one because you have been overlooked for promotion after having worked there for a number of years. There are several possible explanations for this, none of them good. Upper management might not be entirely happy with you or doesn't think you're management material. This can be true despite good reviews over the period of several years. They might not have wanted to anger you or might not have cared enough to confront you in the reviews.

Perhaps they feel you're doing an excellent job in the position you have now and didn’t want to promote you lest they lose your skills. They may have felt that the person they put in charge was going to be easier for them to manage than you, or that they didn’t need someone with really good tech skills to manage the department. Regardless of the reason for the decision, it indicates that upper management is not doing a good job; all the more reason for you to look for another position.

Be kind, courteous, and agreeable; do whatever your boss asks you to do; and get busy job hunting. Don’t question his methods or orders. If he's trying to get you to leave, he'll respond by giving you odious work to do, hoping to make you so mad that you'll quit or get another job. If he’s just a bad manager, he might leave you alone long enough for you to find a really good job and leave him and upper management in the dust.

Got a career or job search question for Molly?
Career expert Molly Joss helps IT pros by answering job search questions and providing solutions to career dilemmas. If you've got a question for Molly, send it in!

 

Editor's Picks