When You’re a Target on the Boss’ Radar
Perhaps you’ve had personal conflicts with various co-workers or you’ve spoken your mind once too often. Maybe you’re a negative nelly, perpetually late, resistant to change, struggling with job performance, or all of the above. You could also be the victim of dirty office politics. Whatever it is, your boss just wants you gone – as in, “out of the picture.”
If you get the sinking feeling that your manager is simply tired of dealing with you, then you need to know what will likely come your way before it smacks you right in the middle of your cubicle.
2 Ways to Go: Make It Quick or Make It Painful
On a practical level that there are two ways your boss can facilitate your exit.
- He (or she) can take the direct approach, firing you quickly and decisively. Examples include discharging you for violating a company rule, strategically eliminating your job, or firing you for poor performance.
- More often, however, a manager opts for the passive-aggressive approach, wherein you (the unwanted employee) unwittingly participate in your own termination. The manager will subtly make you feel so unwelcome that you eventually fire yourself by quitting or moving to a different department.
Either way, you lose your job. If you’re among your boss’ least favorite employees, consider that what you thought was managerial incompetence may actually be something else entirely! (Take a moment to let that sink in.)
Signs You Have a Sneaky Smart Manager
The task of managing others is difficult work. A good manager does the following:
- sets reasonable goals and work objectives
- motivates workers
- measures an employee’s progress against goals
- communicates success and shortfalls
- rewards accordingly
- provides ongoing training and development
- offers timely, fair, candid performance feedback
- affords opportunity for improvement.
In contrast, the sneaky smart manager is a lazy person who would rather short-circuit the performance management process than do the more challenging aspects of his (or her) job. Faced with a disliked or low-performing employee, he/she, instead, invests in strategies to get rid of the “problem” employee.
He/she is often poorly skilled at addressing subordinates’ training and developmental needs or at managing altogether. Thus, it’s easier for him/her to blame the employee than double down on managing.
Conflict and Consequence Avoidance
He/she is also too cowardly and ill-prepared to fire the employee directly. This would likely involve defending his/her decision to HR, company lawyers, upper management, and/or a government agency (i.e., should the employee file for unemployment or wrongful discharge).
The sneaky smart manager wants to save face and avoid conflict (and the inevitable consequences of managerial decisions) so s/he takes the passive-aggressive way out by attempting to make the employee miserable enough to quit. But this, too, has its risks—especially if the reason the employee is “unwanted” has anything to do with unlawful discrimination, retaliation, whistle-blowing, etc.
An employee who feels they have been “forced” to quit may complain of constructive discharge, meaning it was not their free and voluntary choice to resign, but because the employer deliberately made working conditions so intolerable that any reasonable person would have felt obligated to make such a change. Constructive discharge is often challenging to prove, however.
Important Note: If you have questions about your particular situation, always consult an attorney in your jurisdiction—preferably before you quit.