4 Useful Tips For When Your Manager Is Sabotaging Your Career Growth

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It’s defeating and devaluing when the individual who’s supposed to be advocating for their employee, … [+] is the one actively sabotaging their career growth.

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Regardless of industry or team size, the goal for any manager should be making sure that their employees are set up for success. This is done by setting expectations, supporting and advocating for them, removing barriers, helping them reach their goals and ensuring they’re growing professionally. Good managers empower their employees to become their own leaders so they can make autonomous decisions and introduce new ideas.

Conversely, toxic managers are fearful of their own employees outgrowing them and taking their job. Due to feeling threatened by their employee’s abilities, toxic managers do everything they can to keep the employee beneath them by limiting their professional growth and taking credit for their work. As such, ambitious employees begin to lose motivation and start questioning their worth.

Some ways a boss holds an employee back is

  • Making all communication go through them
  • Preventing them from collaborating with others
  • Never asking about their career goals
  • Withholding career advancement opportunities
  • Taking credit for their ideas
  • Not challenging them to learn new things
  • Keeping them out of the loop on what they’re working on as well as bigger projects

When a boss sabotages an employee’s growth, it has nothing to do with the employee and everything to do with the boss’s insecurities. Despite what employees believe, this isn’t a reflection of them, rather an effort for their manager to keep their job secure, at least in their mind.

Here are four useful tips for when your manager is sabotaging your career growth.

Keep Thorough Documentation

If you haven’t already, create a file today where you store screenshots of communications, document achievements, and anything else that proves your manager is sabotaging your career growth. You must be able to have access to this documentation on your own personal device should your manager ever find it on your work computer.

Some documentations might include

  • Brainstorming sessions you’ve had with your manager and what the result of the ideas you introduced had on the overall company or client
  • When and how your manager took credit for your ideas
  • Times when your manager rejected or neglected professional development opportunities
  • Situations where they prevented you from collaborating with others
  • Ways in which they’re setting you up to fail

Schedule A One-On-One With Your Manager

After compiling evidence, the next step is to reach out to your manager to schedule a one-on-one meeting with them. The key is to not lead with emotions by maintaining your composure and being respectful even if your manager becomes defensive or combative.

Here are a few things to address in your meeting

  • Let them know you want to be challenged and pushed outside of your comfort zone to learn new things and progress within your career
  • Communicate your professional goals
  • Share examples of times when you felt like your growth was neglected or obstructed and how it’s affecting you
  • Express your desire to learn from them
  • Ask them to lay out a clear plan with milestones to ensure you’re set up for success

Nance Schick, Esq., employment attorney and mediator at Third Ear Conflict Resolution, recommended, “ask the manager to clarify department goals and requirements to ensure priorities and expectations are aligned.” She explained, “throughout the pandemic, focus has shifted multiple times, therefore, make sure you’re still on the same page.”

Following the meeting, immediately send an email to your manager outlining everything discussed such as next steps and a solution. Add a copy of the email to your documentation in the instance that nothing changes or retaliation occurs.

Reach Out To HR Or The Next Level For Advice

If nothing happens after meeting with your manager or retaliation ensues, the best next step is to reach out to HR. In most companies, it’s looked down upon to schedule a skip-level meeting with your manager’s boss. However, this is dependent on the company, what’s acceptable and what your relationship is like with your boss’s boss. It’s important to note, by going to HR, they can act as a mediator and provide guidance.

Upon meeting with HR, make sure to present all pieces of evidence to support what you’re saying and share how it’s negatively impacting your work. This will show HR that this is a pattern of unhealthy behavior that’s harming your performance, development, and the environment. Otherwise, you risk forgetting important details, it becoming a “he said, she said” situation, and unfortunately, not being taken seriously.

Put Yourself First And Assess Your Options

After confronting your manager or reporting them, there’s a strong possibility that nothing will change, or it’ll get worse. Thus, it’s crucial to keep your health, happiness and self-worth front and center. This might mean leaving your job to pursue a new opportunity or changing departments. Jake Babbitt, founder of Classic Roof Replacement, explained, “leaving a company isn’t quitting; it means you’re giving importance to yourself because you know what you deserve.” Will Henry, founder of Bike Smarts, added, “if you want to find the next level, you can’t stay in a toxic environment. It’s better to leave than be stunted, so take a leap and go for what you want and are passionate about.”

Matt Booth, executive coach, recommended to ask yourself these questions to gain clarity about your options

  • Is there a career path in this company, or is this a stepping stone to the next job somewhere else?
  • If your manager holds you back from growing professionally, how do you expect to grow within the company?
  • Is this only happening to you or to others at/around your level? Are your expectations appropriate?
  • Have you been informed of any performance issues which may warrant this type of oversight?

When researching companies, do your due diligence such as reading reviews, seeing what the culture is like, and learning what benefits they offer. During the interview, ask targeted questions so you have a thorough understanding of what professional development opportunities are offered, how the manager provides feedback, coaching and mentorship as well as what behaviors are rewarded. You don’t want to risk leaving one toxic manager for another.

Eileen Scully, founder of The Rising Tides, said, “if you decide to stay at your current company, find other strong managers that will nurture your growth. Talk with them about what you can do to strengthen your qualifications to work on their teams. Listen to what they tell you, and report back on your progress. Give them a feel for what you will be like as an employee.” Additionally, prioritize finding a way to become more visible to others. Olivia Tan, cofounder of CocoFax, suggested, “look for cross-functional or internal projects that will involve or be debriefed to stakeholders. If one doesn’t exist, propose one that aligns with the company’s values, vision, or that solves a stated need.”

Another option is to indulge in a side project outside of work that could potentially lead to other opportunities. If you go this route, make sure to keep a portfolio demonstrating your abilities. No matter what you decide, start networking and reaching out to professional connections. An opportunity may present itself that’s a better fit.

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