When I met my friend for lunch, I could tell she was upset. She had started a new job over a year ago, and everything was going well. Many happy emails about her great work projects and the way her boss kept praising her work. Recently, the emails stopped. Then, a short email asking if I could meet for lunch.
I told her my job was going well and about the exciting projects I was working. She sighed and said that she had worked on some great projects but, was suddenly taken off all the projects. She was now relegated to tedious administrative tasks while her boss continually criticized her about her performance. Her boss used to love my friend’s work but, for the last six months, my friend couldn’t seem to do anything right.
I think I knew what was going on, but, I wanted to check further. So, I asked my friend if:
1. She suddenly had limited access to her boss.
2. Her boss stopped praising her in front of co-workers.
3. Her boss doesn’t respect her opinion anymore.
4. Any communications to higher-ups needed to go through her boss.
5. She was told by her boss not to speak at public events or people in other departments.
6. Her boss no longer talks about developing her.
7. Other managers seem to shun her.
My friend was amazed at how I knew all this was happening. I couldn’t claim credit because I had read about these signs from a 2017 Forbes article by Liz Ryan. Ms. Ryan wrote about how some bosses can become “spooked by a too-competent or too-confident subordinate for almost any reason — and once that happens, they will try to make your life miserable!”
Ms. Ryan explains that it takes little for a boss to become jealous of a successful subordinate. Just one successful presentation to senior management or success with a highly visible project is enough to scare your immediate supervisor.
“What do I do?” asked my friend.
Unfortunately, Ms. Ryan advises a stealth job search. Once your boss sees you as a threat, it will be impossible to convince him or her you are not. Staying will only damage your morale and your reputation for excellence.
While you are job searching, make sure that you are doing your best at even the most menial tasks assigned to you. Also, try to find objective evaluations of your work, such as customer reviews and sympathetic co-workers that you trust. Another way of keeping your morale up is to be active in professional associations and volunteer work. What you are trying to do is minimize any impact your boss’s opinion will have on you and any future employers.
“So, what do I say when they asked me why I left my previous job?”
Tell the truth; you wanted opportunities to develop yourself. Emphasize the accomplishments from your previous job and how these accomplishments encouraged to you grow your skills and abilities. Talk about how you used your work with the professional organization and volunteer groups to prepare you for your next move.
Above all: do not criticize your former boss. True that your former boss mistreated you by being jealous, but that is his or her problem and not yours. If you want to think about this way, your old boss was paying you a compliment by being jealous. A strange compliment but, think positive.
As I told my friend, it is not fair that being good at your job can lead to jealousy by your boss. However, this may be a lucky break for you because you will most likely find a better job. And a better boss who appreciates you and your talents.