How to find a boss who will value you

Dear Joan:
I work in a non-profit organization and I've only been there for seven months. I'm one of four full-time employees and I was hired as a manager. It's in a creative profession.

The problem is that I thought I was hired for my management skills and would be involved in planning, decision making and committee work but it's turning out to be a secretarial type job. My boss is originally told me that I would be next in line for his job but he takes every opportunity to learn away from me. For example, I was excited to lead an outside meeting in an area I was very knowledgeable in. Right before the meeting he told me he'd handle it and I was to stay behind and do clerical work.

We've had one meeting since I was hired. He told me I was "late" and that I wasn't as dedicated as the other employees-even though he said I could have flexible hours when he hired me. (The last person left because she was working over 60 hours per week. On her last day he told her she was a failure and then told everyone in the office not to give her a good reference. He thinks nothing of working until midnight.) I asked about giving me more responsibility and that I was feeling like I was doing clerical work. His answer was, "You have to realize that I am up here and you are down there." He also said he wasn't happy with my work.

I fit this job well and never had to be trained. I get along with everyone. I haven't heard one good word about him from anyone and they all know he badmouths them openly. There is a lot of turn over. Even before I took the job I was told "Gee do you really want to work for him?" Because I'm intelligent and get along with people, I thought it would be different with me.

He's the director responsible to the board. I don't know any board members very well but one I know from previous work noticed that I was silent in a meeting and said, "You always have such good ideas why didn't you speak up?" I said, "Because my boss prefers that I let him do the talking." I am suffering a loss of confidence as he even rewrites all of my clerical correspondence.

Feeling a little like Cinderella? This wicked step- father is determined he is going to be the star of the ball while you are to be kept locked in the attic with the mice.

The only fairy godmother in this story might be the board member who has seen your work before and may be in a position to give you a reference but even that is risky.

The big problem seems to be that the job isn't what you thought it was going to be. Either he misrepresented the job or you only saw what you wanted to see. It appears you were warned before you took the job but thought you had the power to rewrite the ending.

Your boss has taken the stereotype of the demanding, workaholic, controlling boss to new heights. On the other hand, it's possible that you have cast him into the role of villain without thinking about your role in this. For example, are you absolutely certain that your flexible schedule is clearly understood by both of you? And before the big meeting, did you do anything that may have caused him to pull you out of it?

If you are sure the glass slipper fits and you are indeed without fault, get out of that mental prison as fast as you can. If you stay there you will only become more miserable and self-doubting as he grinds you into the ground with tedious work and criticism. What's worse- if he decides that the magic has run out and the clock strikes twelve, you could be out of a job.

List the years you worked there rather than the exact months. For instance, 1989-1990. It may help you survive the screening process and get an interview.

During an interview, don't mention anything about your boss. Simply say that the job is more clerical than you had hoped and that you are looking for a position where you can take more initiative.

Since you are fairly new in this position, your former references are still fresh. Even though you know a board member, you'd better be cautious. If you confide in the board member and he or she turns out to be an ugly step-sister, you could be out of a job before you want to be.

In future interviews, ask more questions of your potential boss. For example: What would a typical day be like? How would you describe your managerial style? What is your biggest pet peeve? How would you describe the perfect employee? Then listen carefully and observe your potential boss for signs that you may have ignored last time. Hopefully, next time you'll find a Prince Charming.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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