Trouble with boss is part of a pattern

Have you had a rash of lousy bosses? Have they seemed incompetent or unreasonable? Have you left many or all of your last jobs because of these crummy managers? Have you changed jobs more than three times in the last five years? If you answered "yes" to all of the above, you may be the problem. If you can resist the temptation to discount that possibility, read on.

Individuals who hop from job to job usually fall into two categories; those who are trying to find the "right" job for them and others who have difficulty with authority. If you have frequently grown impatient or angry with your bosses in most of the jobs you've held, you may need to examine your approach and attitude about authority.

If this sounds like it might fit you, you have much to gain by looking within yourself for the answer instead of blaming those above you. If you don't, you are likely to find yourself in deeper water as your career ages. A long series of lateral moves with short stops at each job will scream trouble to future potential employers. They aren't likely to believe you when you say, "I'm ready to stay at one place for a long period of time" or "I'm sure we won't have any problems getting along."

Employers will be suspicious when a forty-year-old is still at a thirty-year-old's salary and job level. It may not seem important now, but the history you are building will wall you off from opportunities (and a pension) later.

Consider what happens when you begin a job. Do you hear your new boss say that you will have great opportunities and freedoms to succeed? Are you frequently disappointed later when you feel these "promises" haven't been kept? Some employees with this problem don't really hear what the boss is saying. They operate from their own set of expectations rather than their boss's, so they are selectively listening when they begin each job.

Employers frequently talk in long-term generalities when they hire a new employee. They are hoping they will have a responsive employee who will fulfill all the possibilities of the job and who will grow into an independent worker who can be given more responsibilities. None of this can happen with an employee who is difficult to manage because they resist controls and ignore their boss's priorities.

If this scenario is all too familiar, you would be smart to practice paraphrasing your boss's directions and expectations. You would also benefit from questioning your boss for all of the specifics behind the generalities. For example, "What kinds of skills would you expect to see me demonstrate before you would consider turning over the Clark account to me?"

Some employees tend to be so fixed on their own version of their jobs that they fail to hear negative feedback about their performance. Often, these people are shocked when they get fired or become angry when the boss begins to react strongly after repeated attempts at subtle feedback failed. These employees need to seek out feedback from their boss more than long term employees.

If you suspect that your boss may be dissatisfied with something you do (or even if you're not sure), approach him or her and ask for feedback. You'd be wise to say, "How do you think I'm doing? I'd really like to know if there's anything you'd like me to work on." Your tendency may be to underestimate the concern or to think that your boss is "too picky." If your boss responds with some criticism that you dismiss as false, consider the risk of ignoring it. Stop yourself and face the fact that your boss's perceptions can make or break your career. Whether that perception is true or false, it would be smart to remove it as a concern.

Take a look around and notice how your peers get along with your boss. You may be able to pick up some ideas you could apply. If you begin to say, "Oh sure, he gets along with them. They're a bunch of jerks ( or wimps, or "yes men" or...)" consider that your attitude about authority may be a barrier to seeing a realistic picture.

If you continue to have difficulty getting along with your bosses, consider starting your own business. You might have better luck working for yourself. This may not help you skirt the problem, however, because demanding and fickle customers can be the toughest bosses of all.

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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