By Liz Ryan
I have had my job for one year. I was hoping to keep this job for several years but things are not going well.
My boss “Angela” won’t let me make any decisions on my own, even simple ones. She doesn’t trust me, and it’s crazy because she hired me for my expertise.
She hovers over me, not in a helpful way but to check on me and make sure I do everything exactly the way she wants it done. That would make sense if Angela were an expert on my job, but she’s not.
The company hired me because I understand database design and maintenance, and no one else here does. Angela is worse than a novice. She thinks she understands things that she really doesn’t.
Last week I had my annual review. Angela wrote “Tyler needs to get better at taking direction” on my performance review form. I asked her what she meant by that.
She said “You have to understand that I am your boss, and you need to learn from me.” What can I learn from her? She literally doesn’t know what she’s talking about. How can I do my job under these conditions?
You haven’t been trying to upset Angela, but you did it anyway. You made her feel scared and under threat. She can’t relax and let you do what she hired you to do — she is too fearful.
You know what you’re doing at work, and Angela doesn’t. She wants to supervise you closely in part to learn your job and in part to feel that she’s making a contribution — but the main reason she hovers over you is so that you’ll know who is in charge! She is trying to exert her puny, petty power over you.
Can you help Angela rise to a higher level of altitude, accept you as the talented colleague you are and stop smothering you? I doubt it. Why would you want to invest the time and energy it would take to find out?
Angela is in fear. We all get that way at times, but some people spend their whole lives in fear — doing damage to people around them in the process. Even if you did want to help ease Angela’s fear by coaching and counseling her from below, you’d need a backup plan in case she freaked out at any point and fired you.
You may as well get your job-search plans together. If Angela hasn’t gotten used to you and your level of expertise after a year, I don’t think she ever will.
People get fearful, and they take it out on people like you. It’s not always a boss who gets fearful around you. It could just as easily be a coworker or even a friend or family member.
Here are ten ways people will try to hold you back — if you let them:
1. They will pick at you over tiny or imaginary infractions or slights — to keep you off guard and doubting yourself.
2. They will tell you that your aspirations are too grand. They will tell you that you ought to be more humble and set less ambitious goals.
3. They will remind you of your faults.
4. They will criticize your ideas and plans even when they are not knowledgeable about the subject matter.
5. They will say negative things about you to other people.
6. They will marginalize you and discount your accomplishments.
7. They will ignore you in hopes that you’ll get the message and dim your own flame.
8. They will send you messages that you’re upsetting them — leaving you out of communication loops, praising other people but not you, and generally dissing you whenever they get the chance.
9. They will outright attack you and/or your ideas through a smear campaign.
10. They will try to get you fired, or try to prevent you from being hired.
It is shocking and hurtful when your boss, your teammate or your friend turns into an enemy, but it is important to understand why it happens. It happens because you singed that person with your growing flame.
In your life you will work for good and bad bosses.
You will have true friends and fake friends at work and elsewhere, and you will run into frenemies who pretend to be your friend so they can get close enough to stab you in the ribs. It’s hurtful and discouraging to run into barking dogs on your path, but it’s good learning too.
You will say goodbye to many people like Angela during your life.
You will learn something every time you step away from a person who is trying to tear you down and hold you back. In fact, learning to walk away from unhealthy relationships is a critical part of your evolution as a person.
Don’t hate Angela — just get away from her! You have a path to follow, and no time for people like Angela who can’t see past their own fear to appreciate your talents.
All the best,
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