You are experiencing workplace anxiety and you find yourself researching what to do when you are being squeezed out at work. Is it your boss pushing you out, or are you reacting to a barrage of emotions, stressors, and discomfort? We want to help you figure out what is going on, and how to handle it.
A workplace is riddled with multiple dynamics: competition, creativity, gender, interdependence, loyalty, partnerships, power, and rejection. When you think your boss is trying to make you quit or feels threatened by you, most likely this is simply your interpretation of negative events and factors at work that may be only tangentially connected to your boss, or not at all (unless that’s exactly what your boss has told you in no uncertain terms).
Jumping to conclusions about the dynamic between you and your manager is one of the big no-nos of handling conflict at work. Until you know for sure what the discomfort that you feel means, stay calm, and act logically.
Let’s focus on some possible steps to figure out whether you’re really seeing signs your boss wants you to quit, or whether it’s something else.
What are the signs your boss wants you gone?
We’ve put together a checklist of some tell-tale signs your boss wants you to leave. Read the statements below and mark down those you agree with:
- Everything I do seems to annoy my boss.
- My boss has started micromanaging me.
- My boss has completely abandoned me; it’s like I don’t exist.
- There is nothing I do that my boss fails to criticize.
- There is no small talk for us.
- My boss won’t greet me — or smile.
- My boss won't make eye contact.
- My boss has a derogatory demeanor and reserved, domineering body language when dealing with me — and behaves differently with others.
- My boss isn't available for me via email or phone.
- My boss attributes my successes to my colleagues.
- I get blamed for problems that were not my fault.
- When I ask my boss for feedback, I rarely get it.
- My boss doesn't listen to anything I say.
- My boss goes to my subordinates first for new projects — not me.
- My boss no longer asks for my input on key decisions.
- I’m often excluded from major meetings that involve my work.
- My boss’s door is always closed for me.
- My boss always disagrees with me.
If more than half of the statements above apply to your situation, your workplace dynamic might indeed be unfavorable. However, before rushing into conclusions, let’s see if you’re prone to some type of negative thinking that can affect your perception of your work relationships.
“I think my boss wants me out”: identifying negative thinking
How do you determine if this is a catastrophizing thought, rather than the real situation at hand? Your first task is to stop the kind of thinking that fosters helplessness. Instead of the exaggerations your mind is conjuring, focus on rational alternatives.
We can start to change our thinking when we recognize common patterns. This requires self-awareness, because irrational thoughts are often automatic — and convincing. Check out the table below to see if the examples in the left column ring true to your current situation at work. Then examine the rational alternatives in the right column and modify them to fit your situation.
|Irrational, catastrophizing thoughts||Rational alternatives|
“OMG, that shouldn’t have happened! I’m going to lose my job!”
“This is frustrating, but I haven’t lost my job yet, and I don’t have to.”
“Work pressure is awful. It’ll never end.”
“I feel awful right now, but it doesn’t have to get the best of me. Upsetting things do come to an end, even if I find that hard to believe at this moment.”
“That look, I hate it when (s)he looks at me like that.”
“It’s ok when other people don’t like me or what I do. If someone is unhappy with me, that doesn’t mean that I can’t be myself and do my job.”
“There’s no way my boss won’t have a beef with me about my recent report! I’ll look foolish.”
“Everyone makes mistakes, it doesn’t mean I’m foolish or incompetent. I can correct the mistakes they point out to me. I’m not perfect, and I can live with that.”
“I have a terrible headache, and my heart is racing! How much of this can I take?”
“Slow down. My body is sending me a signal that I’m overstressed. I will pause, breathe, and think. I’ll find a way out. And even if I don’t, I’ll survive. It’s okay.”
“What can I do? I have no control over this! It’s just getting worse and worse, and they’ll sack me.”
“Take it easy! Deep breaths. Even if I can’t come up with something now, I’ll find a solution later. And I’m not alone. I can ask other people for advice. For now, I’ll just take things minute by minute.”
What to do if you think your boss is trying to get rid of you
You’ve done your work overcoming catastrophizing thoughts, but the signs your boss wants you out are still there? It’s time to take a closer look at your boss.
Profile your boss
Attempting to understand your manager is one of the first steps recommended in many resources on dealing with difficult bosses. Understanding doesn’t mean liking them, agreeing with them, or justifying their behavior. Instead, you need a general idea of what makes your boss tick. When you know your boss’s type of personality, temperament, and negative traits, you will find it easier to plan your strategy. This can be distilled to: adjust or quit.
Your manager won't make eye contact or smile? People who are naturally reserved are often ineffective communicators with inexpressive mannerisms. One option is to rely more on emails and other electronic communications, rather than face-to-face meetings. Respect their privacy and adjust to their preferences, and you’ll thrive in this workplace.
Is your director regularly nasty and manipulative? They may have poor control of their moods, or may be dealing with personal challenges you are unaware of. Opt for de-escalation and staying calm. Their emotional storms will pass.
Your boss won’t listen to anything you say? Perhaps they have a skeptical and distrustful disposition, or maybe they’ve been burned in the past when relying on their employees. The best approach may be to use logical, data-driven arguments, and never expect trust without verification.
When you come across a boss who is verbally supportive in private conversations but whose actions are uncooperative and stubborn, pushing them will do you no good. A winning strategy here is never to assume that they agree with you or will support you (if their seeming positivity doesn’t pan out in practice, it is likely just for show — be prepared to do what you need to do and don’t expect help).
There is a particularly annoying type of leader — a narcissist who tends to attribute your successes to themselves and is unable to own their mistakes. They can be loud, arrogant, and entitled. Stroking their egos is a recommended coping strategy in these unfortunate cases.
So, you get the idea? Identify your boss’s overriding traits and play to them. Team up with eccentricity and attention-seeking tendencies by being enthusiastic about their ideas and loyal to their mischievous charm. Cope with diligence, perfectionism, and micromanaging habits by reliably delivering high performance. Help your dutiful leader please their own boss and see your stock go up.
Ensure your value
There are two important ways to ensure you’re valuable to your boss. First, do your work immaculately. Your productivity and the quality of the job that you do for the company go a long way toward standing you in good stead with your supervisor. Make sure the work you produce meets or exceeds expectations. If you chronically miss deadlines or let your team down, it is no wonder the team lead has a beef with you. So after you figure out the personality of your boss, ask yourself what you can do to tame your own dark side. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses can prevent your weaknesses from derailing your work.
Second, make your boss look good in the eyes of top management and keep mum about it. If you routinely make your boss’s life easier, that’s another brownie point for you (and you can never have too many of those points). They will be inclined to keep you around, because they know you have their back. If your boss is difficult to deal with, though, you may want to be quiet about how indispensable you are to them.
Noticing some signs you are being pushed out of your job, don’t immediately expect the worst. When you register that something is off with your boss, analyze the situation carefully. Examine your feelings, establish your boss’s behavioral baseline, and consider any recent changes in your relationship dynamics.
If you feel it is too much for you to handle, you can always leave dealing with a problematic boss to others. You’re worthy of professional development opportunities, exciting projects, and raises if your work is efficient and productive. You can’t expect your boss and colleagues to be warm and caring, but it’s not your job to solve their problems in addition to doing your own work. Ultimately, you’ll want to take a logical approach, and make the decision that is right for you.