DEAR KATHLEEN: I’ve been working for the same company for 30-plus years, and I have never had anything less than stellar reviews. My company recently hired someone much younger to replace my former boss, and she is making life miserable! Instead of the plum assignments I’ve had in the past, she has started handing me menial jobs and inferring that I am not as talented as other people she has worked with. Based on what has happened with other long-time employees, I am pretty sure she is trying to get me to leave. I need to hang on to the job for at least another four or five years. Any suggestions on how to handle this very anxiety-producing situation? –D.B.
I can only imagine how anxiety-producing this is! Unfortunately, you’re not alone. I’ve heard many friends and family members have gone through or know someone who has gone through a similar situation.
“The hiring of a new, younger superior can appear threatening to someone who is accustomed to the status quo,” acknowledges Paul Szyarto, senior operating executive and current chief solutions architect at Campana & Schott, Inc. “Younger leaders can bring new perspective and innovative ideas to an operation that has been stale. Companies are in search of innovative thinking from employees to help them gain a competitive advantage.”
That means it could be time to reinvent yourself, Szyarto says. “Working the same way for long periods of time makes you replaceable to implemented technology and or to younger, hungrier and especially cheaper resources,” he explains. “Offer yourself up as a veteran who desires to continue to learn and in return, be a more productive and valued resource to your boss. Don’t let pride get in the way … befriending and gaining your new supervisor as a mentor could be just the right recipe to continue your longevity.”
Brent Filson, founder of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc., says you should try to realize that every boss is running scared. “That boss needs to get results on a consistent basis or else he/she won’t be a boss for long,” Filson says. “Establish yourself as your boss’s PARTNER in achieving the results the boss needs.”
Filson says taking these six steps can help you stay in your new boss’s good graces:
1. Select specific initiatives in which you can lead teams to achieve results the boss badly needs.
2. Make sure those results are sizable, achievable, meaningful to the team members, measurable, ethical and repeatable.
3. Have your boss and your boss’s boss be aware of what you are doing.
4. When you achieve the results, try to validate them in terms of money, money saved, money earned.
5. Communicate your successes to all concerned.
6. Keep repeating this process.
“In this way, you become indispensable to your boss’s job and maybe even career,” Filson says. “With that will be a changed relationship!”
(Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has covered personal finance and other business-related topics for a variety of trade and consumer publications. You can email her your career questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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