Trying to get your boss fired means you’re looking at the wrong problem

September 30, 2011 Career 4 comments , ,

I found a thread a few days ago where someone asked “I want to get my boss fired, because he’s incompetent and is ruining the department, so how can I do this?” This idea is broken at many levels, and the stuff of delusional daydreams.

If you’re ever in a situation like this, stop and take a breath and consider a few facts.

First and foremost, you’re not a superhero, and you’re not smarter than everyone else. It is not your job to come in and single-handedly save the IT department from ruin. That level of hubris is self-delusional and dangerous to your career. And if you ARE smarter than everyone else in the company, then you’re in the wrong company.

Second, you can’t “get your boss fired” by yourself. If you imagine that you can walk into your grandboss’s office with a list of the boss’s stupid moves, you’re fooling yourself. That’s not how things work. Do you think your grandboss is going to look at your well-documented list of the boss’s sins, say “Thank you, Johnson” and then can the boss? That’s fantasy. What’s more likely to happen is that you’ll get fired for insubordination. At the very least, you’ll piss off your boss because he’ll find out about it.

Note that I’m not talking about times when the boss is doing something illegal or unethical. In times like that, it’s your responsibility to take these issues up with upper management. I’m talking about when the boss makes bad decisions (or more likely, decisions you don’t agree with and have dubbed “bad”), or is a jerk, or is just somehow a bad boss.

Finally, what do you think is going to happen when you “get the boss fired”? Do you imagine that a better boss will be hired in his place? Why do think that upper management will get it right the second time? They screwed up once, and they’re not fixing the problem, so what will change the second time around?

Realistically, when you’re in a situation like this, one of two things will happen. Either upper management is aware of what a loser your boss is and he’ll be gone soon enough, or they can’t tell he’s ineffective, and no amount of your documentation of his bad decisions is going to change that.

So the question is, which situation are you in? Do you trust upper management to take care of things and get rid of your bad boss? If so, sit tight and do your job. And if you think upper management is as dumb as your boss himself, then you are in a crappy company and need to get out.

The bad boss is not the problem. The company that allows him to be a bad boss is the problem.

How to explain past problems in a job interview

October 5, 2010 Interviews, Job hunting 1 comment ,

In her recent US News article, the always spot-on Allison Green of Ask A Manager answers the question “How do I explain in an interview that I was fired?” An example from the article is:

“Actually, I was let go. The workload was very high, and I didn’t speak up about that soon enough. I just tried to keep my head down and get it all done. This wasn’t a realistic strategy, and I ended up making some mistakes because of the volume. It taught me a really valuable lesson about the need to communicate better when the workload is a problem and to figure out ways to make sure we’re on the same page about priorities if we’re in a triage mode. Since then, I’ve put a real premium on keeping lines of communication open so that that never happens again.”

Note how this example is much like answering the classic interview question “Tell me about a project that didn’t go so well, and what you learned from it.” You describe a problem clearly, without rancor, and how you dealt with it. After that, you describe what you’ve learned to improve things going forward.

Another key point that she brings up is that you must not be angry about having been fired. In the article, Allison says:

Practice your answer over and over out loud until you can say it calmly. What the interviewer is going to be paying a lot of attention to–almost more than the substance of your answer–is how you talk about it: Do you seem bitter and angry about it? Have you learned from the experience? How has it changed the way you conduct business? You want to really pay attention to how you deliver it.

This is fantastic advice for your entire interview, too. Are you one of those people who is easily angered? Do you find yourself irritated when talking about people you work with that you may not pull their weight, or perform as well as you? If so, chances are that irritation is coming out when you interview as well, and it doesn’t help you at all.

Every interview you go on is going to have at least one form of the “tell me about a problem from the past, how you dealt with it, and what you learned” question. Come up with an answer for it beforehand, and know what you’re going to say. Practice it. Make sure you are entirely without rancor or fingerpointing in your delivery. Role-play with a friend and see what they say. You might think you’re sounding calm, but a fresh set of ears may tell you otherwise.

Check out Allison’s article, and visit her main blog Ask a Manager. Allison is a must-add for your feed reader.