I’ve always had managers who liked my work, but my old boss left a few months ago and her replacement just doesn't seem to like me. She gets along well with my coworkers, but nothing I do seems right with her. She seems annoyed when I try to talk to her, shoots down my ideas, and has started leaving me out of important meetings I used to be included in. I know this will affect my career if I don't resolve it, but I'm not sure what I can do.
When the person who’s currently in charge of your career actively dislikes you and freezes you out, that’s a dangerous place to be. Managers have an enormous amount of control over your career, from what projects you get to what professional opportunities and recognition you receive to how secure your job is. A manager who dislikes you can hold you back in ways that can have a long-term impact on your career (as well as simply making your daily life at work unpleasant).
You can’t change the situation overnight, but here are five ways you can regain some control over the situation and hopefully turn it around.
1. Ask your manager for feedback on how you could perform better. Giving a person who dislikes you this sort of open invitation to criticize you may feel counterintuitive, but if your manager can articulate specific concerns, it’s in your best interest to hear them. Plus, it’s possible that your manager might have some legitimate complaints. So listen with an open mind and see if any of her feedback is actionable for you.
2. Address it head-on. While asking for feedback tackles one piece of the issue, you also have the option of addressing the bigger picture directly, by professionally and calmly asking about how she’s treating you. When you’re doing this, your tone will be important; you don’t want to be aggrieved, accusatory or victimized, but rather concerned and collaborative — the same tone you might use in addressing a less personal business problem.
Try saying something like, “[Name], I have the sense you’re not happy with my work. You’ve sounded irritated with me several times recently, and I haven’t been included in meetings with the rest of the team. I really want us to have a strong working relationship. If there are things you’d like me to be doing differently, I’d be grateful to know.”
3. Cultivate a strong network of other colleagues. Your relationships with other people in your office will matter now more than ever. You might be able to forge connections with them that will minimize the impact your boss’s dislike has on you — and people who like you and know you to be impeccably professional and competent will be less likely to be swayed by any negativity from your manager. Plus, they can be strong references when you’re looking for your next job.
4. Say nice things about your boss in a way that’s likely to get back to her. Yes, this is a little Machiavellian, but the situation may call for it — and it’s hardly a crime to say kind things about someone. The reality is that people tend to like people who like them; discovering that someone you dislike has been saying flattering things about you can cause a change in perspective. Why not use that to your advantage?
5. Start polishing up your resume. Ultimately, if your boss dislikes you and nothing you do changes that, your best bet may be to get yourself out of the situation by moving to a different job. You’re far better off working for someone who will champion you, rather than thwart you.