Bad bosses make work less enjoyable.
April 20, 2010 2:09 PM   Subscribe

What does it mean when your boss sends you a job posting at another company?

Asking for a friend…My friend Luther and his boss do not get along. It’s so bad that Luther has had to go to Boss Man’s boss. That helped tone down the aggression, but not entirely. He just hides it now and throws Luther under the bus whenever possible to try to make people think he’s doing a bad job.

Yesterday he went to Luther’s office and told him that someone outside the company was looking for someone with the skill set Luther possesses. He said he didn’t want Luther to go but wanted him to know about the opportunity.

Luther really loves the company and his job but can’t stand working for Boss Man. Most people at the company don’t like Boss Man either and know that he is a troublemaker but won’t stick their necks out and go to HR or complain to upper management about him. Has anyone ever had a boss tell them about jobs at other companies? Was Boss Man trying to tell Luther that it’s only a matter of time before he manages to fire him? Does Luther just need to find another job?
posted by mamaquita to Work & Money (14 answers total)
Yeah, that's a pretty clear "I'd really like it if you left quietly" signal. I dunno that it's a threat, though - if Boss Man is resorting to that sort of thing, he's probably pretty toothless.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:13 PM on April 20, 2010

Whenever boss man has the upper hand, believe me, they will try everything to get rid of him. If there is no justification to outright fire, then he will make it nearly impossible that others will do it for him (higher than boss man) or make his life miserable.

For example, I was a stellar performer on paper. But I do have a big mouth and tell management what I think (respectfully). A squeeky wheel is never popular. They knew I HATED writing print ads; I'm a web girl. So...they moved me from web to print under a shitty manager. They knew that would either get me fired because you know new manager says I'm not up to par or break me where I would leave resignation letters on their desks and walk out.

I drove away giggling when I left those letters because I screwed them on the project.

So moral of the story, Luther needs to find another job. But note: If boss man and the new boss talk, Luther is going in on tainted ground.
posted by stormpooper at 2:13 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Does Luther just need to find another job?"

posted by Jacqueline at 2:35 PM on April 20, 2010

Luther should find another job. When he went to Boss Man's boss, that probably poisoned the relationship with Boss Man irrevocably — some people will not forgive that kind of jumping the chain of command. And really, if you have to go to your boss's boss to get your boss to treat you decently, that's not somebody you want to work for.
posted by Lexica at 3:12 PM on April 20, 2010

I kind of disagree with the others. If Luther really likes his job and company, I think he should try to keep the job and figure out how to tolerate the boss man. Since we don't know exactly why they hate each other so much, it's hard to comment on that, but really, finding both a job and company that you love working for is such a crap shoot that I would sincerely try to make things work at the current job.
posted by wondermouse at 4:50 PM on April 20, 2010

I recently had a run in with my boss. After having him run in circles for a while I think it settled in him that I thought he was a child. He then brought up that there was someone in another group who is retiring in 3 months, and I should apparently get the multiple certifications needed and try for his job.

It sounds like your friend is in the same situation as me. His boss isn't about to let him get any enjoyment out of his job; and would likely fire him given the slightest chance. For example, the next day I was 5 minutes late and he walks by and asks "can you arrive on time?" This was of course right at the time one of my coworkers was arriving too, and he didn't even get a mention.

The grass probably really is greener.
posted by Napierzaza at 4:53 PM on April 20, 2010

Luther could find job in the same company under a different boss, or Luther could judge whether the boss will be out first. I wouldn't entirely write off this scenario, because the boss sounds pretty marginal.
posted by zippy at 5:11 PM on April 20, 2010

Not disagreeing that he should take it as a hint, but I do want to throw out another perspective:

As a manager, I believe people need to grow and develop on three levels: for the job they're in, for the benefit of the overall organization, and for themselves as professionals. Most of the training and development I can offer an employee is in the first category, with a little bit in the second. But I also strongly believe in the third, and if I knew another company was looking for someone with a specific skill set, it would be a good growth opportunity for that person, and I couldn't offer them similar growth in their current position, I might pass the opportunity along, too...
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:14 PM on April 20, 2010

I'll give Luther the same workplace advice I give everybody: Document, document, document. Then, once he has a sufficient pile of documentation (three or four months' worth is usually about right) go back to boss man's boss, lay it all out, and make a case for not being willing to continue working with boss man as manager.

Best case outcome: Luther gets to work with a decent manager.

Worst case outcome: no worse for Luther than jumping ship right now.
posted by flabdablet at 5:45 PM on April 20, 2010

That happened to me once, but it was a boss I had a great relationship with, and it turned out to be a not-so-subtle message that layoffs were a'comin' and he was hoping I'd be able to jump ship before the axe fell.

It doesn't sound like that's what's going on with your friend, though.

But the underlying message, "You should leave" is probably the same. It's just coming from a different direction - from malice, rather than good will.

If I were Luther, I'd ask my evil boss if he'd give me a good recommendation letter for the other job. Consider it a counter-offer. "I'll leave, if you'll help me."

Otherwise, as soon as the new company phones Luther's boss, I'm afraid the temptation to trash Luther will be too great for his evil boss to pass up.
posted by ErikaB at 5:53 PM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think there's an implied offer: I'd really like you to get out of my hair; leave and I'll give you a good reference at this other company.

It may or may not carry with it an implied threat that if he doesn't take the offer, that he'll eventually be fired and then left to swing on his own. That depends on how much power Boss Man really has.

Frankly I'd take the offer if I were your friend. It's almost never worth staying in a bad work situation just out of stubbornness or righteousness; I've seen it truly eat people up. It sucks if you work for an asshole and have no place else to go, but if you have an alternative, doing similar work for the same amount of money and perhaps working for a non-asshole, I think anyone would be a fool not to take it.

Plus, no matter how much of an asshole Boss Man is, better to part on good terms than on bad ones. Even if your friend is totally in the right and Boss Man is totally in the wrong, getting fired will still be something he'll have to explain to a new potential employer — and a lot of employers shy away from anyone they think might be a "troublemaker," "drama queen," or who has a lot of "baggage," which in this buyer's labor market might easily include him. There will be lots of other candidates who haven't gotten into a spat with a past employer, and he should keep that in mind. Always consider what the narrative will be when you retell it in an interview: nobody likes a whiner, and the graceful exit leaves no room in which he might come across badly in the future.

tl;dr: Boss Man's hill is not worth dying on. Walk away.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:43 PM on April 20, 2010

Just anecdotally, I was in Luther's position and eventually boss' boss realized that none of boss' direct reports were happy with boss' management and split us up under different, mellow supervisors while giving boss a face-saving change of responsibilities. Things are much better now.

If Luther has confidence in the management above and around Bad Boss to insulate him from Bad Boss' Badness or eventually relieve him of the Badness when the opportunity presents itself, it may be worth hanging in there.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:30 PM on April 20, 2010

If Luther loves his job and just hates Boss Man, he might figure out a way to let Boss Man's superiors know that Boss Man is passing around job postings, encouraging staff to leave. In some locations, that's a justification to fire with cause.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 7:13 AM on April 21, 2010

Thanks everyone for the responses. Lots of good suggestions here. Luther and I are meeting up later this week and I'll be sure to pass them on.
posted by mamaquita at 7:50 AM on April 21, 2010

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