Is my boss trying to get rid of me?
March 19, 2019 6:22 PM   Subscribe

At my bi-annual performance review in February my boss brought up that I have been in this job nearly two years (it has been 1 year and 6 months or so) and asked if I had thought about my next steps in my career. I replied that I had some ambitions (to achieve the next level up for example) but that I did not intend on moving from my role soon because I was still learning.

Today she “West-winged” me and brought up an opportunity in our department which has not got much to do with what we do, saying that I had attended a lecture on that topic organised by the Department and enjoyed it. There are several roles and it could be at my level or a level higher. I thanked her for thinking of me but said I feel like I am still learning, though I will check it out and see if it looks interesting. In fact I have already seen it and am not interested. I expressed my desire to achieve the next level but said i am not sure if it is realistic in the short term and she said nothing, sort of changed the subject.

This is the same boss as my question a few days ago, who always rewrites my work, but not the same one as has made comments about my self confidence (though she did today and I said thanks for your concern but I don’t think there is anything wrong with my self confidence)

My question is: should I be worried? Is she trying to warn me that they are trying to get rid of me? Is she trying to get rid of me?

Interested to hear your thoughts, thanks MeFi!
posted by EatMyHat to Work & Money (14 answers total)
maybe. Or she could be trying to help your career along. In the best run organizations, part of managers' evaluation is whether they develop their teams, as measured by whether their people get promoted.

Either way, if you're not interested in the roles she thinks she should be developing you for, you should tell her what you are interested in. Sounds like she's trying to move you along one way or another.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:38 PM on March 19, 2019 [16 favorites]

So your supervisor is asking you about how you want to progress in your career and suggesting opportunities to you and you assume the worst? Why not take her at face value and assume she wants to help you advance your career.

Since she is not offering options that appeal to you, why not come up with a proposal for professional development that would suit you and present it at your next check-in or ask for a meeting. Perhaps there is a conference you'd like to attend? Or a certification program that would help you learn what you feel you need to learn? Or maybe you'd like some formal mentorship.

You may not lack self-confidence, but since you aren't demonstrating much specific ambition, it perhaps comes across as a lack of self-confidence. Based on your previous questions you do seem to be struggling with discovering purpose in your work. Take advantage of the overtures your boss is making to do something that would help you explore your purpose and career options.
posted by brookeb at 6:44 PM on March 19, 2019 [21 favorites]

She is gauging your interest in moving to one of these other roles.

Good employers don’t wait for you to master one role before moving onto another. Managers look at your performance in your current role and consider whether you’d be a good fit for a different role.

Don’t sell yourself short. If one of these other roles seems like it would be a good fit, then ask your manager about it again.

18-24 months is a pretty common timeline for people to move up from lower level roles at a big company. In that amount of time you can establish reliability and professionalism, show some growth in a role, and encounter or work with multiple managers, who may discuss your suitability for different opportunities.

This is external validation that you are ‘ready’ for that next step.
posted by thenormshow at 7:23 PM on March 19, 2019 [14 favorites]

Your last question included these statements:

“I have tried applying for other jobs, both within and outside the public service but have been rejected”

“I feel completely stuck in my job and at a loss to know what to do.”

“...I am not motivated- I just think what’s the point, no one likes what I produce anyway.”

So why is your position with your boss that you are content in your current job?

Even IF her motivation is that she doesn’t feel like you and she are a good fit, who cares? Sounds like you’d agree. And she’s offering to help you find a better fit.
posted by salvia at 7:32 PM on March 19, 2019 [14 favorites]

I’m confused about the timeline of your job situation from previous AskMe posts in the past year ish, so I’m surely missing context here, but it seems that you’ve been going back and forth between being blindsided by a bad review, feelings of rejection and being underutilized, considering changing careers, not being interested in your job at all... and now you feel there is more to learn and you’re not interested in a change of scenery or task.

Do you have a longer-term career goal that you want to work toward, outside of the context of this particular job? You mentioned above that you’d like to make it to the next level of your professional ladder. This is what that might look like in practice. Did you envision it happening differently?

Even in the perhaps unlikely event that your boss is trying to get rid of you (is this an anxiety-driven thought?), you might be able to see this as your boss offering an opportunity to get what you said you want. What’s so undesirable about the open positions, and what would the next step need to look like for you to want to make the jump?
posted by Snacks at 10:19 PM on March 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

So I’ll try to provide some context - basically I got a degree in teapot filters, and worked in that overseas and loved it, but on coming home could only find work in teapot painting. I tried to rise up the ranks and build transferable skills, til I could get back to teapot filters. Finally after several years I got a job in filters and have struggled ever since. I don’t seem to be good at the core skills this job requires and that makes me demotivated and wondering if I’ll ever master what I have to do. I want to learn these skills long term cos this is supposed to be my field and that’s why I want to get to the next level. But people keep suggesting jobs that arent working in teapot filters for me and I am not ready to leave the field I studied and worked so hard to get into. I’ve applied for other jobs in filters but have been rejected as they are very competitive and the jobs are rare anyway. So hope that explains things a bit.
posted by EatMyHat at 11:04 PM on March 19, 2019

Have you considered that there may be a disconnect between how you view your performance and how your boss views it? Anybody with any interest in their surroundings can learn in their job, whatever it may be. But that is not a good metric based on which to dismiss opportunities for progression. The question should be, are you developing as fast as you can or not? And is your role playing to your strengths or not? So gently, don’t get too hung up about tea filters. What do you want out of a job now, in five years? Why don’t you want to be stretched more? If I was your boss and you dismissed this suggestion out of hand you would probably not be the person I think of for other development opportunities any time soon.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:21 PM on March 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Are the jobs your boss has suggested in teapot filters? If so, I think the above comments are right and you don’t need the level of mastery you believe you do to progress (or at least your boss doesn’t think you do). If they’re not in teapot filters but in an adjacent area, then it’s not quite as clear cut. If you’ve been struggling with teapot filters, maybe you do need to reconsider whether it’s what you really want or it’s just sunk cost fallacy. Alternatively, perhaps you need to spend some time actively progressing your career in a different way to those you’re currently doing - get a mentor, get involved in an organisation outside your employer,...

I am a manager and aim to be a good one. When I suggest step up roles in my organisation to people, it’s because I think they can step up. I have my own reputation to consider after all. I’m much more likely to suggest sideways moves in other cases. If someone is poorly performing, I’ll deal with that as its own thing.
posted by plonkee at 12:43 AM on March 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify- I may have worded the initial post misleadingly but she did not suggest this as a step up opportunity- she mentioned that I could transfer at the same level as I’m currently at. When I mentioned wanting to level up and said I’m not sure if that was realistic in the short term, she changed the subject.
posted by EatMyHat at 1:04 AM on March 20, 2019

My company is very much about keeping talent within the company and encouraging internal movement, and they've been emphasizing that more lately. So your company culture might give you some clues.

Given our company culture, it's not unusual for me to have pretty frank discussions with my management about my goals and interest in other roles, and for them to provide helpful information about other teams. When a hire turns out to be a poor fit they tend to try to help them find a better fit within the company.

In your shoes, if I trusted the manager, I'd go into the next meeting prepared to talk about long term goals, any other areas of the company that I was interested in, where I want to go and what I need to do to get there. You might think about what it is about teapot filters that makes the work a good fit for you, and see if there's any way to leverage that information to get yourself into a spot where you're happier.
posted by bunderful at 4:18 AM on March 20, 2019

When I mentioned wanting to level up and said I’m not sure if that was realistic in the short term,

Instead of pre-judging yourself as unfit to level up in the short term, ask your boss about it explicitly. "What do you think would be necessary for me to level up? What would be a reasonable time frame for achieving that? What steps can I take to move towards that goal?"
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:31 AM on March 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yes, seconding the encouragement to ask your boss directly. In your position, I might be nervous about that because I wouldn't want to have put my efforts, time, and money into working with teapot filters (TF) only to hear one person's opinion that how this one company does TF isn't a good fit for my skills. It's just one person and just one company. You say that such jobs are sparse and competitive, which makes it even more fraught.

It sounds like the mismatch between "worked in that overseas and loved it" and "on coming home ... after several years I got a job in filters and have struggled" has been a really uncomfortable experience for you, and caused you to doubt yourself. Do you really want to be working on TF? It wouldn't be surprising if you've changed in the intervening time, and that together with how the job is done in another country and another company made all the difference. Is there any chance of going back overseas to be able to work in TF in an environment that better agreed with you?
posted by dancing leaves at 4:49 AM on March 20, 2019

Rereading your question, and your previous questions, yes it's possible your boss is trying to get rid of you. Or put more charitably, trying to get you into a role for which you are a better fit. You yourself say that you are struggling and don't seem to be good at the core skills this job requires. You've also previously said that you are disengaged and not really interested in the job at all. I can easily imagine your boss getting the impression that you would be better off elsewhere. It's more of a problem if they think they would also be better off if you were elsewhere.

Either way, what do you really want to do? It doesn't sound like you want to do this job in this organisation. So, figure out which job and which organisation you do want, and work out how to get there.
posted by plonkee at 5:19 AM on March 20, 2019 [6 favorites]

Thanks for the context. After looking back at more of your recent questions, this one seems to continue the theme, that you don't feel like you're excelling in your current work but don't quite know where to go with it, and you're picking up on what seem to be moderately negative external feedback. And it adds some new info: that in your field, jobs are rare and competitive.

Quick side question: did you excel at this work overseas? Is it possible that the problem is your specific organization's work culture and/or the way that TFing is done in your country vs. elsewhere? If so, would you be willing to go overseas again? (I'm assuming not.)

It really stands out to me that you say "I don’t seem to be good at the core skills this job requires." Is that situational (you don't do the job the way your boss does it), temporary (you need to learn XYZ computer program), or universal (e.g., you honestly think that the successful people in your field are highly social people who network constantly and like to grandstand and you know that that's just not you)? Getting clear on your skills, talents, and temperament is really helpful. The sooner you can find yourself in a work context that is a great fit for those, the faster you can progress. It might help to have an honest conversation with your boss about what you would need to do to get to the next level in TF. (They keep mentioning self-confidence; is that because they think you're underestimating your skills?) But also, if you agree that your skills there aren't great, or that it isn't a good fit for your personality in some way, it might make sense to start looking around at adjacent topics that suit you better.

Nothing is worse than a dead-end job with a supervisor who doesn't support you. A lot of your questions sound maybe a bit depressed or anxious, but unless you struggle with that outside of work, that can also result from a bad work environment. I tend to think that staying in an environment like that is worse than many alternatives, unless you see change on the horizon (like a bunch of impending retirements).
posted by salvia at 6:35 AM on March 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

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