I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review that offered strategies to employees in dealing with an insecure or jealous manager and I have to say that I was pretty disappointed with the verbiage and the vernacular used in the article. Much of it was focused on the employee doing most of the work to make the manager feel less insecure. While I understand the psychology around making your boss your ally, I do have to ask at what cost to your own self-esteem and mental wellbeing?
In my experience as a leader, it is important for the managers to do the flexing for people who report to them. I have had the privilege to have people work for me who know more than me and are better at some things than I am. That’s a good thing. There seems to be a myth that managers or leaders need to know all the answers, but the truth is they don’t. If they did their job as a leader, they have hired someone who complements their skillset for a higher performing team.
Key behaviours of insecure managers to watch out for are: they will always find something to criticize about your work, even when it drives results and is celebrated by others, they often interrupt you during meetings and talk over you, they demean your accomplishments in front of a larger group, they take joy in pointing out your mistakes.
I have experienced this personally and this behaviour makes you question your own abilities and a whole lot more. Being treated this way does have an impact on your performance and productivity and let’s be honest, your mental wellbeing. It is not a sustainable situation for the long term. A lot of the coping mechanisms given are focused on making your boss feel like they are more in control, staying quiet with your new ideas and finding other people in the organization to sponsor you. These are all good, however they all point to you changing something fundamental about yourself. Personally, I am about continuous improvement, challenging the status quo, forcing myself to learn and grow and when that stopped and I lost my voice, I knew it was time to say goodbye.