Career Advice: How do you work with a boss who wants to keep you in a box?

Home Forums Careers Career Advice: How do you work with a boss who wants to keep you in a box?


This topic contains 5 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Scott Hutchens 5 years, 10 months ago.

  • Author
  • #236184

    Amy DeWolf

    A GovLooper recently asked:

    “What are some strategies to use when working with a supervisor who wants to ‘keep you in the box’ and stifles your attempts to develop yourself?”

    What do you think? Any specific examples or strategies she can use to develop her skills or get her boss on board with her professional development?

    • This topic was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by  Amy DeWolf.
  • #236194

    Joyce tabb

    I can only give advice from my own personal experience. I have served 20 years in the military, 20 years Corporate America, and now working with the Government. I developed the majority of my leadership and management skills from the military making SFC/E7 before retiring. I then used these attributes in Corporate America. Some were noticed by managers in Corporate, and others didn’t care to notice. My career downfall was my education when upper management starting saying you don’t have the education (not the experience). I was welled qualified through experience. I had a B.A degree but wasn’t getting job opportunities like I wanted. So, to get out of the box they placed me in, I went back to school. I am now completing my second degree. What I am saying is that if your boss put you there, find out why? You won’t be able to work your way out of the box without knowing why you were put there in the first place. I recently had my evaluation and the manager did not want to cover any career development with me. I looked her straight in her eyes and told her every employee should have a career development plan. It caught her off guard, but I had some sorth of career development plan before I left that meeting (I’m working to change it now). Another job opportunity became available in my department which would have been a promotion for me. I told her I was going to apply for the position. She plainly stated she felt I wasn’t qualified, however, she could give me no reason why. I applied, went through the interview process (she was one of the interviewer), and of course, I wasn’t selected for the position. The problem here is that she already had someone in mind for the position (it wasn’t me), and the only way she could discourage me from applying was to tell me she felt I wasn’t qualified. I knew I was more than qualified so I applied for it. You see, she put me in a box, but when I step out for other opportunities, I step closer to getting out of her box. I continue today to apply for any other opportunities that come my way, and eventually, I will be out of “her” box.
    1. Know your career development plan. If you don’t have one, make one for the next five years.
    2. Do something you have never done before on your job (new courses, assisting in another department, etc…). Let others see your potential.
    3. Network, network, network in other departments, other people, and other places. Your boss is not the only boss around. In 6 months I had worked for four other departments and they now know my work skills so if any opportunities come available in their department, I am on the top of their list.
    4. Be bold and tell your boss about your career development, and your desire for more opportunities, but also put it in writing, so it is documented. Request a time to discuss this with him/her (in writing). Follow through, don’t just drop it. It’s your career not theirs.
    5. Be confident about who you are, your experience, your skills, and maybe take some courses to develop your soft skills.
    6. Lastly, I like to recommend two online courses that has helped me: Business Ethics-Ethical Decision Making and Cases by Ferrell, Fradedrick,Ferrell, and Management in the 21st Century. I took both of these classes online, used it for career development so the company paid for the classes.

    I really hope this helps. Let me know when you get out of that box!

  • #236231

    Pattie Buel

    Sometimes the best selling point for personal development is how you could potentially apply the new or improved skills within your current position. When I went back for my Masters while in the private sector, I chose to study contracting. My boss was reluctant to approve the tuition assistance at first and wanted to know why I wasn’t going for M.I.S or something that would build on my existing Comp Sci degree. Since I had recently moved into a project manager role (Govt contractor), I felt it would help me be a better project manager is I understood more about contracting rules and regulations. I was never going to be the lead network engineer or head coder on a project – although I needed to know who on my team knew what and how well they knew it. But the contracting knowledge would help keep me from making missteps on the management of the contract and that would pay benefits in the long run.

  • #236452

    Amy DeWolf

    Thank you both for these recommendations- great ideas!

  • #236476

    Mark Hammer

    It’s probably easier for me to say this, because I’m generally older than most of the people I work with, and for, so I have none of that reflexive deference to authority. But it is worth having a conversation with that boss, and reminding them that every piece of added value you provide is likely to simply blow away with a gust of disengagement if you don’t get out of that box now and then. It’s *their* job to help maintain your interest and enthusiasm. After all, you are a public servant, not some doofus selling running shoes to people who don’t need them.

    My sense is that such behaviour by supervisors is more frequent when they are either new to supervising, or new to your unit. Short leashes are more typical of managers/supervisors who don’t know who to invest in yet, or why/how to invest in them. With time, the leashes lengthen, as trust is built, but then it’s a matter of how long you can tolerate waiting.

  • #240582

    Scott Hutchens

    Beware you don’t have a toxic boss. If you do you can only work within their parameters and motivations not yours. Most toxic bosses you have to make it their idea especially the tyrannical ones. There are many websites that will help you identify what kind of toxic boss you have. Once you understand your boss (I use boss instead of manager because that what a toxic manager is….a boss”, you can then know how to approach them with what you need. This sounds like a classic case of a boss that likes to control everything. Do you find they ignore your e-mails or take a looooong time to get back to it? Do you find mentorship from them is non-existent? soooo
    1. find out if you have a toxic boss first because if you try the above suggestions it may be VERY counterproductive and decline the relationship you may already have.
    2. Make all communications based on number 1. Meaning depending on the boss will depend how you approach them.
    3. if you can work in these new parameters your good to go….if you can’t your best bet is to look for another job. you can’t fight it…you’ll loose, you can’t go along with the ride (you will gain nothing and give everything)
    and so on and on……

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.