It’s not just in your head. There are a lot of reasons your boss might be sabotaging you at work, but whatever the cause, the symptoms tend to look the same. If you’re here, you probably have a feeling your boss has it in for you or that you’ve made a bad impression.
You might have even tried to talk yourself down like it’s just in your head. When someone is being nice to your face, it can be difficult to tell if the slights that keep coming your way are genuine or a coincidence but in any case, they can be powerful and even lead you to leave a job you love.
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Here are some tips on what to do when your boss makes you feel incompetent.
Signs Your Boss Is Undermining You
If your boss openly belittles you, that’s your first red flag. Any time your employer is just going off on you in public, that isn’t complicated, and you don’t need to wait for any other signs. You definitely have a problem if they’re dressing you down in front of people.
Other signs your boss wants you to leave are more subtle. Does your boss steal your ideas?
If it’s only happened once, that might be a coincidence, but if your boss has repeatedly brought up something you know you suggested without crediting you, that’s a sign of a deeper underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
Are they keeping you out of important meetings or refusing to give feedback on your work? Shutting you out may not be actively antagonistic, but it’s insidious in another way.
If things are happening behind closed doors and you keep being the last to find out what’s happening when other employees are being included, that is a more subtle red flag.
Are they micromanaging you or sticking you with busy work instead of giving you tasks that measure up to your potential? Do you often find yourself thinking, my boss makes me doubt myself? Well, this one’s tricky.
If you have a boss that micromanages everyone, that’s still a problem but not a sign that they’re undermining you specifically. If you’re the only person being treated that way, that is a problem.
Things To Do When Your Boss Makes You Feel Incompetent
So some of this looks familiar to you. What do you do about it when the person causing the problem has direct power over you and your career? What do you do when your boss makes you feel incompetent?
It can make you feel completely powerless when someone above you on the food chain is making things more difficult for you, but there are still things you can do to protect and make things better for yourself.
Ask for Clarification
If your boss is openly belittling you in front of people or making jokes at your expense, it can help you to remain calm and ask them what they mean by that.
It doesn’t help if you sound accusatory when you ask and will likely make the problem worse, but the more direct the insult, the more difficult it will be to justify when challenged on it directly.
That can sometimes be enough to jolt the situation back into more civil terms.
Address It Diplomatically
Sometimes, a boss might undermine you and not realize they are doing it. If you feel safe enough, you can request a meeting, talk to your boss about this behavior, and find out the root cause.
Remember when taking this step to come in gently. Ask questions and try to get to the root of the issue. Listening a little can go a long way to seeing the change you want in the workplace.
If your boss isn’t the kind of person that would respond well to this kind of perceived challenge, chances are you already know it and should avoid this step.
Ignore It and Validate Yourself
If your boss isn’t giving you the support you need, but you really need the job, you might be able to just ignore the toxicity and get your work done all the same. You must remind yourself of your value and that you are good at your job.
This doesn’t work for everyone. Some people need more support than others, and sometimes validating yourself isn’t worth it. There’s an art to keeping your head down and doing the bare minimum, but if you want to really get ahead, this often isn’t the best option.
Bring It Up With Human Resources
Not every company has an HR department, but if yours does, it can help to go to them and see what they have to say. Sometimes when there’s a problem, HR will have your back.
It’s important to remember, however, that they are a department of the company and are there to see to the company’s best interests. Those won’t always line up with yours. They won’t always be an ally to you when your boss makes you feel incompetent.
If you want to try one more thing before you go, talking to HR might be the right move.
Find Another Boss
When all else fails, you can always leave and find another job. It can help to have a new one lined up for you before you go, but at the end of the day, nothing feels better than being able to say “I quit” when someone has been treating you poorly.
Your ability to walk away is your most powerful tool, and you alone get to decide what you are willing to tolerate. If your boss’s treatment of you is too much, you are allowed to leave and find a job that will treat you better.
You are very likely to spend a third of most of your days at work. That means you are spending a good portion of your life doing this job. If that job is making you miserable, for whatever reason, you are well within your right to go and find one that makes you happy instead.
As much time as most people spend at their jobs, one that’s making you miserable is taking more from you than you get out of it.
You can take steps if you want to keep the job. You have to try to make things better with your boss. Many people will listen to reason and won’t want to be unnecessarily cruel.
However, there are a lot of reasons someone might dig their heels in when confronted with the idea that their behavior is less than perfect, and there are a lot of people who would rather burn the world down around them than change their behavior.
You know best what you are willing to put up with and whether or not it’s worth it.