Are You Afraid of Your Boss?

Let’s be honest. At times we have all worked for a boss that we were just afraid of for any of many different reasons. The outcome of that fear created a poor working relationship, and neither of your performances were as good as they could have been.

Whether the boss is intimidating, mean and nasty, or egotistical, they hold the keys to your financial situation. You endure until either they move on or you find a different job. Neither conclusion is a winning option for your career or the company’s success. So what do you do?

When I was a lot younger, I let people intimidate me. I learned over time that it served no purpose other than job retention (and I know how vital that can be) to let things remain the same. I learned that I needed to choose my fights, and at times fall on my sword for the right causes.

An Example:

There are two companies in my area that hired a new Chief Human Resources Officer last year. I happen to know the two finalists in both cases.  A stronger talent with more experience lost out to another candidate both times that were less experienced and more importantly both very passive in nature. In both companies, the CEO is a very strong personality with an intimidating presence. The people chosen can be easily manipulated and the person who lost both times would have stood his ground.

It has been fascinating to watch both companies as they build their infrastructure. Both are building very weak HR functions that are more clerical and less strategic. It was not surprising to learn that when they hired their respective training managers they went for potential over experience. One hired a facilitator and the other an instructional designer to build a training function from scratch. Both have created disastrous results to date because they lacked the right competencies. What they did bring to the table was the inability to be challenging to the status quo.

In these two examples, the CEOs hired HR people that would do as they are told. The best candidate would have challenged how the CEO wanted to perceive the world. The HR people then went on to hire training managers that would not challenge them. Because all of these managers want sheep for employees, and the employees are afraid to challenge their manager’s thinking, everyone is failing.

Both of these companies compete in the same industry, and both CEOs see each other as direct competition. Can you imagine what would happen if one of them replaced their HR and their Training leaders with competent, experienced and at times challenging the status quo talent? That company would exceed expectations and capture the market share of the other.


When we are fearful of our boss, we cannot do the best job possible. If we are leading functions where employees never question the status quo, then we should be the ones that question our own actions. To have success, we need all talent to work to their potential, and at the same time we should be open to yielding to expertise, and not just to a title.


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