Q: I'm having trouble with my boss. He doesn't tell me the truth, doesn't follow through on promises, and shows favoritism to other employees. But others think he's great — a real straight-shooter you can count on. It seems like there is quite a pattern at my company of younger employees with family responsibilities being held back in favor of other employees who are not as strong but do not take as much leave time. My career is stagnating because of this. How can I salvage this situation?
A: There may be legal aspects to your situation, but instead I'll focus on ways to take ownership of your future so you can move forward.
You have a number of factors to figure out, but you'll need to be in the proper frame of mind: a forward-looking, purposeful focus. There are undoubtedly aspects of your situation that you have no control over. Don't dwell on them.
Then determine what you want. You mention that your career is stagnating; what are your goals? If these aren't clear, you won't be able to overcome any barriers that he may be presenting.
Finally, see yourself as others see you. Pick five people in different roles, and imagine what their impressions of you might be. Not what you'd like to think, but the actual responses they may have. Ask others for direct feedback. Make sure that you're taking responsibility for any limiting behaviors you may have. In particular, make sure you're doing your share at work despite your personal obligations.
Back to your goals. If you haven't made a clear career plan, do it now. Articulate where you'd like to be in your next role and in five years. Understand what gives you the most enjoyment in work and what you're better off avoiding. Also note what new skills you'll need to get there.
Then let people know. Engage your company's human resources department in your learning and development, and talk to management people, including asking for informational interviews in areas that interest you. Find a mentor in the company who can help guide you through this stage of your career. When you see opportunities that interest you, don't sit on the fence — take action.
You've probably noticed that I haven't talked about your boss. He may well be in the category of "factors you don't control." Unless you want a quick trip to the job market, you may have to put up with some of his behavior. That said, if you can identify ways that can move the relationship in the right direction, by all means, give it a try. Consider asking for specific types of support or engaging on neutral subjects to try to connect.
If this is a pervasive pattern in your company, then you may want to consider escalating it, either to higher-level management or to HR. This, however, is a risky approach, so if you pursue it, you'll probably want to get legal advice first and focus on building rock-solid documentation of lies or biased behavior.
Focus on your own vision for yourself to move toward a more satisfactory workplace situation.
Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.