Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 10, Issue 26;   June 30, 2010: How to Undermine Your Boss

How to Undermine Your Boss

by

Ever since I wrote "How to Undermine Your Subordinates," I've received scads of requests for "How to Undermine Your Boss." Must be a lot of unhappy subordinates out there. Well, this one's for you.
The reverse side of the U.S. quarter dollar coin issued in 2000, honoring the state of New Hampsire

The reverse side of the U.S. quarter dollar coin issued in 2000, honoring the state of New Hampshire. The image depicts a rock formation on Cannon Mountain that was known as "The Old Man in the Mountain." It collapsed sometime between May 1 and May 3, 2003. The date is a bit uncertain because the mountain was shrouded in clouds and fog on the days before May 3.

The formation collapsed as a result of water penetrating its crevices and repeatedly freezing and thawing. Eventually, this weakened the structure, and it collapsed of its own weight. Something similar often happens at work, because the incompetent and corrupt eventually destroy themselves with very little assistance from others. Sometimes, though, the process takes longer than subordinates would like, and this might be the source of the urge to undermine the boss. Photo by U.S. Mint courtesy WikiMedia.

Recently I wrote a piece about how to undermine your subordinates. It ended with a facetious comment about my forthcoming article on undermining your boss, which I had no plans ever to write. But I've had so many requests from readers (some of them obviously desperate) that I was compelled to write what you're about to read.

But I've learned my lesson, so here's a facetiousness warning: almost none of the following is serious.

The First Principle of Undermining Your Boss is: Don't Get Caught At It. No, wait, that's the Second Principle. The First principle is: Do Not Ever Do It. Ever. It should be obvious why not, but here's the reason: Your Boss Can Get or Already Has Much More Powerful Tools for Revenge Than You Do.

OK. Now we have that out of the way. Here's how to do it.

There's only one reason to undermine your boss
Some people hope they can get their bosses transferred or terminated, or even take over their boss's job. These outcomes are extremely unlikely, because every incompetent boss who somehow stays employed has a supervisor who wants it that way — or who is just as incompetent.
Fixing things is a fantasy. The only reason to even try to undermine your boss is Ecstatic Enjoyment. Oh, and maybe sometimes Revenge.
At the right time, do nothing
When you notice something happening that you could help with, don't. Pretend you didn't notice it. Go to lunch. Whistle a merry tune.
Of course, if your boss asks you to assist, that's completely different. But since your goal is undermining your boss, requests for assistance always present delicious possibilities.
Get help from Human Resources
When it comes to undermining your boss, HumanNothing juicy in Human Resources
is ever really confidential
for very long
Resources can work magic. But they need a reason. Ask for a confidential counseling session. Confidentiality might seem to be counterproductive here, but remember: nothing juicy in Human Resources is ever really confidential for very long.
In the session, ask in a solemn tone, "If someone knows of something unethical going on, are they obligated to report it?" Ignore the answer. It's asking the question that counts. If that doesn't get HR going, then ask, "If someone wants to report something unethical, how can I do that anonymously?"
Be publicly supportive in useless ways
In public, always support your boss. Since undermining is your actual goal, you don't want to be on the list of suspects when they try to figure out who could have said or done whatever was said or done.
But don't go overboard. Don't actually do anything that would help. If your co-workers all hate you, then your public stance is working. You're safe. From your boss, that is — from your co-workers, maybe not.

If you do any of this, be ready at a moment's notice to start a job search. Even better: skip over all of it and start a job search now. Go to top Top  Next issue: Seven Ways to Get Nowhere  Next Issue

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenetmaCiFBMutXEkUUner@ChacVrsJKJhTYDcQkEBsoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Workplace Politics:

Seafood stewWhen You Think Your Boss Is Incompetent
After the boss commits even a few enormous blunders, some of us conclude that he or she is just incompetent. We begin to worry whether our careers are safe, whether the company is safe, or whether to start looking for another job. Beyond worrying, what else can we do?
President Harry S. Truman, and Gen. Douglas MacArthur, meeting at Wake Island, 14 October 1950The Perils of Political Praise
Political Praise is any public statement, praising (most often) an individual, and including a characterization of the individual or the individual's deeds, and which spins or distorts in such a way that it advances the praiser's own political agenda, possibly at the expense of the one praised.
The Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus, a German World War II super-heavy tankWhy There Are Pet Projects
Pet projects are common in organizations, including organizations with healthy and mature planning processes. They usually consume resources at levels beyond what the organization intends, which raises the question of their genesis: Where do pet projects come from?
A clockThe Artful Shirker
Most people who shirk work are fairly obvious about it, but some are so artful that the people around them don't realize what's happening. Here are a few of the more sophisticated shirking techniques.
A ravenAnticipate Counter-Communication
Effective communication enables two parties to collaborate. Counter-communication is information provided by a third party that contradicts the basis of agreements or undermines that collaboration.

See also Workplace Politics and Managing Your Boss for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The United States curling team at the Torino Olympics in 2006Coming November 22: Motivation and the Reification Error
We commit the reification error when we assume, incorrectly, that we can treat abstract constructs as if they were real objects. It's a common error when we try to motivate people. Available here and by RSS on November 22.
A human marionetteAnd on November 29: Manipulators Beware
When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators. Available here and by RSS on November 29.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenltTsoYLZrnAcNKzzner@ChacxdgEVFSnRKCimQLPoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
Most Ten Project Management Fallaciesof what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
Please donate!The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
21st Century Business TravelAre your business trips long chains of stressful misadventures? Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to get from here to there relaxed and refreshed? First class travel is one alternative, but you can do almost as well (without the high costs) if you know the tricks of the masters of 21st-century e-enabled business travel…

Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics!
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
My free weekly email newsletter gives concrete tips and suggestions for dealing with the challenging but everyday situations we all face.
A Tip A DayA Tip a Day arrives by email, or by RSS Feed, each business day. It's 20 to 30 words at most, and gives you a new perspective on the hassles and rewards of work life. Most tips also contain links to related articles. Free!
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.