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

Last updated: August 8, 2018

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

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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Feeling shameComing December 19: Embarrassment, Shame, and Guilt at Work: Creation
Three feelings are often confused with each other: embarrassment, shame, and guilt. To understand how to cope with these feelings, begin by understanding what different kinds of situations we use when we create these feelings. Available here and by RSS on December 19.
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Coping effectively with feelings of embarrassment, shame, or guilt is the path to recovering a sense of balance that's the foundation of clear thinking. And thinking clearly at work is important if you want to avoid feeling embarrassment, shame, or guilt. Available here and by RSS on December 26.

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