Are You Giving Away Your Power?

Posted August 10, 2009 in Latest News & Insights

Yesterday, I had coffee with a terrific former colleague who is currently struggling with the age old career question: should I stay or should I go?

The why go part is quite easy.  Her current boss is the classic office nutbar that was discussed in our prior blog about working with a psycho boss.  She has lots of good reason’s to leave and would probably be able to land a job very quickly (she’s terrifically talented). But, her reason for why she wasn’t prepared to leave was what interested me the most: fear of retribution from the boss.  She’s witnessed too many slag’s on former co-workers to know that she won’t be immune to this type of trashing, and, as someone in the early stages of her career, is worried about the effect that will have on future prospects.  After all, we’re always told never to burn a bridge.  The problem is, the person she works for is pretty much guaranteed to hit her with an emotional reaction when the time to leave comes.

Which is what led me to think about the way we often give other people power over us without being aware of it.

My colleague is (as I’ve mentioned) very talented.  They do great work for clients; build great relationships with colleagues (past and present) and are really committed to their job.  The person they work for is highly connected and is exceptional at managing their image.  There is no question that my colleague is “out” connected when it comes to knowing powerful people and there is no question that, if this person chose to do so, they could create numerous barriers for her going forward.

But here’s the thing.  She has given this person so much power over her reputation, that she has potentially lost sight of her own power.  At the end of the day, YOU own your reputation, not your boss.  By continuing to do great work and focus on ensuring that as many people know her personally (not a version of her as filtered by her boss), even if the boss does decide to fight dirty when she decides to leave, the people that matter will see that behaviour for what it is: cowardly and self-serving.

Allowing another to have power over your choices because of your fear about what they may say or do is not a great way to live your life or grow your career.

Instead, my colleague should be purposeful about managing her reputation instead of worrying about what her boss might (or might not) do to it.  If she keeps doing great work and building her own strong relationships, my guess is that, no matter what is said or insinuated about her when she does leave, the people around will know the truth.  And, most importantly, she will know that her reputation is her and hers alone.

Happy leading!

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