Help! I'm Afraid My Boss Will Block My Job Transfer

Last Updated Jul 19, 2010 10:08 AM EDT

Dear Ron,
I'm being sought after for another job in my company that I really want, but my boss is difficult to work with and I'm afraid he'll give me a negative evaluation in my upcoming review and block my transfer. What should I do?
If you really think your boss will try to prevent you from moving on, you need to explain the situation to your potential new bosses and others at your company, and let them know that he and you don't necessarily see eye-to-eye. Keep in mind that if you've had difficulties with him, he may well be viewed by others in the company as difficult or problematic, which will help your case.

You may also have to ask your supporters in the group that wants you to use their clout on your behalf. Some companies won't let you move, period, if you don't have the support of your direct boss. In that case, you have a lot less room to maneuver. But if your company is not like that, you'll want to discuss with your supporters how they can use some of their power to get you transferred, even if you don't necessarily have the total blessings of your boss.

As for the review itself, you can try to minimize the damage by doing a self-evaluation in advance of your formal review, as I've written about before. You could even share this self-evaluation with your prospective bosses, saying to them "Here's what I think of the job I've done, although my boss may not agree with everything in here." That can be a way to alert them that there may be some discrepancies without being too specific about what they might be.

Finally, be careful to not to pre-judge your review too much. Even if it's clear you don't get along with your boss as well as you'd like, he may not want to be seen as being too negative when others are very positive about you. So don't necessarily assume the review is going to be that bad.

I once had a client, a manager at a technology firm, who was in a similar bind with his boss and a potential internal opportunity. What he did was get members of his network actively engaged in supporting him and talking to the people who wanted to hire him in another group. And these views offset the somewhat negative review given by his boss.

It also turned out that his boss's review was not as explicitly negative as he expected, although it used some vague language that could be interpreted negatively - for example, he said my client "had the potential for XYZ," implying he hadn't yet done XYZ yet. Fortunately, people in the company knew my client's boss and understood that he was throwing in some of these code words and phrases to be a little difficult, and my client was able to get transferred and has been promoted several times since then. But he did have to get around this hurdle of incompatibility with his boss, just as you do now. Good luck.

Read More Power Plays From Ron Brown:
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Send Ron your career and job-related questions.
  • Ron Brown

    Ronald B. Brown is a leading expert in the fields of leadership development and organizational change. He is the founder and president of Banks Brown, a management consulting firm that specializes in providing leading-edge skills to optimize the performance of leaders and organizations. He has served as a consultant to Fortune 100 corporations such as the Procter & Gamble Company, Avon Products, Inc., McDonald's Corporation, General Electric Plastics, Kaiser Permanente, Shell Oil Company, Eastman Kodak Company, General Mills Inc., and Motorola, Inc. Brown holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. and B.S. from Michigan State University.

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