Lateral transfer as a solution for a toxic boss

In The Workplace
Rey A. H. Elbo

Posted on July 21, 2017

I’m no longer happy with my current boss, who is a dictatorial pig who mouths expletives and terrorizes us all to submit to his whims and caprices. I’ve talked to him already about my concern, and he simply quipped: “The door is wide open.” I like the company and my colleagues in the department, and it is only the management style of my boss that makes me feel sick. I’m planning to move to another department to escape from his harmful ways. What do you think? -- Great Escape.

There’s a story about a wise old pastor who told everyone who cares to listen that some people get mad at the church and decide they will hurt it by leaving the congregation. He explained that they were in thinking that their leaving would hurt the church. Instead, he said: “The tree is never hurt when an old, dried-up, rotten apple falls to the ground.”

The trouble is that we never know who the “rotten apple” is in your case. You may think that it’s your boss. On the other hand, he may think it’s you and your colleagues in the department. It is not clear from my view as I’ve not heard the side of your boss. OK, fine. You’re thinking of leaving his department as an escape against his foolishness.

I have my doubts. You will be lucky if he approves your transfer to another department. What if he disapproves and make your life more difficult than before?

Knowing your boss’s character, you should anticipate the probability that he may reject the idea as he doesn’t want people to think of it as a bad reflection of his management style. If you’re allowed to transfer, what would happen to your colleagues who would also want out of his department? Imagine the floodgates that could open, leading to the exodus of other workers who are similarly situated.

That’s one dreaded thing that must be avoided by your boss.

Lateral movement to another department is of course an excellent option. However, you have to take into consideration several factors. One, is there a vacancy in another department that matches your qualifications? If not, are you willing to perform other tasks unrelated to your interest? Not only that. No department would simply create a vacancy to accommodate someone trying to escape from a toxic boss.

Two, if there’s a legitimate vacancy and the manager of the other department is willing to consider you, expect this manager to inform your current toxic boss about your interest to move out as a matter of inter-departmental courtesy. Really, your greatest challenge is securing the permission of your current boss so that you can move to another department.

If you think this is next to impossible, then you need to think of something else.

If you are productive despite all the toxicity around you, the more reason for your boss to not let you go. It sounds a bit selfish of him to do just that, but that’s the way it goes.

So what’s your next option? You may try bringing the matter to top management. This option is also risky. As soon as your boss finds out, he may go ballistic, and your troubles may multiply to the point where you have no choice but to resign.

Therefore, I guess there’s no option but for you to stick it out with your current boss, if you don’t want to leave the organization. Work as if you’re not bothered. Play along with his style. It’s difficult, but that’s the only way. Sooner than you can imagine, he may realize his mistakes and may change his ways. However, there’s no guarantee.

But if you remain positive, your colleagues are more likely to be inspired by your approach.

After all, a dictatorial style of management isn’t something that a manager enjoys. Maybe he’s in a situation that we may not understand. Therefore, ignoring his poisonous style gives you the chance to avoid an unpleasant confrontation. If you can’t change his behavior, then change your attitude against him. And don’t give him any excuse to go against you.

Be clear about his work expectations from you. Review them with him. It’s important for you to think about this particular aspect of work performance that is often the subject of irritation between you and the boss. Doing this gives you the opportunity to decide who is really at fault.

ELBONOMICS: Sometimes, transferring is like leaping from the frying pan to the fire.