Does your boss protect you?  Do you feel like your boss has your back or are you left to fend for yourself at work?  This is a subtle but deadly trust-breaker.  I had a great conversation a few weeks ago about this very topic and here is what was said: “I like my boss as a person.  But every time our corporate office tries to take resources promised to us, rather than protect us and tell them no, he caves every time.  I don’t feel protected and frankly can’t trust him because of it.”

Here are the most common forms this particular “trust-breaker” takes:

– My boss can’t tell customers “NO” – Ever wonder if your boss simply doesn’t possess the word “no” in his or her vocabulary?   While innocent at first, the ripple effect of this behavior is ugly.  A consultant recently shared with me this story, “my boss can’t tell the client ‘no.’ His inability to say no wreaks havoc on my personal life.  Let me rephrase that, I have no personal life.  The client project I’m working on keeps expanding.  As a result, I have to keep working more and more hours because my boss can’t put his foot down.  He’s lost all of my trust… and he’s about to lose me.”  Is your boss about to lose you?

My boss won’t protect me from my co-worker(s) – Do you have an abusive co-worker that you’ve told your boss about?  Has your boss been reluctant to do anything about the co-worker and his / her behavior?  Bet you don’t feel very protected.  Bet you don’t have very high trust in your boss.  Bet you are planning to stick around much longer.

– My boss doesn’t fight for me (or us) with the higher-ups – Feel like your boss doesn’t have your back when you aren’t around?  One team shared with me that while they like their boss, they know she won’t fight for them in senior meetings.  “We know that if there is a time for sacrifices, our boss will volunteer us… even if that means our jobs.  We all have our resumes ready and are all looking for something more stable.  She may be alone before she realizes it.”

If your boss won’t fight for you, how do you transform them into a fighter?  And can you?  First, the bad news: unfortunately, I have never seen a case where someone was successful in training their boss to be a fighter.  He or she needs to choose that role.  But there are some ways you can push them to make that choice.  Here are the top two approaches you can take:

  1. Gang up on your boss – I’ve seen tremendous impact on a boss when his or her entire team comes to him or her as one and says “we don’t feel protected by you.”  It’s tough to ignore.  And frankly, no one wants to be seen as untrustworthy by their team.  A facilitator may also help you pull this off so consider that path if you want to ensure your boss hears the message.
  2. Tell your boss what this could cost him / her – Don’t be afraid to tell your boss what it’s costing him or her by not protecting you.  Perhaps you feel like your job is in jeopardy or work has become unreasonably stressful because of their actions.  Have the courage to tell him or her that if it continues, you may have to look for something more stable.  This too might be a good message to deliver as a group if you are concerned as to your boss’ reaction.  Only when your boss clearly sees what their actions could cost him or her will they be more likely to change their ways.

A boss that is unwilling to protect us is not only frustrating to work with, but frankly difficult to trust.  And while we all wish we could send them off to a “Rocky Balboa”-style boot camp that would transform them into a fighter, this transformation is more about will than skill.  But with some teamwork and honest conversations, you can push your boss in the right direction.  So get your colleagues together and prepare your talking points.  There may be a fighter in your boss yet.