My bosses and what I have learned
Needless to say, given the number of jobs that I’ve had, I have also seen a lot of bosses. One thing that I can tell you for sure, the boss is not your friend. Every time I assumed that the boss was on my side and supportive of me, I generally got screwed. There are senior people that may be your mentor, but they are hard to find and for some reason, they find you rather than you find them.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. I worked for one trading house that was active in oil and natural gas markets. I pretty much hated the job but the pay made it well worth my while. I knew that at some point in future I would have a problem, but I tried my best while facing almost insurmountable problems. Having said that I did manage to put on a trade that made the firm over US$ 2,000,000. A lot of money.
There was another staff member who was a “loose canon”. Boy oh boy, that guy didn’t know left from right. He put on a trade and made a pricing mistake. The cost to the firm was substantial. Nonetheless, nothing happened and in fact, he got a promotion! I ended up getting sacked. He ws more aligned with the culture. I was like a “fish out of water” and my boss knew it.
One thing that you have to remember, is that no one ever gets fired for being incompetent. Think about it. How many people have you worked with that you thought were utterly incompetent who ended up getting promoted while you were left languishing? I’m sure many of us have seen this. And we scratch our heads while they continue to get promoted and we continue to tread water.
(Check out this video which will give you a sense of some of the bosses I’ve had. Bosses from hell).
This truth is that the reason you don’t get ahead, don’t get better work, don’t get a promotion is that your boss doesn’t like you! Pretty simple, if the boss doesn’t like you, you can’t do anything right. If your boss likes you, you can’t do anything wrong. I’ve seen it a million times.
So how does someone get past this
In my opinion, the reality is that you can’t. I have worked in many banking and capital markets/trading environments. People were screwing up all the time but seemed to be able to shrug it off. Nothing stuck to them.
And in fact, they would “velcro” themselves to deals and make it look like they were involved in the success of a deal while having done pretty much nothing. And the sad part about that is it worked! WE all wondered how the boss was so blind.
So you have two choices. The first one is to accept your role and lay low hoping you won’t get fired. The second one is that you leave. There are no other alternatives. Working harder and smarter will not get you there – the fix is in.
But don’t just quit! Wait for the opportunity that’s right for you. Make sure that you don’t jump at a lateral move. If you can’t get some sort of promotion out of it – stay put! I made so many lateral moves that I never managed to get a promotion. I failed to move ahead because I was not strategic in leaving the firm that I was working for. Unless you get fired, don’t make a lateral move just to escape. If you happen to get fired in between, well you’ll just have to deal with it.