Can you fire your boss?

Whatever happened as a result of Greg Smith’s open resignation letter to Goldman Sachs? I wrote a blog post about it: ‘143 years to grow a brand – 1 day to destroy‘. Where is he now? And more importantly, did it make a difference to the culture of Goldman Sachs?

Twenty years ago when I worked in corporate Australia, I was particularly uninspired by my direct manager. The fact that I thought he was not very clever was perhaps not very conducive to a productive work relationship with him. After putting up with him for about six months, my colleagues and I thought we would vote with our feet. And the three of us resigned on the one day.

We thought this would be ground-breaking and that the organisation would suffer terribly. Alas, nothing changed. The manager stayed put, the enterprise achieved its results and the only people that it really hurt was us. We had to find new jobs – and when asked the question “Why did you leave the last place?” saying “I hated my boss” was probably not the most endearing attribute to offer a potential new employer.

I can still hear that manager saying, “Quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” He had the manager’s job, I did not. Clearly management only had visibility to him and I had little if any ability to influence those superiors. In fact, I had no idea how this manager talked about me – or if he took credit for my work. It can be a no-win situation.

“If you declare war on your boss, 90% of the time you’re going to lose, because your boss has more leverage than you do,” says Marie McIntyre, an Atlanta-based coach and author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.

The reality is if you stamp your feet, then take your bat and ball and go home, it is very hard to change the culture. Quitting won’t actually ‘show’ them anything – or teach them a lesson. You don’t want your CV to paint you as a ‘job hopper’ that doesn’t get along with management.

There is frustration in every workplace. Business can be frustrating – not everything is smooth, carefully planned and well executed. And you are unlikely to get along with everyone anyway.

My big suggestion is ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’. Make powerful constructive choices about your career not based on other people’s personalities. And ultimately, if your values do not align with your employer then you must choose to give your talents elsewhere. Take time to make sure your future employer does have values you believe in. Just don’t think that quitting will change anything.

Naomi Simson has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded, RedBalloon.com.au, including the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year – Industry.

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