Boss Has It in for One of Your Employees? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I have a wonderful team. They are all very different, with different strengths and skill sets, which I think makes us well rounded. They lean on each other when they need to problem solve. My problem is that my boss seems to have it in for one my people—let’s call her “B”.

We just finished performance review time and I rated B as “meets or exceeds expectations” on all of her goals, which is accurate. She needs to improve in a few areas, but so does everyone else on the team, including me!

My boss thinks I am too soft on B and that I should put her on a performance plan and try to manage her out of the organization. I am mystified by this because B does a respectable job, is dependable, and everyone on the team seems to like working with her.

How should I handle this situation?


Dear Stumped,

This is not good and confusing indeed. I think you need to go back to your boss with all of B’s goals and competencies and walk through them together to get more detail on exactly what B needs to improve. Tell your boss you can’t do a PIP if there is nothing you see that needs that much improvement. Ask if they have heard feedback they haven’t shared with you. Hopefully this will shed some light.

If your boss just can’t explain things to your satisfaction, it may be that they have personal ulterior motives. If this is the case, you have a real problem—probably one you can’t solve. What ulterior motive could your boss possibly have, you ask? I have a bit of a jaded view on this, having been coaching in organizations for twenty years. I keep thinking nothing can surprise me anymore, only to find myself being surprised, once again, by how badly people can behave. I will resist the temptation to speculate, but ask yourself Why on earth would my boss want B gone?

You might ask B what her experience with your boss has been without revealing that your boss is not a fan. That might tell you something.

It’s possible your boss is responding to organizational pressures. I recently worked with a client who was in the same position as B and it was because she was an early employee who had a very large base salary. It was very clearly a policy from top brass to thin the ranks of folks with high salaries. But here I go, speculating.

As you explore possible motives, you will have to decide whether to take your boss’s side or stand up for B. So now is a good moment to examine your values—and possibly brush up your LinkedIn profile and resume. Now I am sounding alarmist and I’m sorry, but I want you to be prepared.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

2 thoughts on “Boss Has It in for One of Your Employees? Ask Madeleine

  1. QOTD: “The personal ulterior motive”

    Anyone just starting out in their career who can master quickly figuring out what everyone on the floor really wants is bound to succeed – even if they don’t know how to do the job they were hired for well.

  2. A consultative process of resolving issues is indeed key to getting to the bottom of things. As we approach matters with a desire to improve relationships as opposed to judging we will soon realize that it’s much easier to get the answers overcome the hurdles. At the end of the day we are all human and the more we counsel together the likelier we are to understand each other.

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