How to Spot a Manipulative Boss

The line between influence and manipulation is intention. Manipulators seek their own interests. Ethical influencers seek your best interest.

A boss with puppy dog eyes:

Manipulators say you’re too good to promote and then promote the people you trained.

A boss who looks at you with puppy dog eyes and says, “I need you. I can’t promote you…”

  1. Doesn’t have your best interest in mind.
  2. Seeks their own comfort.
  3. Is manipulative.

“We can’t live if you’re promoted,” is baloney with a capital ‘B’. Don’t fall for their bull. They’re self-serving and manipulative.

3 goals of manipulative bosses:

  1. Keep you where you are.
  2. Give you more responsibility.
  3. Keep your salary the same.

Listen for these messages:

When you’re consistently passed over for promotion manipulative bosses …

  1. Give new job titles with little or no pay increase.
  2. Add responsibility but don’t deliver the promotion.
  3. Keep dangling the carrot. Dangling carrots are daggers.
  4. Move the targets. “You’re almost there.”
  5. Nitpick your skill set. One month it’s one problem; the next month it’s another.

Why you stay after being passed over:

  1. You need a paycheck and you’re afraid to rock the boat.
  2. You enjoy your job even though being passed over is painful.
  3. You’re gullible and naïve. Find an outside viewpoint.
  4. You are fear-driven rather than opportunity-driven.
  5. You aren’t as good as you think you are and your boss won’t tell you.

5 things to do when you aren’t promoted:

  1. Take responsibility for your trajectory.
  2. Move laterally out of your department.
  3. Sharpen your resume’ and start looking.
  4. Stay positive; avoid bitterness and complaining.
  5. Never give an ultimatum.

Bonus: Don’t manipulate a manipulator by saying you’re looking for a new job.

What suggestions do you have for people who are too good to be promoted?

7 Ways Manipulators Get What They Want


Thanks to everyone who made last night’s Leadership Freak Family Gathering a wonderful success. This post is inspired by one of the topics that came up.

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