Fire the boss!

It’s a uniquely American idea — right up there with road trips, tailgates, and girls’ day out at the spa — the idea that not only are we not stuck in our jobs for a lifetime, but also that we’re letting ourselves down when we stick with a bad deal for too long. From “Take This Job and Shove It” to “Office Space” to “Jerry Maguire”, we celebrate our freedom to tell off the boss and take on bigger, better adventures.

So how do you know when it’s time to “fire the boss” and find a better home?

When he blames you for his failures

You worked all weekend on the Peterson pitch, hoping your team lands the big new account. You put everything you had into it.

And yet, when the pitch failed, where was your boss? Shouldering the blame and healing wounds?

Nope, he was throwing you under the bus — for your slides or hand-out materials or earrings or handshake or some other nonsense — just like he always does.

What’s worse, if he had only been paying attention to body language and been a little nicer to Slow Joe, Mr. Peterson’s dim-witted nephew, instead of trying to prove him wrong in front of everybody else, perhaps you’d all be celebrating instead of commiserating.

When the boss blames you, time to fire the boss.

When he’s focused on his own success — to your detriment

When the boss’ success — his job, his awards, his glory — come first, second and third, you need to realize that he’s decided where his interests lie…

He’s looking out for El Número Uno. And no, that doesn’t translate to “my hard-working team”.

When the boss is placing all his bets on himself, and all the burden on you, it’s time to fire the boss.

When he’s got no new ideas

You’ve tried to get him to see the light, but he’s stuck doing the same old things. And they’re still not working.

If he’s in a rut, a rut, a rut, a rut, a rut — you get the idea — that means that your career trajectory is stuck right behind his. It’s time to get unstuck and get moving again. Fire the boss.

When things aren’t getting better

The easiest way to know when it’s time to fire your boss is when things haven’t improved, despite his promises. The big accounts aren’t coming through, the new products fizzle, the big hires that he trumpets end up being Jokers, not Aces in the hole.

Sometimes it’s just better to find a home where good stuff happens, instead of sticking around a place where there’s always an explanation for failure.

When the trendline isn’t going up, it’s time to fire the boss.

When he’s lost the confidence of others

Maybe you’re a sweetheart, a softie, a true believer in a human being’s ability to turn things around. But after a few years of missed budgets, too many quarters of failed promises, too many weekly staff meetings that depressed rather than inspired you, it might be time to look around and realize that your boss has lost the confidence of others beside you.

If his peers are turning on him, his team members have lost the faith, and customers feel they just can’t rely on him anymore, it’s time for you to quit being a suffering martyr to the cause. It’s time for you to fire the boss.

Why fire the boss? Because life is much more than a paycheck.

You see, you can always buy more things. More car. More house. More toys. More clothes. And if you live in Hollywood, more curves in alluring places.

But the one thing in life you can’t buy more of is time. Your time.

A company can always find somebody else to fill the job slot, warm the seat, take the pay, and punch the clock.

But you?

You’re trading the most precious thing you’ll ever have, these next few years of your life. You’re hoping the trade is a smart one. That in exchange for these fast-moving, fleeting years, you’ll get experience, insight, and wisdom in addition to your paycheck.

So when the boss doesn’t measure up; doesn’t honor your sacrifice, and treasure, and time; doesn’t live up to the standard that somebody getting your most precious gift ought to live up to…

There’s only one course an American can take.

Fire the boss. Free yourself. And find a better home for your talents.

Have a fiery week, Readers!

I’m rooting for you!

Write us your thoughts about this post. Be kind & Play nice.
  1. Brian Kim says:

    Dear Marc,

    I’m a student at Georgia Tech looking to enter the working world.
    I was wondering, can you write about the topic of “servant-leadership”???
    I think that would be a great follow-up post and helpful for me as I step into my career!


  2. Chebby says:

    YESSSSSS I just did this! (Man am I glad to be reading this in the afterglow cause if I was still there I’d be seeing red.) My boss was everything on this list to a T. During the time I was there, his BS drove all the talented people out of the company, at least 20 if not 3o of them. The worst is that the owners knew exactly who the problem was, and they wouldn’t do a thing about it. How the hell can you own a company and support a liability like that!

    Took a 5k pay cut (which I might not have had to, I just wanted out of there so badly that I negotiated poorly. ) However the new company is 1000% better than the old one, busy yet easygoing, the products are very profitable and quality of life is great.

    I’m so much better off now. But my question for you and everybody else weighing in is, why am I/we the one who had to leave? It drives me crazy to know how hard it is to find talent and how expensive turnover is….and yet companies keep letting their best teams walk out the door. Sure I “fired” my boss but he of course he didn’t actually GET FIRED.

    Why do such terrible performers get to keep their jobs?

  3. Ray Vaughn says:

    “Fire the Boss!”

    Well said, Marc! Throwing others under the bus, blaming them for his failures; in a rut; putting his career above anything else.

    You described President Obama.

  4. CG says:

    He? What about a ‘she’?

  5. Hi Marc:

    Loved your piece on firing the boss. Great point of view, informative, and funny.

    Wanted to see if we could chat on the phone. I’ve hosted a radio show called WORKTALK and worked as a career coach. I’ve also spent the past twenty years working as a stand-up comic and I have a couple of ideas I’d like to discuss with you.

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Warmest regards,

    Anthony Spinner

  6. Cece says:

    I fired my boss last week and so happy to do so! Do you have any suggestions on the dos and don’ts of an exit interview?

  7. Dave says:

    Recent bankruptcy and reorganization resulted in getting laid off after 34 years in the same industry and 15 years in basically the same job. After reading your article about firing the boss, I realize that I should have done this several years ago and that he has done me a favor. Been looking for something new for 3 months now, but in retrospect your blog hit the mark.

  8. Thank you for this insightful article. My takeaway is this is not an article directed about bad bosses. Any boss can become disillusioned about their senior management, personal issues, etc. But it is MY time I am investing in a company and I need to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY if this position is not working for me. The boss will have to work out his own issues, whatever they are.

    Thank you for this article.

  9. Dear Marc,
    I am stuck in my operations assistant position, however jobs are scarce. I live in New Orleans and I am worried that if I do quit, as much as I want to, that I will be unemployed for who knows how long. I have been promised a promotion since May and the last time I emailed the VP of Operations he said he is too busy for me. What should I do?

  10. JC says:

    If the company you work for is good, but your immediate supervisor is bad, then quitting is very tough. If you’re in sales and doing your job properly, that means there’s money in your pipeline and forecast that you worked hard and smart to put there. If a psychotic, narcissistic sales manager claims nothing other than “manager’s rights” to try to push you out or give your qualified sales prospects to his/her unproductive friends, then (s)he has to go, not you. In a situation like this, I had little to lose by speaking very candidly with my boss’s boss. The end result was the psycho being asked to leave.

  11. Barbara says:

    Thanks Mark for a wonderful article and wake-up call to all of us.
    For those of you reading this, Mark is absolutely 100% correct.
    Over the years, I have remained in jobs far too long with bosses whose characteristics are described in Mark’s article.
    Now, in the latter years of my career, I realize that my time was far more valuable than the car, house of other silly toys. My life, my efforts and my joy are now my priority.

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