On the Job

After Layoff, Don't Get Caught Up in Boss' Performance

By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, December 13, 2007; 8:47 PM

When companies start laying off workers, there is great anxiety, with the foremost question being whether you'll keep your job. And even if you do, who's to say there won't be another job cut in the not-too-distant future?

So what do you do when one of the remaining officials is your boss, albeit someone you are not thrilled with? That's what this worried worker is wondering:

"My company just had a RIF [reduction in force] last week, in which top-level managers were let go. Everyone is quite anxious. Interestingly enough, my boss, who has not performed well and sometimes doesn't even show up for work, is STILL here. Now she seems to be back working, but I have lost so much respect for her and it is difficult to trust or take any directives from her. What should I do?"

Steve McElfresh, president of HR Futures, a Palo Alto, Calif., human resources consulting firm, recommends that this worker take several steps to sort out her work life in the aftermath of the layoffs and the turmoil they have caused.

But before analyzing the future, McElfresh says this worker "should stop and congratulate herself and realize [that since she did not get laid off], the company thinks they're of some value."

Then, McElfresh suggests that the worker reflect a bit on the situation, realizing that it might be at least a month before life settles down at the company after the layoffs.

"I'd be very cautious of making conclusions about the boss, about the company," he says. "Give it a little bit of distance and pause for a moment before making any judgments."

McElfresh says if the worker "does not trust the boss because she's always taking credit for others' work or distributing blame for her own shortcomings, lying or misrepresenting the truth, then you've got to start sharpening your resume" and look for another job. "Run, don't walk."

Conversely, McElfresh says if the worker merely is not happy with the work ethic of the boss, she ought to realize that it "is up to the company to decide" whether that is acceptable.

"If you can't respect the boss's worth ethic, then look at the job," he says. "Is the job satisfying? Do I generate respect from others? Don't get caught up in whether you think the boss is doing well."

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com. To submit a question, e-mail onthejob@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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