Few things can make work feel…well more like “work” than having a boss you don’t trust. Whether the issues stem from broken promises, inconsistent direction or the unnerving feeling that instead of helping you grow they are planning your demise, bosses you can’t trust are toxic for your career.

Perhaps it’s because I’m in the country music capital of Nashville, TN as I write this, but the lyrics to Mark Chestnut’s song, “Going through the Big D” keep popping into my head. Sure you may end up deciding that a work “divorce” is imminent but there are a few other “D’s” to consider too:


Much like a troubled relationship, it’s likely communication problems lay at the heart of uneasy feelings toward your boss. As a first step, talk to your colleagues and determine if they have similar issues. If they do, then you’ve got your work cut out for you. But if not, then that signals the problem is just between the two of you. In these cases, it’s best to schedule some time for an open discussion. Clearly you don’t want to start things off by blurting out that you don’t trust them. Instead, you want the focus to be more proactive. So your opening statement might be something like, “how can we improve our communication?” Or if you really want to get to the heart of the problem, “do you trust me to produce good work?” By asking a trust based question about yourself first you’ve effectively introduced the topic without putting your leader in a defensive position.


In cases where you’ve tried and can’t resolve the issue with your boss, then it’s imperative to protect yourself. This may mean making notes after conversations where direction is provided; saving emails and perhaps even ensuring that conversations between the “two” of you are attended by a third person. Keep in mind that inviting a witness to conversations needs to be handled carefully. If not, your boss may feel that you aren’t confident to handle things personally. Instead, you might broach the subject by saying something like, “Jenn launched a project last year using that same technology. I think it would be interesting to get her thoughts before we proceed.” Understand that documenting is a long, treacherous and uphill battle. So before you begin the process, know what you intend to do with the information you gather. Is your goal to get your boss fired? Or is it simply to protect your job if things go sideways?


Ultimately, if you’ve tried discussing the situation and you just can’t get that warm fuzzy feeling, it’s probably time to dust off that resume. While Mark Chestnut sings about divorce, in your career it’s sometimes best to simply depart. The reality is that just like life, not all work relationships are a match made in heaven. In fact, some are just doomed from the outset and as much as you may not want to join the job market, you’ll find it tough to be engaged (much less excel) in an environment where you literally aren’t feeling the love. If this the path you’re heading down, understand you’ve got lots of work ahead of you. Updating resumes (dreaded by most) is just step one in the job search process. If you’re interested in an easy tool to walk you through the entire process, click here to download my Job Search Worksheet.


Once you’ve determined you can’t work for a boss you can’t trust you’ve made the hardest decision. There’s simply no doubt that leaving familiarity is hard. But once you’ve decided to go, it’s time to dream big. Don’t look for another job like the one you’re leaving. Take the time to investigate your passions, set some SMART goals and find a job that will propel you to the next level in your career! To read more about this, check out “5 Tips to Find a Job You Love.”