Don't let an asshole boss control your story

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I have a friend — I’ll call her Lisa — who is an exceptionally talented… baker, let’s say. Lisa has built a really strong baking team at her company. Her team loves her.

So far so good, right?

Well, unfortunately, Lisa works for Bob. And Bob is threatened by Lisa, and so he does things like steal her ideas and present them as his own. He also badmouths her to other leaders at his company, creating a narrative that she’s difficult to work with.

In other words, Bob tries to control her story.

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Assholes like Bob can make our lives hell. But they do not have the power to control our stories. Not in today’s world, where we have not only the agency but also the tools to tell our own stories — not once, not twice, but repeatedly, powerfully, in ways that attract the very opportunities that allow us to leave Bob in the proverbial dust, where he belongs.

Step one: Don’t believe the asshole

The first and most important thing is for Lisa not to believe Bob’s story. She has to know and trust herself well enough to reject the nonsense he’s spreading about her. This is deep work; for many of us, it’s the work of a lifetime. Surrounding yourself with soul sisters can help.

Step two: Take the reins

On a more tactical level, Lisa needs to launch a counter-offensive. She needs to tell her own story — to live it, in fact, so that anyone with half a brain will be able to tell that Bob? Bob is full of shit.

She needs to share this story of hers well beyond the confines of her company. Some call this “networking” or “self-promotion.” I call it “being known in the world.” She has gifts (she’s one hell of a baker) and she has goals (opening up her own bakery one day, perhaps, or starting an organization helping women bakers like herself). So she needs to be known.

How are we known? Through our stories.

Put it on LinkedIn. Publish articles that bring it to life. Embody it on stage at conferences and around the cheese plate at a networking event.

Tell your story. Be your story. And soon, Bob will go from seeming like a looming, omnipotent jailer to a limited human who is no longer standing between you and your dreams.

Knowing the story you want to tell

The antidote to feeling trapped by an asshole boss is to tell your story. Of course, to tell your story, you need to know your story. And there’s the rub: Before we can tell our stories to other people, we need to be able to tell them to ourselves. We need to know ourselves, so we can be ourselves. Only then can we have the confidence and faith in our power to realize that obstacles like Bob are just that: Obstacles. And an obstacle is no match for a MF’ing mighty force.

If you aren’t sure what your story is, don’t worry—it’s something a lot of people go through life without thinking about. I invite you to choose this moment right here to begin figuring it out. Here are some places to start:

  • Talk to friends and colleagues. Ask them how they would describe you to someone in one sentence if they were recommending you for a job.
  • Play with language, until you find the words that feel just right.

If it’s too overwhelming to go it alone alone, consider hiring me to help. I have a really enjoyable, efficient process that I use to help people discover their story, and then I write it, so you don’t have to.

Remember this: No matter how much power he may have over you in your current role at your current company, Bob is not in control of your fate. There are people out there who are your people — employers, partners, clients. They’re looking for you, and when you tell your story, you help them find you.

Are you working for a Bob? Let’s tell your story.