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If you’re questioning whether or not your boss wants you to fail, this blog post is for you. We’ll be discussing a few tell-tale signs, how to avoid them, and the negative impact it has on businesses when their employees are set up for failure.
Why Do Some People Get Set Up to Fail at Work?
In order to avoid the ‘set up to fail’ syndrome, it is essential to have a clear understanding of what this phenomenon is and why it happens.
Some people are set up to fail at work because of their office culture. When the culture of an office doesn’t align with its employees’ values, beliefs, or interests, they will find themselves in a situation where they cannot succeed.
Other times, people are set up to fail because their boss has a personal vendetta against them. If your boss is constantly putting you down or setting you up for failure, it might be time to look for a new job.
Still, other times, people are set up to fail because they’re not given the necessary resources to succeed. If you’re constantly being given tasks that are impossible to complete without the proper resources, it’s time to talk with your boss.
Related: How To Know a Job is Right For You
20 signs you are being set up to fail at work
If you’re struggling at work, take a step back and assess the situation. Are any of these signs present in your work life?
1. Changes between hands-off and micromanaging
When an employee makes a mistake, it’s only natural for a boss to want to take a closer look at their work. However, if this scrutiny only happens after a mistake is made, it can make the employee feel like they’re being set up to fail.
A boss who micromanages their employees’ work is more likely to catch mistakes, but it can also lead to an environment where employees are afraid to take risks. This management style can also create an us-versus-them dynamic between the boss and their employees.
How to avoid it: Avoid micromanaging your employees if you’re a boss. Instead, give them the freedom to do their work and trust that they will do their best. If you’re an employee, stay calm and collected when your boss scrutinizes your work. Remember that they’re only doing it because they want you to succeed.
Related: How To Deal with Micromanagement
2. You have set up to fail syndrome
An employee might suffer from the setup-to-fail syndrome for a variety of reasons, and one of them may be a lack of leadership. For example, if they lose a client, miss a target, or lose a deadline, the cause of the setting-up-to-fail syndrome might be a performance-related issue.
Managers and employees are likely not to get along personally, and there is a good chance that this will happen. However, several studies have demonstrated that manager and subordinate compatibility can significantly impact a manager’s perception of a subordinate based on similarity in attitudes, values, and social characteristics.
In the setup-to-fail syndrome, the manager is set in motion when they start to worry that the employee’s performance is substandard. In response, the manager takes an obvious step due to the subordinate’s perceived shortcomings.
As the manager shows more attention and time to the employee, he increases his efforts. For example, suppose the employee cannot obtain approval before making decisions. In that case, he will request more paperwork to document those decisions or watch the employee closely at meetings and critique his comments more intensely.
The subordinate is caught in a bind because the harder he tries, the more his boss monitors him and the worse he feels about himself. The setup-to-fail syndrome is a self-fulfilling prophecy that can only be broken by changing how the manager perceives and treats the subordinate.
How to avoid it: If you’re a manager, avoid the setup-to-fail syndrome by building trust with your employees and giving them the resources they need to succeed. If you’re an employee, stay positive and proactively communicate with your boss to ensure that they understand your goals and objectives.
3. Stops assigning you your expected workload
Your boss’s unwillingness to let you work autonomously eventually becomes a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. You will suffer at work as a result, and your boss might decide to reduce your assignment load in response.
Bosses do not realize how much their tight controls end up hurting subordinates’ performance by undermining their motivation in two types of ways: firstly, by depriving them of autonomy on the job, and secondly, by making them feel undervalued as a result of being subjected to such tight controls.
In this case, tight controls can be a sign that the boss assumes that the subordinate will not be able to perform well without strict guidelines. When the subordinate senses that his performance expectations are low, it can undermine his self-confidence.
How to avoid it: If you’re an employee, try to take on additional assignments and responsibilities to show your boss that you are capable of more than they think. If you’re a boss, avoid micromanaging your employees and give them the freedom to work autonomously.
4. It avoids you entirely unless it’s necessary
If your boss avoids you entirely, you will most likely be set up for failure even though it’s normal for your boss to be busy and unable to talk from time to time. If this becomes a habit, that could be a sign that they’re trying to distance themselves from you in the future.
They may be doing this because they are aware of what’s coming, and they do not want to be associated with what’s going to happen if your employee quits or the subordinate typically settles.
How to avoid it: If your boss is avoiding you, take the initiative and schedule a meeting with them. Alternatively, you can try to resolve the issue by emailing or speaking to them over the phone. Sometimes, it might be necessary to talk to a higher-up if your boss consistently avoids you.
5. Doubles down on their mistakes or makes you double down on yours
It can be frustrating when your boss sets you up to fail at work. For example, this might happen if a project exposes your subordinate’s limited ability or an employee’s poor performance reflects badly on you.
If your boss doubles down on their mistakes or makes you double down on yours, it can create a difficult situation. However, there are some things you can do to protect yourself:
- Try to document everything that happens. This will give you a record to fall back on if things go wrong.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. If you feel you’re being set up to fail, make sure your boss knows.
- Remember that you can always look for another job if the situation becomes too untenable.
How to avoid it: If your boss is constantly setting you up to fail, it might be time to look for a new job. However, if you’re stuck in a situation where you can’t leave, try to document everything that happens, and don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself.
6. Stops investing the proper resources in you
A variety of signs can indicate that you are set up to fail at work, but one of the most common is that your boss does not invest enough resources in you to succeed. In addition, you may experience heightened supervision, with your boss micromanaging your every move rather than giving you the autonomy you need to perform your tasks.
Your boss may be giving you less support or resources, making it harder for you to boost your performance. It is also possible that you are no longer being given challenging assignments or have no opportunity to grow within the company.
If you believe that you are being set up for failure within the company, you should take immediate action and speak with your boss about your concerns immediately.
How to avoid it: If you’re an employee, stay positive and proactively communicate with your boss to ensure they understand your goals and objectives. If you’re a manager, avoid setting your employees up for failure by investing the proper resources in them and giving them the autonomy they need to perform their tasks.
7. It makes you spend time on unnecessary tasks
If Considering that your boss is forcing you to spend time on unnecessary tasks, it might be a sign that you are being set up to fail at your job by your boss.
As an example, if you are being asked to keep details of everything you do, it may be that your boss wishes to keep a record of the mistakes you make. Or, if your boss gives you tasks that are too difficult or time-consuming, it may be that your boss wants you to fail.
To avoid setting yourself up to fail, try talking to your boss to get some clarity on what you are expected to do. Sometimes, one simple conversation can help to clear up any misunderstandings regarding what is expected of you and help you get back on track.
How to avoid it: Talk to your boss and try to get a clear understanding of what is expected of you. If your boss sets you up to fail, they will likely not be willing to discuss it honestly. In this case, it might be time to look for a new job. If you’re struggling at work, take a step back and assess the situation.
8. Hides or downplays your accomplishments when they happen
There may be times when you are knocking things out of the park at work, but you aren’t getting any credit for your efforts. This could be a sign from your boss that they don’t want you to succeed within your organization in the long run.
In addition, they are not allowing you to receive the social benefits of being a star employee, hindering you from receiving the recognition you deserve for your hard work and success. We strong managers want our employees to feel like they are doing a great job because motivation drives results.
How to avoid it: Discuss it with them if you feel your boss is hiding or downplaying your accomplishments. They may be unaware of how their actions are impacting you. You can open up a dialogue and find a resolution together by bringing it to their attention.
9. Blocks your communication with colleagues
When you are constantly blocked from communicating with colleagues, you are not trusted, and your boss isn’t confident in your ability to do your job well. This can be especially demoralizing if you see that weaker performers are being given more support and opportunities to grow.
It would be best to speak up whenever you feel you are being set up to fail and let your boss know what you feel. It is possible that your boss does not realize how their actions are impacting you, and they may be open to making changes. However, if your boss does not listen to you, you may have to seek another position.
How to avoid it: If you’re being blocked from communication with colleagues, speak up. Let your boss know how you feel and why you think this is happening. They may be open to making changes. However, if your boss does not listen to you, you may have to seek another position.
10. Boss is only giving you special projects
Getting involved in special or stretch projects sounds fulfilling and fun, but it may also spell disaster for your role if you are not careful. When you are constantly being asked to work on projects that do not necessarily produce the results that your average day-to-day work produces, your position within an organization can be precarious.
You always have to be at the helm of the sinking ship; your boss knows what’s being done to your reputation when things go wrong with your stretch projects, and they are oblivious to the damage they are doing to your reputation.
How to avoid it: Discuss it with your boss if you’re constantly being asked to work on special projects. Find out why you are chosen for these projects and the expectations. By understanding their reasoning, you can better assess whether these projects suit you.
11. It gives you unrealistic deadlines
The boss can also set their employee up for failure by giving them unrealistic deadlines and a lot of work. If it seems like the work is continuously piled on and you constantly feel like you don’t have enough time in the world to get it done, then your boss is setting you up for failure, whether they intend to do so or not.
If you feel under too much pressure and your deadlines are too tight, you may feel extremely anxious, making it difficult for you to be your best self. If you experience this, you should talk to your boss about it.
However, if they don’t listen to you and attempt to put the blame back on you, they might not be concerned about your success or well-being in the job, which brings me to my next tell-tell sign.
How to avoid it: Talk to your boss about your concerns if you feel overwhelmed at work. They may be able to adjust your deadlines or workload. However, if they’re unwilling to do so, it could signify that they don’t want you to succeed.
12. Blame shifting
It is important to note that one of the signs of a setup for failure is the tendency to shift blame. For example, your manager, their job is to help you succeed, address your concerns, teach you when you feel confused or overwhelmed, and guide you when you feel overwhelmed. In most cases, however, their manager is the one who is responsible for an employee’s poor performance.
It is not acceptable for them to constantly shift blame back onto you. For example, If they point the finger at you for missing a deadline, especially when you’ve already contacted them with concerns about the task, and then refuse to assist and ultimately blame you, they’re putting you up for failure.
The likelihood is that if they shift blame towards you without accepting responsibility, it could be a sign that they are trying to project your failure onto you due to their actions.
How to avoid it: Discuss it with your boss if you’re being blamed for something that isn’t your fault. By bringing the issue to their attention, you can work together to find a resolution and prevent the problem from happening in the future.
13. Your boss starts expressing unhappiness with you
Some managers believe their subordinates are perceived as weak performers, so instead of discussing them explicitly, they encourage them.
However, it is important to take note of the fact that this is probably a sign that there is something that needs to be fixed. Therefore, whenever your boss expresses dissatisfaction with you, it is important to take note and make the necessary efforts to fix it.
The earliest sign of a problem is when your supervisor says they are disappointed, unhappy, or displeased with you or your work. These expressions may include oral criticism, sniping comments, department meetings, email, an internal memo, or other communications. If your employer begins to act this way, it is important to take steps to improve the situation before it worsens.
How to avoid it: If your boss starts expressing unhappiness with you, the best thing you can do is try to fix the problem. This may involve doing extra work, being proactive, or communicating more effectively. Whatever the case, make an effort to address the issue head-on.
14. You get written up.
If you’ve done something wrong at work, it’s normal to receive a written warning from your boss. However, if you feel you’re being targeted or singled out for minor infractions, this could be a sign that your boss is trying to set you up for failure.
Sometimes, managers may write up employees for made-up reasons to document their “poor performance.” This documentation can then be used against the employee if they ever decide to leave the company or file a complaint.
If you receive a written warning from your boss, take it seriously and try to improve your performance. However, if you feel the written warning is unwarranted, you may want to speak to a human resources representative about the situation.
How to avoid it: If you receive a written warning, take it seriously and try to improve your performance. However, if you feel the written warning is unwarranted, you may want to speak to a human resources representative about the situation.
15. The write-ups escalate
A red flag is when you obtain a written-up for more than one offense in a short period. For example, a boss may decide that he has to get rid of someone and then will write them up for anything and everything he can think of.
The more times you are written up, and the reasons seem weak or unnecessary, the more this strongly indicates that you will soon be terminated. Therefore, it is important to notice supporting evidence, and if you see a pattern of write-ups that aren’t warranted, you need to start looking for a new job. It is only a matter of time before you will be fired.
How to avoid it: If you receive more than one written warning, take them seriously and try to improve your performance. However, if you feel the written warnings are unwarranted, you may want to speak to a human resources representative about the situation. You may also want to start looking for a new job if you see a pattern of unwarranted write-ups.
16. You get demoted
While it may be difficult to accept, there are times when it is clear that a subordinate is not up to the task at hand. Whether they were hiring or promotion mistake, or cannot keep up with the demands of the job, it is important to take action.
Sometimes, the best action may be to remove them from their position. However, sometimes the relationship between a manager and a subordinate has gone too far—too much damage has been done. In these cases, it may be necessary to take more drastic measures. As part of the termination process, some employers may play the game of “take away.” When your boss takes objective action to diminish your job, you should find out that too is telling you something.
You might find yourself with less authority, fewer reporting responsibilities, fewer duties, or even fewer tasks. While it may be difficult to accept, these actions are usually taken for a reason.
How to avoid it: If you’re being demoted, it’s essential to try to improve your performance and prove that you can still do the job. You may also want to speak to a human resources representative about the situation.
17. You get excluded
If you find that you are no longer being included in things you were a part of in the past, that is another significant red flag you should watch out for. For example, perhaps you are no longer on a working committee. Perhaps you are no longer invited to lunch. Perhaps you are no longer a member of an important team.
As soon as you notice that your boss is not inviting you to meetings, lunches, get-togethers, or events being held at their company, it would be best if you considered this a significant factor. It could also mean that a pink slip is not far away.
How to avoid it: If you get excluded, you can best try to find out why. This may involve asking your boss directly or speaking to a human resources representative. Once you know the reason, you can take steps to address the issue.
18. Meetings are canceled
As an employee, keeping an eye on your relationship with your boss is important. One way to do this is by paying attention to the frequency of your one-on-one meetings.
For example, if you were previously meeting regularly and suddenly those meetings are being canceled, it’s worth taking a step back to examine the situation. It is possible that there could be a perfectly innocent explanation for the change, but it is also possible that your boss is losing interest in you and your team as a result.
Maybe they’re already thinking about letting you go, or maybe they’re just not as invested in your development as they used to be. Either way, it’s important to be aware of the employees perceived by your boss so that you can adapt accordingly.
How to avoid it: If you notice that your one-on-one meetings are being canceled, reach out to your boss and ask why. This will help you determine whether a problem needs to be addressed.
19. Your job duties start to change without explanation
If your job duties start to change without any explanation, it could signify that your boss is trying to set you up for failure. For example, they may give you tasks outside your skill set or a workload too heavy for one person. This can lead to frustration and a feeling of being overwhelmed.
How to avoid it: If your job duties start to change without explanation, talk to your boss about it. They may be unaware of how their actions are impacting you. You can open up a dialogue and find a resolution together by bringing it to their attention.
20. You get to set up for failure
Management and employees often work together to set goals and expectations for their employees. Such goals and expectations are often established jointly and worked out collaboratively. If you cannot achieve your goals or have unrealistic expectations, you may be set up for failure if you do not think about why this is happening.
Research strongly suggests that when an employer provides goals that are impossible to meet or unreasonable expectations, they are likely setting their employees up for failure.
How to avoid it: There are a few things you can do to avoid being set up for failure:
• Talk to your boss. Talk to your boss about it if you feel you’re being set up for failure. They may not be aware of the situation and may be willing to help you out.
• Set realistic goals. When setting goals, make sure they are realistic and achievable. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
• Take your time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and assess the situation. Then, see if there is anything you can do to make it more manageable.
Related: How to Quit Your Job Immediately
What Are the Consequences of Being Set Up to Fail at Work?
Being set up to fail at work can have several consequences, some of which are outlined below.
→ Job Performance Suffers
One of the most obvious consequences of being set up to fail at work is that job performance suffers. Employees who feel like they cannot meet their expectations will naturally become less productive. This can lead to a decline in the quality of work and an increase in mistakes. In some cases, it may even lead employees to disengage from their jobs entirely.
→ Employee Morale Suffers
Another consequence is that employee morale suffers. Employees who feel they are not valued or appreciated will naturally become less engaged and motivated. This can lead to a decline in productivity and an increase in absenteeism. Additionally, it can create a toxic work environment where employees are constantly stressed and unhappy.
→ It Can Lead to Resentment
If employees feel like they are constantly being set up to fail, it can lead to resentment. This resentment can damage relationships between employees and their managers and employees and their coworkers. Additionally, it can make it difficult for employees to trust their managers and feel like they are part of a team.
→ It Can Cause Burnout
Another potential consequence is burnout. When employees are constantly under pressure and unable to meet expectations, they may eventually reach a point where they cannot continue working at the same level. This can make them physically and emotionally exhausted, seriously impacting their health and well-being.
→ It Can Lead to Turnover
Finally, being set up to fail at work can also lead to turnover. When employees feel like they are not valued or appreciated, they may eventually decide to leave the company in search of a better job. This can be costly for businesses, as training new employees can take significant time and money.
If you feel you’re being set up to fail at work, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many people feel this way for a variety of reasons. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it!
So keep an eye out for the signs we’ve listed in this blog post, and if you see them, take action. Let us know how you plan to avoid being set up to fail at work in the comment section.