What's your problem?

I run a successful department in a business consultancy. We get great client feedback and have won more new business than we can handle. Recently, on my day off, my boss unexpectedly summoned one of my four employees. When I returned the next day, I found out he'd been made redundant.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

This was news to both of us. I've since tried to seek a meeting with my boss to find out why she did this, but her PA keeps cancelling the appointments at the last minute. I feel I'm being deliberately cut out and I'm at a loss about what to do.

A: A boss who consistently refuses to see you is no sort of boss. And good bosses don't fire people two levels down without the knowledge of their departmental head. There's something fishy going on here, and if you don't root it out it will soon begin to do what all fishy things do if left too long unattended.

You may not wish to face this fact, but on the evidence you present, your boss doesn't rate you. You say you're successful, and I assume that's true, so something else is going on.

I'm guessing here, but I wonder a bit about that employee of yours she chose to make redundant without your knowledge or agreement. The fact that the deed was done on the one day you were out of the office strongly suggests that it was planned and premeditated. Have you been protecting this person even though you secretly harbour doubts about them? It's easy enough to let a sense of loyalty-to-team corrupt objective judgment, particularly if the person in question is being sniped at from above.

None of this excuses your boss's behaviour, but it might go some way towards explaining it. I can recommend that you're unrelenting in your attempts to effect a meeting; she can't go on avoiding you for ever. And that, when you do get together, you use the incident of the redundancy as the doorway to a more important conversation. If she has serious doubts about you but lacks the leadership skills to raise them with you openly, the relationship can only fester. Even if the news is unwelcome, it's better out than in.

- Jeremy Bullmore has been creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London and a non-executive director of both the Guardian Media Group and WPP. Address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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