03/01/2013 11:56 EST | Updated 05/01/2013 05:12 EDT

Stinging Tentacles in the Organization

Have you ever been in a role where you didn't make a move out of fear of retaliation from your boss? You were scared because you thought they had tentacles that reached everywhere and every chance they get, they would sting you. You assumed that they will come back to haunt one way or another. So you froze. You let opportunities pass you by again and again out of fear of retribution. It happens...I have been there at one time myself.

What I realized was an exaggerated sense of self on the part of my boss and an exaggerated sense of their importance on my part. It is not like they did not have allies or were not in a high powered role, but they thought they suffered from over-confidence. Their tentacles had limited reach. They did not extend beyond their fiefdom. Their peers knew they were like this. They wouldn't do anything openly to provoke a reaction, but they would work tirelessly behind the scenes to get what they wanted.

On one occasion, I remember my colleagues sending me warning signals. Do not make the move or s/he will chew you up. But the job was so bad that I could not stand it anymore. The two-up boss at the time was fierce, an emerging star in the organization, and all of us thought s/he had influence. I could not take being stuck in the middle. So I took a chance. I went for it, applied for a new role, kept it hush until I got the job. The worst was yet to come. I was pulled into an office and berated for a 20 minutes. I mean, red-in-the face type yelling. I was young, I sat there. I took it. But I never forgot it.

I settled nicely into the new role. Was never stung by the tentacles, but did have to work with the boss on multiple occasions. The tone of those meetings changed as I progressed in my career and s/he started getting moved around. A line was crossed. Their boss noticed. S/he was exiled and pushed into a dead-end career path. I have moved on since. Last I heard, s/he was looking elsewhere, even came to me for a job once. You can imagine what I did. While I was not vindictive, I did nothing. Literally nothing, I sat on it.

Moral of the story: don't be afraid to get stung, but mind who you sting.