Boss gave you bad advice? Make them fess up.


A friend of mine had a tough time in the last year and sought advice from a manager. He told his manager that he really didn’t like some of the team members he was working with and wanted to move to another client ASAP.

The manager told him to present his desire to the partner of the engagement by saying:

I’ve enjoyed my time here, but this is a larger account and I want the opportunity to see other jobs. Jobs where I can see the entire engagement from start to finish.

When he spoke to the partner, they heard his concerns. But, “they couldn’t afford to lose him for the next busy season”. It’s a tough situation when you’re a young professional, do you tell the truth? Or do you follow your boss or coach’s advice? Now obviously this isn’t an extreme ethical situation, but it’s important to his career. Here’s what I would’ve recommended had I been his coach:

Plan to speak with three people about this, me (your coach), the lead partner, and HR. The message should be consistent with them that you have learned a lot, and really enjoyed working at the firm. However, you think that some of the cultural aspect of the team and some of the leadership aren’t the best for the style of work you like. For others, it appears to be great. But for you, and your career at the firm, you believe you would be much happier and therefore much more productive and more likely to continue at the firm for a longer period of time.

Unfortunately for our friend, that ship has sailed. If he goes in with a different story than what he started with, he’ll look wishy-washy, not genuine, or a like a complainer. So I suggested that if possible, see if the manager (his coach)  is willing to “fess up”. This is something that’s really important and shouldn’t be taken lightly. While he should never say, “I’ll quit the firm if you don’t do this”, that may actually be the situation and we should exhaust all options first. Ask the manager for a sit down meeting and proceed accordingly:

Thanks for working with me on this, I really appreciate it. Now, while our first attempt didn’t work, I was wondering what else you think we can do as the move off of this account is very important to me? Is there anyone you can talk to about it? Or is there someone else you recommend I speak to?

See what you’re able to get out of them. Ideally you want them to feel bad for giving you advice that didn’t work. And what they should do now is find a way to still get you what you want. In my friends scenario, he was able to get the coach to request some coaching of his own. He is going to speak with his partner coach (who is very influential in the firm) and say the following:

I want to talk because I tried to help one of my coachees, but it didn’t work. I feel bad because he followed my advice in order to not “ruffle any feathers”, but now he is stuck on the job he tried to get off of. I don’t want him to have to work the job because I told him not to be completely honest about the reasons he wanted to leave.

This is an ideal situation. People make mistakes and sometimes give bad coaching advice, it’s okay. If you’re a younger professional, you pretty much have to follow it, at least the first time. But if they’re a solid coach, it’s now their responsibility to make the change you want happen, especially if you followed their advice by not telling the whole truth and it didn’t work. Have a question? Email me at