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Home | Got a Minute | Bad bosses | No. 133 – I got sacked for being a bad boss, but I never had management training. Is it my fault?

No. 133 – I got sacked for being a bad boss, but I never had management training. Is it my fault?

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15 November 2023

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week: being held accountable for poor management despite never receiving training, a poorly handled restructure and writing a CV after you’ve been let go.

I was a team leader in my business, but I was recently sacked because I reacted badly to obscene verbal assaults directed towards me. I was at fault, but I was never provided any training in how to manage people, resolve conflicts or appropriately air concerns about people who are unsuited to their roles. Can I hold the business responsible for what has happened, or is it assumed I should know these things already?

What a complex situation. Let’s break it down.

You have said you reacted badly to a challenging situation; bad enough to be sacked. I think it is a positive sign you can take responsibility for that and understand your behaviour was not OK. Hopefully, if something like this was to arise again – and let’s hope it doesn’t – you will be better equipped to regulate your emotions, regardless of the provocation.

That said, it is also not acceptable to have anyone level obscene or verbal abuse towards you. I do hope your former employer also acted against that person. Regardless of their reasons, it is not OK to have anyone speak to you in this way.

Finally, it does sound like your employer made it difficult for you to succeed by placing you in a team leader position without ensuring you were competent and confident with undertaking your responsibilities. That said, there is also a personal responsibility on your part to ask for help if you feel you are unable to deal with a new role. It sounds like you had been experiencing issues for a while in the lead up to this incident, and that would have been the time for you to seek advice on how to resolve conflict with your team member/s before it became such a major problem.

My workplace is going through a restructure that isn’t being managed or communicated well by management. My colleagues are stressed, and some have reached out to me because of my proximity to the senior leader. How do I support them without getting so involved that it affects my mental health?

If you have a good relationship with your senior leader, can you provide feedback to them on the need for more communication? If you can give some context for how people are feeling and do so in a way that protects your colleagues’ confidentiality, that could be a valuable way to assist.

In terms of not becoming so involved to impact your mental health and wellbeing, that is a good point to call out and the key is to understand leading with empathy does not mean taking on the feelings of others. You sound like a caring person and, as you probably know, it can often be all too easy to take on the concerns of others and get dragged into what they are dealing with. Try to maintain a level of distance and focus on what you can control. There may well be a limit to what you can do to help and if that is the case, I think you need to accept that and remain focused on your own responsibilities.

I was terminated from my job of one year because of gross misconduct – after what, I believe, was a lacklustre investigation. I have lodged an unfair dismissal claim, but I am now looking for work. I have an excellent 20-year career history. How do I manage this on my CV? Could I not include it and say I’ve been working casually at a variety of places, which is quite realistic in my line of work?

I can see how tempting it would be to not include this incident on your CV, and I am sure many people would leave it off for the reason you suggest. However, integrity and honesty are cornerstones of being a valued employee and I think if you lied about your last 12 months, and was offered a job, you would always worry about being found out. Your new employer would be able to act if you falsely represent your work history, and then you will have an even bigger issue to deal with. And even if they didn’t terminate you, any trust would be destroyed.

I think you need to be honest and explain that you have had an excellent career history, as your CV shows, however the last 12 months you worked with an employer where there was not a good fit. My suggestion? Explain what happened and why it will never happen again.

To submit a question about work, careers or leadership, visit (you will not be asked to provide your name or any identifying information. Letters may be edited).

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