My Boss Is an Idiot!
By Joe Issid
No matter who you are or where you work, you have probably uttered these words at some point throughout your career. But, for many of us, these are usually spoken under one’s breath and during moments of extreme (and unusual) frustration. Even those who work for the most amazing and competent bosses sometimes find themselves scratching their heads and wondering why their boss is behaving like such an idiot. Sadly, these are the inescapable realities of the workforce.
However, for the unfortunate few, some bosses are truly unqualified and can cause long-lasting damage to an organization and its employees. If you’ve ever found yourself reporting to someone who does not have the qualifications or faculties to hold their position, I can truly sympathize. As someone who spent several years in my early career working under a particularly ineffective manager, I am keenly sensitive to this issue and have some first-hand advice that I can offer.
Don’t concern yourself with the how or why
It is very easy to get sucked into a vortex of trying to understand how or why your boss was promoted to their level. I have seen employees flirt with madness trying to uncover secret conspiracies that could explain how someone so useless could ascend to such a high level within their organization. My advice is to resist this urge and focus on the elements that you can control. Wasta is an Arabic word that loosely translates to “influence” or “clout”. If you spend all your time and energy trying to uncover your boss’s wasta, you will undoubtedly give your boss reason to doubt your own competence. I suggest you keep your hands clean and continue doing your job as best you can.
Control your emotions
Reporting to an incompetent manager can be incredibly frustrating and demoralizing. And it is only natural that these emotions will arise while at the workplace. However, it is never in your best interest to let your emotions interfere with your work. Unfortunately, you will rarely come out on top when getting into an altercation with your boss so you need to recognize your situation for what it is and try to resolve it in a more calculated and unemotional way.
Offer to help
Hopefully, your manager has some attributes that warrants the position that he/she holds within the company. As such, you should do your best to give your boss the benefit of the doubt and assume that he/she may be the victim of poor training or misplaced talent. To wit, approach the situation with an element of empathy and see if your manager is willing to receive some assistance. In many cases, a manager may be too embarrassed or proud to ask for help from their subordinates, which only serves to compound the issue. So, before the situation gets out of control, offer a lending hand to see if you can help improve matters.
Fill the hole
Leadership does not have be uni-directional. If your boss is not fulfilling his/her role within the organization, this is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your leadership skills by trying to plug the holes that your boss is creating. I am not suggesting that you start assuming responsibility for your boss’s mistakes but you can certainly put yourself in a position to do what is best for the organization by stepping up and assuming a more meaningful role. Yes, your boss may perceive your behavior as a threat so there is a risk but, hopefully, the benefit you are providing the wider organization will not go unnoticed.
Sometimes, there is just no way around it: your boss is a true idiot and is causing harm to employees and the overall business. I realize that no one feels comfortable going over their boss’s head but there are situations where this action is truly needed. If you determine that this step is indeed necessary, you should consider that this may have some unpleasant consequences. As such, I would suggest confiding in someone you trust within the organization to see whether an escalation is the best course of action. Performing this kind of sanity check is usually a good idea as it can prevent you from making a giant mistake; on the other hand, however, it can serve to reinforce your feelings that an escalation is truly necessary.