What To Do If You Have an Incompetent Boss
Do not instantly quit and consider these methods.
We all wanted to work with a boss who inspires us because they are not merely a boss but a leader. But what if you happen to report to someone who seems to be falling short of your expectations? Should you try to outshine him or help him?
I admire my current boss, and she is fantastic. I look up to her. But before her, I had a boss who cannot even identify basic grammar errors.
Please don’t get me wrong, my grammar is not perfect, and English is my second language. However, my former boss spearheaded the media relations and accreditation office and the press releases unit. In that case, I expected that writing was her expertise.
Unfortunately, it was not. My past boss inadequacy made our working environment extremely stressful. Thus, she was not exerting effort to learn the job.
So, based on my personal experience, this is how I dealt with it.
Before You Bad Mouth Your Boss, Assess First
If you feel you are smarter than your boss, check your self-biased. Most of us are guilty of taking pride in our intelligence and abilities. But can you confidently evaluate yourself that if you are the boss, will you be effective?
If not, assess if you have more competence in all aspects of being a manager because you might be looking at one skill that you are excellent, while your boss is not.
Sure, you are the best salesperson in the group. You are terrific on administrative works or design, but can you transform those into business opportunities? If not, you might be bragging on one ability that your boss didn’t even feel threatened.
When I was still working in the government, I was the lead editor of the press releases unit. My boss was the undersecretary for media relations and accreditation, and her weakness is writing English. She has poor grammar, but what makes it so frustrating is that she never bothers to learn.
However, my former boss knew how politics work. She knows the power play in the government to win top officials’ favor, which also why she became a political appointee for the position. Consequently, my skill is merely helping her with a bigger scheme expected from our office.
Therefore, in most situations, your boss has his own office because he offers more than you don’t.
Find Something In Your Boss That Is Admirable
After you realized why your boss got his position, try to discover something about him that is likable, maybe it is outside of work. You may find him as a family man or an active member of the community, among others.
Focus on those positive traits, he may not inspire you in the workplace, but you may get to appreciate him from a different angle.
My former boss is the breadwinner of their family. Therefore, she was more focused on the political game rather than studying her department’s day-to-day operations.
Her motivation is her family, that’s why she cannot afford to lose her position. She may be incompetent for the job because she doesn’t have the proper skill. Still, her tenacity to sticking on to the role is somewhat admirable. It takes courage and thick-skinned.
I suggest you try to view your boss as a human being. At least on that side, you will get to acknowledge him and be more forgiving of his situation. Consequently, it would be best to have enough patience because you need lots of those to survive your job.
It will Be Tough, But Be Consistent
If your boss is inefficient in his job, others are aware. It will not be a secret as people will notice, and they talk. All you can do is navigate through it. Keep doing what you do best despite having an incompetent boss. Some people in other departments will notice your hard work someday.
Of course, a possibility that your boss will take all the credits. But the last thing he will do is kick you out because he needs you. He relies so much on your skills, which is the reason your office delivers, and he gets away with that.
I suggest, continue performing your best and be friends with other departments. In my experience, my resilience and connections didn’t go to waste.
One day, I got a phone call from the Office of the Secretary, and they were offering me a deputy director position for a new office. The Secretary for Communication witnessed my hard work, and he wanted me to be part of the international affairs team.
Being a good soldier in times of crisis pays off. It’s just a matter of time, and you will have your turn.
Never Stop Improving Yourself
Take further study, short courses, or get a mentor. Make sure that you invest in yourself for personal and professional development. By doing so, you are honing your skills and character to be a future leader.
The good thing about working with an incompetent boss is you already know what a bad boss was like. Therefore, you don’t want to be like them. It pushes you to strive better, and getting there requires heaps of hard work.
Back then, I took short courses and attended leadership seminars to expand my management knowledge. I wanted to ensure that I got the skills to build a strong relationship with my future team and other managers. Therefore, I kept motivating myself.
During those sickening moments working under an inadequate boss forced me to realize that I had to steer my wheel to sail towards the right destination.
To substantiate my point, I am quoting Stephen Hawking on this one:
“Go the extra mile. It makes your boss look like an incompetent slacker”.
Working with an incompetent boss is challenging, and thousands of employees have fallen to the same misfortune. However, according to Michael Useem, Professor of Management in Wharton School, bad bosses are bad bosses, regardless of whether they have the technical or managerial ability:
“Bad bosses sap motivation, kill productivity and make you want to run from the job screaming. While leaving is an option, it’s not the only one for coping with a bad boss.”
Taking Useem’s statement into account, despite having an incompetent boss, rise above the occasion. It does not matter if you have to endure it now because there are tons of lessons to be learned working with an incompetent boss.
If you are still with them, be a good soldier, do your part very well, and learn the organization’s broader framework. The more you think big, you can prepare yourself better for future opportunities ahead. Bear in mind that you are the only person who can take good care of your career.
Communications & PR Specialist | NZAid Fellow | MA Intl. Dev. | Ex Reporter for TV5 & Bloomberg TV-PH | Former Editor-in-Chief of the Philippine President | Toastmaster | Freelance Contributor | Storyteller of Life & Love