So you’re boss is an idiot. Ok, maybe that is a bit of an overstatement (or, perhaps not?) Let’s just say she has blindspots and struggles and isn’t as effective as you need her to be.
This is one of the most frequent questions I get asked, “How do I do my job well when my direct supervisor is incompetent, volatile, wishy-washy, undermining, or any of a hundred other descriptors of a poor boss?”
And the answer, like all good psychology answers is “It depends.”
It depends on what type of lousy boss you have. In the next three posts, we will look at several types of lousy bosses and how to make the most of a bad situation. In the fourth in the series we will look at how Human Leaders try to avoid becoming lousy bosses.
As with any attempt to categorize, there are varying degrees to which someone fits the category, as well as many people who could be in multiple categories. The purpose here is not to fit everyone into nice little boxes, but to illustrate examples that will help understanding. Our first three examples are more passive and often subconscious behaviors:
- Poor Boundaries. You know the type. He truly believes he’s endearing, funny and charismatic. He is unaware that his comments and “joking around” are actually offensive to many around him.
- When you have a boss with poor boundaries, it is even more important that you have firm boundaries yourself. You need to be clear on what is ok and what is not ok, first with yourself, then with your boss.
- Inexperienced. Your boss may be inexperienced. Just because there are free online trainings, blog posts, podcasts and more information than ever about leading and managing, doesn’t mean your boss avails herself of them. Or, if she does, it doesn’t mean she is able to apply the information to her current role.
- This boss may need some subtle encouragement to educate herself. Perhaps texting her a link to a blog you read (hint, hint), or a great podcast your heard (coming in 2017 ;-)) would start her on a path of self education and discovery. Or, if she is a student of leadership already, but just isn’t getting it, she is likely more open to direct feedback on how to improve. Take a small risk and ask if she’s open to feedback on how you experience her leadership.
- Insecure. Perhaps your boss just isn’t sure of himself. Despite being around for almost 50 years, The Peter Principle (being promoted until you reach your level of incompetence) is as strong as ever. What has changed is that people may be more aware that they are in over their heads so they feel insecure about their ability to deliver results.
- As backwards as it sounds, your boss may need your encouragement. Let him know when he has helped you to get unstuck and move forward. Be careful though, it must be genuine and sincere. No false praise welcome here.
The next set of three behaviors, which we will examine in the next post, are more active and aggressive. While they may still be subconscious, they are likely not completely out of the person’s awareness.