Patricia Redlich

Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Boss Is Incompetent

January 24th, 2010


I am finding it very difficult to tolerate my boss, but can't get another job and can't afford to lose this one. He is incapable of making a decision, he hinders work progress by dithering, he blames others for his own omissions and incompetence, he lies and bad-mouths people behind their backs, causing rows between people without any ill-effect to himself. He fears change. He looks up to and is ingratiating towards popular people, people he fears or believes to be superior to him, and cannot stand up to them, no matter how they behave, giving the most favourable treatment to the most unproductive staff members, who treat him with disrespect. He is a bully to people he feels are inferior and has also ignored the serious bullying of junior staff by one of his managers, because he was either unwilling or unable to stand up to her. He gets away with all this because he is two-faced.

The real problem is that the people at work let him get away with it, and seem to regard him as a kind of innocent bungling human being. I can't understand people's tolerance. They don't seem to see the grief he causes. On the contrary, when one staff member tried to stand up to him, people's reaction was "ah the poor fellow", downplaying his behaviour and suggesting that the unfortunate staff member was exaggerating. Why do they do this? And what can I do to make my work-life more tolerable?

I'm taking it as fact that you have to hang onto your job. The reason I'm saying this is because sometimes we have options, and either don't see them, or don't want to see them. For example, people stick with a secure job, rather than taking their chances on something more dicey, and say they have to, when what they mean is that it makes them feel more comfortable. And sometimes people fail to think laterally - staying with a job rather than actually moving house, or country, or continent. But I'm supposing, for now, that you're well and truly stuck.

Given that, I think the answer is obvious. You are not going to win any substantial support for an insurrection against your boss - not as you tell it anyway. He's here to stay. You have to learn to live with him. And that might not involve as much teeth-grinding as you think.

I know there are all kinds of ethical questions involved, but I still have to ask why you mind so much about what your boss does, or fails to do. You are clearly suffering, and full of rage. Why, exactly? Is it possible you're taking him far too seriously? Do you feel vulnerable to his nastiness? When the others shrug their shoulders and see him as a sorry messer, are they perhaps reading him right? No, it's not an excuse to say someone is a weakling. And it doesn't let the weakling off the hook about learning to handle his job differently, and to manage his staff and work-place better. But a weakling is a different class of problem to an out-and-out vicious character. With a weakling you can fret, rightly, about the things he does wrong, or allows to go unchecked. But you also have a better chance of finding a way of managing the situation.

My guess is that you are personally suffering at the hands of your boss. I think he's being unfair and disrespectful and you're putting up with it, because you don't know how to defend yourself while still watching your step and keeping your job. That leaves you full of helpless rage. What you lack are some basic on-the-job negotiating skills, because that's what your interactions with your boss are actually all about, negotiation. I'm sure you're fine with friends, family and lover. You're not a man from space learning something entirely new. It's just that everybody has to find a way of taking flack on the job, without losing the head, or your dignity.

I know this is going to sound peculiar, but the important step is to stop taking it personally. Your boss is an idiot. He's nasty to lots of people, as part of his own insecurity. His behaviour says nothing about your worth, and everything about his shortcomings. Be firm about your own self-confidence and his words will just whistle past you. That doesn't, however, mean that you stand there and just take it. Check out some strategies for side-stepping. Essentially that's about showing, however subtly, that you are not taking a beating. It can be something as low-key as your posture, a non-verbal communication that speaks volumes. For some humour works. For others, it's a question of quiet but firm self-defence, thinking on your feet, finding good exit strategies.

The point is, you'll discover your own style once you stop feeling such outrage. Outrage gives your boss way too much importance. Legitimate anger is different. It fuels effective self-defence. Work on it.
Irish based professional therapist and journalist. Website By : Deise Design